As the 1st January 2022 date for the merger between financial services firms Zampa Debattista and Mint Finance approaches, the partners are confident that the marriage will be a long, happy and profitable one, with every effort being made to ensure the values, staff, and operating processes that helped both companies grow, will remain at the heart of the company.
Zampa Debattista Co-Founder John Debattista and Mint Finance Co-Founder Mark Wirth made the comments during Monday’s episode of The Boardroom, hosted by business writer Jo Caruana.
Mr Wirth explained that the partners’ similar ages and similar mindset helped make the process a smooth one.
“We all give a lot of importance to training and education. We have a track record of investing in training the younger professionals to grow in our respective firms.”
After the merger, each partner will have different responsibilities.
Mr Debattista will head the audit section, which is the largest unit in the company, as well as financial reporting, while Matthew Zampa, the other Co-Founder of Zampa Debattista, will be heading the tax and VAT section.
Kris Bartolo, who was appointed Partner in the firm earlier this year, will be responsible for growing the firms business advisory department.
From Mint’s side, Mr Wirth will handle client accounting while Co-Foudner Michael Agius-Vadala’ will mainly be managing the firm internally while remaining involved in different departments, including audit.
Asked what benefits the firms hope to achieve through the merger, Mr Wirth pointed out that the costs of doing business are much higher than they were five to 10 years ago. “The increased regulation, the increased compliance costs. It’s harder to sole practitioners or small outfits to do it alone,” adding that he expects to see many more mergers and acquisitions going forward.
The main benefit of the merger, Mr Debattista said, is the depth of the organisation after merging.
“If you had to look at the labour market in the professional services industry, more specifically in accounting and audit, you will find shortages. The demand higher than supply, and it is very very difficult to find the right people and the right talent. That’s what made the Mint outfit a very attractive business to merge with. It’s a young team with a lot of energy – which is very important to keep relevant.”
Beyond that, Mr Debattista also highlighted Mint Finance’s investment in strong client relationships, and described Mr Wirth’s developments in cloud accounting and client accounting as “revolutionary”.
The increase in partners, from just two at the beginning of the year to five post-merger, has freed up a lot of time for Mr Debattista.
“I can focus on my core area even more, and that specialisation will mean that we can render an even better service to our customers.”
Starting off with a phone call from Mr Zampa to Mr Wirth, from there “everything came very naturally”. Nonetheless, the merger was not rushed, and every possible element was given its due importance.
Business coach Nathan Farrugia was engaged to guide the partners through the process, with much of the subsequent discussions focused on values, as the partners took note of the fact that 70 per cent of all mergers fail.
“We tried to spend our time establishing common values, common beliefs – the importance of integrity, of passion,” explained Mr Debattista.
“What we avoided doing was plugging the smaller Mint into ZD,” he continued. “Together with our business coach we went back to the drawing board to build a new business model, based on the set of common values and beliefs the businesses had.”
In fact, since July Mint has been working from the same offices as ZD, with Mr Wirth crediting the move for a lot of the integration experienced.
“It was really important to make sure everyone feels part of the team,” he said. “I’d feel devastated if any of my people were to feel the need to move on due to the merger.”
Mr Debattista agreed, and expressed his belief that the company needs to continue growing in a sustainable manner.
“It is useless to say, ‘We had a staff of 60 last year, 80 this year, and let us be 150 in five years’ time’. Instead, we will look at the good we have and closely monitor all the changes that the merger brings out, to make sure we are reaping all the benefits.”
Going forward, the partners share their view that providing more breadth to their services is a priority. “We are seeing a landscape which is changing, both because of the pandemic and the jurisdictional problems Malta is facing,” said Mr Debattista, noting that “we need to start rebuilding, as a jurisdiction, as a profession”.
“Customers are changing the way they’re working, their basic policies and procedures. So we will invest in those services which help us help our customers even more.”
These investments are expected to include IT-related services like the automation or procedures and processes, as well as transformation and innovation services.