“I’ve worked within the manufacturing industry for over 20 years and started my journey with De La Rue in 2012,” begins CEO Edward Chetcuti, who joins The Malta Chamber following several years with the global market leader in currency printing.
During that time, he was appointed as the first ever Maltese General Manager for De La Rue Malta, until he was promoted to International Director of Operations overseeing the global business operation across Europe, Africa and Asia.
Looking back on his time at De La Rue, Ing. Chetcuti recalls the difficult circumstances within which he joined. “I took it over following the announcement that the company in Malta would be closed down, so I took on the challenge of trying to make a transformation within the business and restore its viability, possibly saving 600+ jobs,” he explains.
And save them, he did. After 18 months, the CEO at De La Rue publicly announced that as a result of the improvements under Ing. Chetcuti’s leadership, the company would be changing strategy. Rather than closing the Malta operation, they would invest around €30 million to make it a world-class manufacturing centre of excellence.
While it was certainly a proud achievement, Ing. Chetcuti admits that the announcement brought about its own set of challenges. “The Government, as a result of the projected redundancies, had already started discussions to bring Crane Currency to Malta, so that employees could transfer from De La Rue to Crane,” he smiles, affirming that the country now needed to find more employees, which he also helped to do.
“I worked with MCAST and developed a special training package to generate printers and technical people within that industry so that both De La Rue and Crane could co-exist and create more opportunities,” he explains.
Over that period, he was also Chairman of the Bulebel Industrial Estate, through which Ing. Chetcuti utilised the close relationships built with different Government agencies for the benefit of the industrial estate and the company in which he worked.
Meanwhile, throughout those years, the CEO has also supported several local companies through Lean Leadership. “I am a certified Lean Management practitioner and Lean Leadership trainer, so I help companies go from conventional management to lean leadership; to help them do more with their resources and the organisational structure that they have; enhancing the top line and improving the bottom line,” he explains.
All this has served him in good stead for his new role within The Malta Chamber, an organisation within which Ing. Chetcuti has been a member for several years.
“Before De La Rue, I was Director of Operations at Methode Electronics, and my involvement at the Chamber was as lead representative of these organisations. I participated in Think Thanks and working groups within the Chamber, so not only do I know the challenges of industry; I also have experience of the interactions within the organisation,” he says.
Last August, Chamber President David Xuereb referred to the appointment of a CEO as the next step for The Malta Chamber to continue to meet and exceed the expectations of members and the business community.
While Ing. Chetcuti hasn’t released his strategy yet, he affirms that “the most important strategic pillar for me will be delivering value for members and making sure that The Malta Chamber is working to deliver a higher level of perceived value – because not all value can be seen – and more tangible value.”
Adding that he has joined at a peak within The Chamber’s 172-year history, his goal is “to take the organisation from being something that is really good, to something really great.”
Speaking of what he can bring to The Chamber through this new role, Ing. Chetcuti maintains that he can wear a number of hats.
“I am a seasoned leader in industry, so I can wear that hat when we are interacting with businesses and bring insight into what is needed to create more value for that industry,” he says, affirming that his experience as an organisational leader will also be brought to bear.
“The Malta Chamber is an organisation with a lot of people working within it, both directly, and indirectly. Unless we are organised and led in a structured and lean manner, we are not going to be able to deliver on all of the expectations of our businesses,” he adds.
Finally, he counts his position as a professional – an engineer – as a tool which enables him to relate to other professions. “We are a body of professionals who seek to interact with other bodies of professionals, so that together we can form a representation for the business community.”
Since the announcement of his appointment about a month prior to our meeting, I ask, what’s it been like? “There was no honeymoon period!” Ing. Chetcuti laughs.
“I’ve led companies of €250 million turnover, and have had 3,000 people under my responsibility, so I’m no stranger to high-pace, intensity and pressure.
“The Chamber is different, but in many ways similar,” he continues, adding that while at its core it is a small organisation with 20 people employed directly within it, a further 1,500 are in the fold as members, not to mention the thousands of businesses within the business community.
