Ten On The Weekend – Jean-Philippe Chetcuti: “Unity in the Industry is Key to Survival”

2019 was the year Jean-Philippe Chetcuti learned who his real friends were. This weekend, he is our guest in TOTW.

How do you spend your weekends?
The weekend is family time. I enjoy normality, wear jeans, ferry the kids around to their various activities, play loud music and clown with the kids, but also look for one-to-one serious time with each of my children … they grow so fast, it’s easy to miss an important phase in their life and I don’t intend missing any more of these special moments. Weekends are also a time for my wife and me to interact as a couple since during the week, we share an office at the firm but there it’s all about client relations, problem-solving and decision-making. The hardest weekend challenge is for us to switch off.

What are your top three business goals this year?
We are seeking to collaborate and synergize more with fellow practitioners and we are considering strategic alliances in different areas with firms who share our values and quality standards and our ambitions for sustainable evolution.

The 2020 goals for Chetcuti Cauchi are built around synergy and collaboration.  We have helped our clients and partners through their most important problems, and we have also experienced their trust and support in return in our own challenging times. Clients, partners and even fellow practitioners rallied around us when we needed that most and this was a humbling experience and a life-changing event.  Our newly found wisdom tells us we should leverage the power of mutual trust and experience built with our existing relations.

What’s your biggest business concern right now?
Over the past months, the industry has sustained unprecedented attacks in the media often based on a lack of understanding of residence and citizenship by investment programmes. Journalists have resorted to unethical and downright criminal methods to portray industry practitioners in bad light. It is time to stand up for our industry. My firm has had to fight its battle alone all the way to the Courts of France but not every bona fide practitioner, unfairly targeted, can withstand an attack like this. I remain touched by the solidarity I have received not only from friendly firms but also from competitors who rose above the small picture to come to the rescue with moral and material support.

Colleagues have pointed out to me that the IMC has failed grossly by not standing up for its own and by resorting to naming and shaming key players without verifying media claims or allowing the members to explain themselves. Some practitioners were appalled at the unprecedented public suspension of a fellow practitioner on the unproved claims of a journalist and have attributed this behaviour to conflicts of interest within the IMC.

It is a serious concern that the supposedly independent industry lobby is not perceived as fair and representative at a time when unity in the industry is key to its survival. 

Which book is on your nightstand right now?
That would be “Fantastically Great Women who made History” by Kate Pankhurst.  Ok, ok, it’s actually on my 6-year-old daughter’s nightstand.  And with my 10-year-old son, I’m reading “The Big Book of Why”.  He does read his own books but still jealously wants me to give him his turn at reading time. That leaves me with far too little time to enjoy a good book and necessity ties me to industry publications that keep me abreast with developments in our industry.

How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
My specialisation is international tax law and my firm’s work helping private clients and owner-managed businesses brought me in touch with matters of personal tax residence as well as immigration rights from the first days of my practice in the late 1990s. That developed into a keen interest in all aspects of investment incentives and attraction of Foreign Direct Investment by small states. 

Nowadays, investment migration is on the same footing in importance as Corporate and Tax, traditionally our core, as well as our International Property practice.

What was your proudest moment as a service provider?
Proud moments for me on a human level are moments when the family sits around our boardroom table holding their certificates of naturalisation in hand.  Picture mother, father, maybe grandparents, a teenager and a toddler, helping themselves to traditional local sweets from the new country of citizenship. This moment celebrates the end of the laborious due diligence process and the beginning of a new life as new citizens, with new opportunities for study, work, business and investment for all the family.

Proud moments for me from a business level are when an investment for citizenship lands significant investment in my firm’s key domiciles Malta and Cyprus.  When that happens, often, the investment made after citizenship is granted is greater than the investment made to obtain citizenship.  I never cease to be surprised by the change in attitude I see in investors who, on receiving their passports, immediately start asking… “What else can I do?” for the country that has just welcomed them as citizens.

Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
Unlikely markets in the US, UK, and Europe have been surprisingly important markets for Chetcuti Cauchi, possibly in the light of Brexit but also thanks to the rapidly growing economies of our key jurisdictions Malta and Cyprus. These island states have proved attractive as warmer, safer, yet well-developed English-speaking states within the European Union.

If you could go 10 years back in time, what business decision would you change?
We have been too cautious in deciding on offers of alliance and partnership for fear of a mismatch in standards and potential value clashes. With hindsight, the industry offers a mix of players and now I can see the difference in business ethics and standards of the key players. I still believe the industry must consolidate to survive and therefore I don’t think we’ve missed the bus. Actually, we are wiser now and that reduces the risks of integration.

What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?
The protagonist of the industry is surely the investor migrant. The investor is pushed by home country realities to seek an alternative solution, a plan B or a better life. The family takes the plunge into the unknown, submits to significant financial disclosure and strict due diligence required by the relative RCBI programme, and despite that, suffers the stigma that wealthy and successful business families suffer through envy and mistrust by the public at large. Yet many host countries enjoy the fruit of capital and entrepreneurial inflow generated by investor migrants participating in investment programmes. The clean investor should be celebrated and respected for his or her contribution and new loyalty to the host country.

If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?
I do not have any fancy ambitions of early retirement. But I do not wait for retirement to enjoy my family and I am more committed than ever to really being with my wife and my children… now, not just later. The kids are at a precious age that can never be bought back, so I don’t intend missing that for anything. I just hope that in a few years’ time, more of my travel will be vacation travel rather than business!

I enjoy what I’m doing and I take a lot of satisfaction working with clients whom I’ve come to regard as friends and family. In five years’ time, I hope to be working with partners, colleagues and clients that I’ve grown closer with, adding value and innovating in the wider business and wealth management sector that this industry is a subset of. 

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Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain. 

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