In March APS Bank announced strong 2021 results, and a new equity initial public offering (IPO) and listing.  As Chief Financial Officer, Ronald Mizzi plays a critical role in preparing for the IPO, by putting in place the people, processes, and technology the company will need to meet to first succeed in raising the necessary capital and eventually to meet its obligations and thrive as a public entity.

Being an effective CFO is not just about having a good head for numbers; can you expand on the responsibilities and expertise your role requires?

Of course, a flair for numbers is important in my role, but I wear many hats. One of my primary roles is to be a trusted business adviser, in its widest context, to my peers within the Bank, the CEO and the Board. The role carries an element of an ability to see the bigger picture, to be a leader and a business driver, in a nutshell enabling business, whether in technology, customer relationship or risk and regulation, and set up frameworks that guide growth, strategy, and direction for the future of the Bank.

The need for CFOs to mobilise the drivers of growth is critical. In the lead up to this public offering, which of your skillsets do you find yourself tapping into most?

Ironically numbers are a small component in preparing for a public listing. The focus is spread across a wide stream of actions and initiatives needed to launch the Offer and then standards the Bank must continuously meet in terms of processes, controls, and systems, such as financial reporting, corporate structure, and governance. And this is where I draw on my leadership skills and experience in selecting, organising, and managing the teams for this particular situation. Besides those necessary skills, this role requires analytical and communication skills and an open-minded leadership attitude which cultivates growth.

Entities which have a real sustainable agenda tend to have lower cost of debt and cost of equity generating higher returns

The past two years have been filled with unprecedented uncertainties. What do you attribute the strong results that the Bank achieved for 2021?

One of the Bank’s more recent achievements, of which we are very proud, is that we remained open for business uninterruptedly throughout the pandemic, serving our customers across all Branches in our network. Naturally that came at a cost, which I see as an investment that highlights our commitment to putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. This is part of our mission, our service, and the trusted relationship we enjoy with our customers, and is reflected in the growth rates we sustained since the start of the pandemic during 2020 and 2021.

Is there a perfect partnership between sustainable development and profitable economic growth?

Sustainability is in the bank’s DNA, and an integral part of how the Bank has functioned for many years. Since 2006, APS Bank has been a member of the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks and Financiers (FEBEA) which gathers more than 30 financial institutions from 15 European countries, with the aim of developing and promoting ethical finance principles.

Within our portfolio of lending and investment products we keep promoting green opportunities and launch ESG-friendly products every year. APS Bank is not just fixated on achieving higher profits, but a Bank with a strong social agenda and a long-term vision.

Research shows us that entities which have a real sustainable agenda, tend to have lower cost of debt and cost of equity, generating higher returns, because of the real value in having a strong ESG strategy.

What are the priorities now going into the future?

The IPO is not an end, rather it is an important transaction which will unlock future value for the Bank. Our end-goal here is the proper execution of the Bank’s strategy, driven by our ambition to grow further and generate sustainable superior returns to investors. The aim of the IPO itself is primarily to strengthen the capital but also to popularise the Bank, allowing potential investors with different investment appetites to share in the Bank’s future success.

Ronald Mizzi joined the Bank as Chief Financial Officer in September 2020. Prior to this he spent 14 years at FIMBank plc most recently as Executive Vice President – Group Chief Financial Officer, having spent his earlier career with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Malta, the Channel Islands and New York. Ronald is a CPA and holds a Practising Certificate in Auditing, both issued by the Accountancy Board in Malta. He is a Fellow Member of the Malta Institute of Accountants and holds a BA (Hons) in Accountancy from the University of Malta.

APS Bank plc is regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority as a Credit Institution under the Banking Act 1994 and to carry out Investment Services activities under the Investment Services Act 1994. The Bank is also registered as a Tied Insurance Intermediary under the Insurance Distribution Act 2018.

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of APS Bank plc.

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