Sparkasse has decided to restrict non-euro payments to certain sectors, the bank’s chief risk officer, Dominic Fisher, confirmed.

Mr Fisher said the bank’s risk appetite was regularly calibrated.

Social media reports said on Tuesday Sparkasse customers who provided payment services had been informed the bank would no longer allow them to make or receive payments outside the Single European Payments Area and any payments within Sepa would have to be in euros.

The restrictions by Sparkasse would also be extended to gaming companies in its client portfolio, the reports added.

Mr Fisher said the bank’s risk appetite review had taken into account the findings of the recently-published National Risk Assessment and the overall perception of risk. The NRA classified remote gaming as a sector exposed to a high risk of money laundering.

The bank’s managing director, Paul Mifsud, said the strategy had always been clear as one focused on serving the investment and fund services sector in Malta, primarily in the custody and depositary space. This area would be unaffected by the decision.

Mr Mifsud played down the significance of the de-risking exercise. He said similar decisions were made annually by the bank as part of its strategy, risk and budget planning. The decision was no exception to the norm and would only affect a small proportion of the bank’s client base, he remarked.

Malta’s banking sector has been through a tumultuous time over the past few years. Two banks, Nemea and Pilatus, lost their licences in 2017 and 2018 respectively and strict regulatory controls were placed on Satabank in October. 

Industry sources told Times of Malta many banks had been transitioning away from servicing areas like the gaming sector perceived as being high risk.

Satabank was one of the few local banks that was willing to take on corporate clients from the sector.

iGaming companies have reportedly been pressuring the Malta Financial Services Authority to find them an alternative to Satabank.