“In my first 30 days as CEO, I’ve met the Prime Minister twice, we’ve presented a pre-Budget document with over 130 recommendations, and we’ve influenced heavily at MCESD level, on the opening of schools,” he says, adding that as a trained corporate person, the first thing he does is look at business risk, “so I’ve Iooked at the risk internally, and I’m making sure that the Chamber is a sustainable and steady organisation that will not let its members down in the key areas that we advocate – we need to be the benchmark.
“It’s been an intense month!”
Revealing that he has set himself a 100-day-plan, Ing. Chetcuti explains that “the first 30 days were about taking stock of the situation; the next 30 days will be about working on the business plan and the strategy to execute that plan.
“By the end of the 60-day mark, I can shape the organisation’s structure and resources in such a way as to deliver on this plan. From day 90 onwards, it’s go go go!”
It certainly seems to be full steam ahead for the CEO, yet with 2020 continuing to be a particularly trying year, I draw his attention to the ways in which COVID-19 has affected local business, and what The Chamber can do to help.
Admitting that he continues to foresee difficult months ahead and that “global recession is a reality”, Ing. Chetcuti affirms that The Chamber has worked hard on collaborative agreements with most of the other associations and professional bodies in Malta, so as to be the conduit for all the challenges that are coming up.
“What I consider to be the biggest strength of The Chamber is the fact that it holds a very strong position in public opinion and with the people who make decisions. When The Chamber pronounces itself, people listen, and that includes the leadership of the country.
“We are the conduit for all these challenges to be directed to the right place – that is how we add value to our members. The pre-Budget document was an example of that,” he maintains.
Elaborating on the recommendations made within The Chamber’s pre-Budget document, the CEO explains that the organisation has put forward 130 proposals which have been prioritised into a top 20, and 11 calls for action.
“We have prioritised the wage supplements, but we are also saying that we should stop giving hand-outs, because we are not gaining anything in the long-term,” he says, emphasising the need to tie hand-outs to the re-engineering of businesses through schemes whereby everyone can benefit provided they add value to the business.
“We’ve also talked a lot about education, and the fact that we cannot afford to create a skills gap in this generation, because in 10 or 20 years’ time, the business community will suffer significantly,” Ing. Chetcuti continues, maintaining that the human resource is a strong resource in Malta, and the island cannot afford to have a gap.
Having said that, he continues, “we need to be cautious, and make sure that all the protocols are there,” going on to mention other priority areas relating to the manufacturing and construction industries.
“We need to recover, re-invent ourselves and then re-invest in businesses. The Chamber is about growing our economy sustainably while improving quality of life.”
Looking ahead, the CEO believes that the biggest challenge is recovery, necessitating the importance of working together to start our recovery process.
“We need to make sure that nobody is left behind, and we do it sustainably and in a way that improves the way we live. The arrival of the vaccine is an important milestone, and nobody really knows when that is going to happen,” he continues, admitting that the next few months are, once again, unprecedented.
“We have the opening of schools and a situation where the virus is still spreading; we are probably going to have the lowest point for business.
“The key for us is always to have good social dialogue and to make sure that all the important parties are working together – the opportunity is there to start the recovery and re-invent ourselves,” Ing. Chetcuti affirms, adding that it does no good to think about the past. “The past is gone. We need to recognise the opportunities that can be taken from this period.”
Meanwhile, the CEO’s main priorities for The Malta Chamber in the coming months centre on strengthening its membership base.
“The more represented we are, the wider our view is, and the better we can propose policy and be thought leaders in favour of a business environment which is the best in terms of competitiveness and regulation,” he reveals.
His aim, he adds, is to grow the membership base by creating higher levels of value for members, underpinned by strong communication and marketing; and by The Chamber itself being brilliant in executing its basics so as to act as a benchmark.
“The Chamber Council is made up of some of the most seasoned and influential people in the business community – together they have hundreds of years of experience – this, made available to the members of the business community, offers a go-to space which is unparalleled.
Within the structures of The Chamber, the network is huge and full of knowledge. Knowledge is power, and I urge members to tap into that knowledge,” he concludes.
This interview was first carried in the October/November edition of the Commercial Courier
Edward Chetcuti - CEO of The Malta Chamber / Photos by Inigo Taylor