With its competitive prices, solid regulatory framework and highly experienced professionals, Cyprus can develop itself to play a major role and become more attractive for the MENA and Eastern European markets, says Leila Malek.
Could you give a brief overview of your company and its core business segments?
Being the corporate arm of our law firm, ConnectedSky Legal & Corporate Consultants is an international corporate services provider with main offices in Nicosia and a branch in Limassol. We are a veritable one-stop-shop offering a comprehensive set of services to a broad range of clients, with in-house banking and financial services, as well as audit, fiduciary and tax services. The key aim for us is to offer an all-round package of solutions to our clients.
Through our affiliated law firm C. Samir & Co. LLC, which is a member of Staubach International Law Firm Alliance (SILFA), ConnectedSky has representative offices in various locations worldwide in addition to Nicosia. We are present in Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Koning-Wusterhausen, London, Lugano, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Nicosia, Palma De Mallorca, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw, and Wiesbaden.
In addition, we have fully fledged subsidiaries in London, Hong Kong, Moscow and Malta, and we are in the process of expanding towards Poland, Ukraine, Georgia and the United Arab Emirates. So, we are a truly international player in the corporate services landscape.
We value ambition and focus on fostering our clients’ goals and aspirations, because we understand that business in general transcends deals and transactions. This is why we pride ourselves on becoming trusted advisers, while establishing profound long-term relationships with our clients. Accordingly, our guiding motto is that ‘We Grow When You Grow’.
Our philosophy keeps us on the right track while remaining relevant and reliable for our clients, whereas our network of industry experts enables us to keep up with globalisation and the increasingly demanding and specific requests from our clients for services around the world.
Certain markets, such as Russia, have seen some changes and instability in recent years, how has this affected your activities?
The set of US and EU sanctions have undoubtedly affected the Russian economy, however, the repercussion on the field of business is tangible yet not strong enough to disrupt the patterns in the professional services sector in Cyprus. As such, we have in fact witnessed a growing interest and an increased tendency from clients to create more physical substance in Cyprus due to the political and economic climate in Russia.
Is an increase in regulation a deterrent or an incentive for investment in Cyprus?
We definitely encourage the increase in transparency with criteria relating to beneficial owners, due diligence and the Know Your Client (KYC) principles. However, this is a transition period for both the service providers and clients, where both are figuring out ways to conduct business while dealing with more regulatory pressure from banks and accounting firms.
It is a challenge to ensure a smooth transition, but in the end, it is a win-win situation, as solid business and mutual trust feed each other in a virtuous circle. The new wave of regulation dates back to 2014, and as a company, we took matters into our own hands and anticipated the changes well in advance. Some players will face difficulties with the adaptation costs incurred, not only regarding structural changes, but also in providing additional training to their professionals and other staff.
How can Cyprus keep its competitive edge with the ever-evolving profile and expectations of clients?
We believe that the key to competitiveness lies in a successful diversification of our services. As such, and following the growth in the European asset management industry, we have been following up closely with our global fund and asset management unit. We believe it should become a priority for Cyprus to establish itself as an international player amongst current contenders like Ireland and Luxembourg. With its competitive prices, solid regulatory framework and its highly experienced professionals, Cyprus can definitely develop itself to play a major role and become more attractive for the MENA and Eastern European markets. In addition, all of the auxiliary services which will be brought along will also boost the economy as a whole.
Do you see the popularity of Cyprus’ citizenship and residency schemes continuing and how will demand and offer evolve in that respect?
Given the increased interest for substance due to the OECD-initiated Common Reporting Standards (CRS), we are definitely experiencing a steady increase in the demand for substance solutions through citizenship and residency schemes. In addition, the Cyprus citizenship program by way of investment is now easier to achieve, as the needed investment has been reduced from €5 million down to €2 million for all applicants. Allowing a variety of investments for a minimum of three years, without any element of donation, and by acquiring a property worth €500,000, the Cyprus citizenship program remains undoubtedly one of the most attractive programs in the EU.
In your opinion, what are the most promising sectors for growth in the Cyprus economy in 2017?
Along with the funds industry, the energy sector will show a stronger trajectory towards proving its potential to attract investment. In that respect, we consider that Cyprus will have the chance to strengthen its cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Israel and Jordan. The presentation of the ambitious East Med pipeline project, the longest undersea gas pipeline in the world, is a perfect illustration of the possibilities to come.
Leila Malek is a holder of a Law Degree in International and European Law from the University of Leuven in Belgium. She furthermore holds a postgraduate MBA degree and successfully passed the CYSEC Advanced Examinations in Financial Services Regulatory Framework with respect to Compliance Officers. In July 2016 Leila joined ConnectedSky Legal & Corporate Consultants as Compliance and AML Officer where she designs and monitors the internal practice, measures, procedures and controls relevant to Compliance, Risk Mitigation, Anti-Money Laundering, and Regulatory management. Leila is fluent in English, French, Dutch and conversational in Greek.