Backed by an EU programme, Bank of Valletta helps Malta SMEs innovate, and create new jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic


Keith Abela Fitzpatrick’s company is one of the many beneficiaries of the SME Initiative

Keith Abela Fitzpatrick wants to renovate the way people do business in Malta. His company, Corporate Business Solutions, creates custom-made software, which helps companies better manage their finances, operations, trading, and human resource activities.

“Usually, salesmen would go and pick up an order, note it on a piece of paper, and then, repeat this tedious system,” says Fitzpatrick. “What we do is to offer instead an automated operation that allows the salesman to send the order directly to the warehouse for picking and packing, speeding up significantly the whole process and saving thousands of euros in double-handling work.”

Corporate Business Solutions is one of numerous enterprises in Malta benefitting from the European Union’s SME Initiative that was set up in 2015. Backed by the EIB Group, which is made up of the European Investment Bank and its small business specialist subsidiary the European Investment Fund , the Bank of Valletta has financed 740 small and medium-sized enterprises to realise their projects and expand beyond their local markets since.

“The financing was a catalyst for our company’s progress,” says Fitzpatrick. “More companies could benefit from such endeavours."

Creating Malta’s entrepreneurs of tomorrow

SMEs, as these small and medium-sized enterprises are known are the backbone of the European economy. They account for 99% of businesses in the European Union, employ two-thirds of the active working population (more than 90 million Europeans), and create 85% of all new jobs. They are also important drivers of growth and innovation, creating new digital technologies and products that change our lives every day. Corporate Business Solution, for example, has used its innovative software to improve the distribution of food, medicines, and public services in Malta.

But many SMEs face limited access to finance, an issue that got worse with the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of funding makes it often impossible for business owners to grow their companies, hire new staff, invest in new technologies, or buy new premises.

“When you go to a commercial bank for a loan, you need to fill in numerous forms and put up your house as collateral,” says Fitzpatrick. “This can become especially discouraging to young entrepreneurs who need to risk it all to achieve their dreams.”


Bank of Valletta has already managed more than €70 million of SME financing to help companies since 2015.

Supporting SMEs is a top priority for the European Investment Bank. That is why the EU bank is participating in the European Union’s SME Initiative, which aims to stimulate private investments and improve the access of SMEs to financing across Europe. The financing is based on EU Structural and Investment Funds and carried out with the support of funds from the Horizon 2020 programme, as well as the European Investment Fund’s own resources.

“Banks are very liquid. They do not need funding, but they do need guarantees to unlock lending, which smaller companies usually cannot afford,” says Ferran Minguella, Head of Unit in the Adriatic Sea Department at the European Investment Bank. “By transferring the risk to EU and EIB Group resources, the initiative allows SMEs to get loans from the Bank of Valletta at a reduced rate and with improved collateral requirements.”

Through the SME Initiative in Malta, BNF and Bank of Valletta, which are the two selected financial intermediaries, have financed 828 SMEs for a total amount of EUR 81m in the last seven years. Due to the success of the initiative, the EIB Group and Bank of Valletta signed an agreement in December 2021 for an additional €28 million.

By the end of 2023, the SME Initiative is expected to support more than 1,000 SMEs for a total loan volume of circa EUR 118m.”We believe that these added funds will give an opportunity to more businesses to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic and also to invest and grow during these challenging times,” says Alfio Lo Castro, a regional mandates manager at the European Investment Bank.

More jobs and innovation in Malta

The continuation of the SME Initiative offers great benefits for Malta’s businesses and people.

“The Maltese economy is based on SMEs,” says Mark Scicluna Bartoli, the executive product development - business banking at the Bank of Valletta. “With this initiative, we invest in Malta’s recovery and sustain the economy’s competitiveness in the post-COVID era.”

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The SME Initiative has regional potential, too. More funding means new employment opportunities and more innovation and entrepreneurship in Malta. “Our island mentality helps us grow,” says Fitzpatrick. “We want to be leaders, make Malta the next business destination, and now with the financing, we can.”