articles | 19 February 2024 | Invest Cyprus

Cyprus can claim a place among Europe’s emerging investment fund hubs

While acknowledging that the Cyprus Investment Funds Association’s efforts had contributed to Cyprus being in a position to claim a place among Europe’s emerging investment fund hubs, Finance Minister Makis Keravnos also noted that CIFA’s AGM was taking place amidst a series of geopolitical developments that have brought with them challenges and threats.

Speaking at the event in Nicosia on 15 February, Keravnos mentioned geopolitical crises and challenges, saying Cyprus, as a small and open economy, could not but be affected by the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East as well as the strife in the Red Sea.

However, he added, the government reacted swiftly by implementing a prudent economic policy, governed by fiscal discipline and financial stability, featuring a series of measures that kept the economy resilient, with a positive growth rate.

As a result, the government’s first budget has been praised by international rating agencies, EU institutions and the country’s partners, said Keravnos.

"Today, our economy presents a growth rate of 2.5% in 2023, inflation at 3.5% from 8.4% in 2022, with an initial estimate of a positive fiscal balance of 2.5% of GDP and a primary surplus of 3.9% of GDP in 2023 (which based on last statistical data we are expected to exceed these forecasts) and with an average employment rate above the average of the European Union," he pointed out.

The country’s economic policy, of course, is hugely dependent on implementing and promoting an Investments Strategy – and this is where CIFA comes in.

"Thanks to your efforts, Cyprus can claim a place among Europe’s emerging investment fund hubs," said Keravnos.

Since it was founded in 2013, he said, CIFA has been a pillar of growth and progress, significantly contributing towards strengthening and showcasing the island’s investment fund sector.

"Especially for a small country like Cyprus, the healthy development of the sector is vital, as it offers an important alternative source of financing for businesses, beyond the traditional bank financing model," said Keravnos.

Already, the assets under management are currently close to €11b, "and it is noteworthy that €2.8 billion have been invested in Cyprus and have financed projects and businesses, contributing to development, expanding our production base and creating new jobs".

And so, the minister said, the Finance Ministry, having observed the sector’s positive momentum in recent years, has carved out policies for its continuous growth and effective supervision.

To this end, the ministry in close collaboration with the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, has been promoting a series of legislations aimed at regulating the financial market that are in line with European best practices.

These include the Funds Administrator law, which has been vetted by the Law Office and is currently at the House of Representatives for approval. The aim of the law is to regulate the Cypriot collective investment firms, boosting the sector’s expertise and improving its services.

The minister also referred to CySEC’s pioneering initiative "regulator sandbox", which was included in the national Recovery and Resilience Plan and was designed to facilitate a controlled environment for fintech startups and other entities to test their products or services in real conditions, under the regulatory authority’s supervision.

"The aim is to develop a regulatory framework that is line with the new developments in the digital world, achieving a balance between facilitating the smooth introduction of innovative products and services, while ensuring investor protection," said Keravnos.

He also underlined the significance of the Cyprus Equity Fund for local investment funds, which aims to promote Cyprus’ startup ecosystem. "The Cyprus Equity Fund, which was established in December of 2023, was launched to address the equity funding gap for emerging and innovative businesses and focuses on providing funding for business ideas and projects. Its establishment is considered as an important step for the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship in Cyprus and is expected to have a significant positive impact on the development of innovative businesses in the region and to contribute to the overall economic development of the country. The Fund has been endowed by the Government with €30m and we are already informing potential investors about their participation, with encouraging results so far," said Keravnos.

Elsewhere, the minister said Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is becoming a central pillar when it comes to investment decisions, and fund administrators and investors are becoming increasingly aware of how important this is when carving out their investment strategies.

He said the finance ministry and regulatory authorities are expected to play a crucial role in incorporating these standards, to ensure the sector is in line with the best practices as well as European and international requirements.

Keravnos referred to a bill the government has drafted to control foreign direct investments so as to protect sensitive sectors of the economy from third country investments. It is currently being vetted by the Law Office of the Republic.

In closing, the Finance Minister said the current economic environment required caution and precaution. "The challenges, even though they are plenty and complex, can be managed, especially if we approach them as opportunities to adjust and correct," said Keravnos. "With the close cooperation and collective effort we have cultivated together, since your Association was established until today, we have managed to create solid foundations that will help us deal with any challenge with optimism and determination."

He promised the government will continue to reinforce CIFA and help it grow, as it is high on its list of priorities.

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