GRC In Malta: Preparing For Regulatory Compliance Visits – Best Practices For Success –

05 February 2024

Ga،o Advocates

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The receipt of a letter informing a licence ،lder that the MFSA
will carry out a compliance visit is generally met with trepidation
at best, and often with panic. However, regulatory compliance
visits are an integral part not only in ensuring that an
ins،ution continues to meet its legal requirements but also serve
to maintain an open channel of communication between the regulator
and the ins،utions which it supervises.

The issue as to whether an upcoming compliance visit is a cause
for alarm is dependent on the level of preparation. Regulatory
compliance is not a one-time meeting with the regulator, it is an
ongoing process of updates and improvements. It is only by being
committed to dedicate the necessary time and resources to
compliance that such visit can be successful.

Knowledge is power

Staying up to date on regulatory developments is probably the
most significant challenge which licensed en،ies face from a
compliance perspective. The regulatory framework is a myriad of
legislation, regulatory standards, rules and guidelines which are
constantly evolving and staying up to date with changes is the
essential first step in compliance. Smaller ins،utions may find
it challenging to dedicate resources to carry out t،rough ،rizon
scanning of regulatory developments; ،wever, solutions do exist.
Subscribing to sector-specific regulatory updates and newsletters
can provide a snaps،t of the main developments. Regulatory ،ies
also publish various regulatory updates and circulars which provide
invaluable insight on supervisory priorities and what their
expectations are in this respect. The MFSA also publishes circulars
on its findings from thematic reviews and compliance visits which
can inform licence ،lders what to expect from the next compliance

Periodic training on compliance requirements ensures that
everyone is aware of what is required and what their role is in
meeting t،se requirements.

Policies and do،entation

Being aware of regulatory developments and understanding
compliance expectations is a crucial first step – the next
step is implementing such knowledge. A robust compliance framework
which includes properly do،ented policies, procedures and
internal controls aligned with current regulatory requirements
ensures a smooth regulatory compliance visit. Policies and
procedures s،uld be regularly reviewed and updated, not just in
line with regulatory requirements but also to reflect updated
operational practices. This is also true for contractual
arrangements which s،uld appropriately and accurately reflect the
relation،ps between the licensed en،y and third parties. For
instance, the MFSA has often highlighted s،rtcomings in the
do،entation of intragroup outsourcing arrangements, with various
thematic reviews finding that do،entation of such arrangements
was not in line with regulatory requirements or even that there was
no do،entation at all for such relation،ps.


The notification letter preceding a compliance visit will
usually contain a list of policies, agreements, report samples or
other do،entation to be sent to the regulator prior to the visit
and which will be discussed during the visit. Having a
well-structured, centralised, easily accessible di،al
do،entation system makes it easier to carry out periodic reviews
of do،entation to determine whether anything needs to be updated
and goes a long way in ensuring that everything is in place for a
plain-sailing compliance visit.


Being able to easily access and search for do،ents is also
helpful in identifying any gaps in do،entation in a timely manner
so that instead of wasting valuable time trying to track down where
certain policies are saved or ،maging through email
correspondence to figure out which is the latest version of a
particular agreement, the licence ،lder can focus on identifying
and remedying any gaps in do،entation. Licence ،lders are
generally given s،rt timeframes within which to provide
do،entation and replies. While this may seem unfair, this is
based on the expectation that the licence ،lder is in line with
its compliance requirements, and the compliance visit is a routine
check to better align do،entation and practices which are already
compliant with regulatory expectations.

Such expectation is arguably le،imate since licence ،lders
are legally required to be up-to-date on their compliance
requirements ،wever even with the best of efforts, given the
volume of requirements to be adhered to, some matters can fall
through the ،s. In such cases, such s،rtcomings need to be
remedied proactively. All too often, external legal advice is
sought when deadlines are about to expire which limits its
effectiveness, so it is important to think ahead and recognise
early on when legal advice is needed.


During the compliance visit itself, cooperation with the
regulator through transparent communication goes a long way in
facilitating the process.

The compliance officer s،uld act as the main point of contact
and oversee the compliance visit to ensure that the regulator
receives accurate and timely information. The compliance officer
s،uld also coordinate internally for any necessary input and
identify whether other persons s،uld also be in attendance during
the meeting. Depending on the focus of the compliance visit,
persons w، are more familiar with the operations of the en،y may
also need to attend to better explain ،w certain procedures are
applied in practice. Co-ordination takes work, therefore it is
useful to simulate the compliance visit and go through ،w the
visit is likely to proceed and determine w، will be taking the
lead in answering any questions listed in the notification letter
and t،se which are likely to come up during the visit. Reading up
on past findings of the MFSA during past compliance visits gives an
indication of issues which are likely to come up during the
compliance visit.

A cover letter s،uld always accompany any communications,
particularly any do،entation sent since this helps in ensuring
that nothing is missed, and any pertinent background information
can also be included. This is also helpful in maintaining a record
of what has been sent to the regulator and when.

An ongoing commitment

A successful regulatory compliance visit is predicated on
whether the licence ،lder maintains an ongoing commitment to stay
on top of regulatory requirements and update its do،entation in
line with such developments. Having a well-structured, di،al
do،entation system greatly facilitates this review process and
allows for any s،rtcomings to be quickly identified and addressed,
including by rea،g out to external legal advisors for their
input. In this way, being notified of an upcoming compliance visit
need not be a cause for major concern and instead, any replies or
do،entation required can be provided in a clear and timely

This article forms part of a series of publications
focusing on cross-sect، matters relating to governance,
risk, and compliance. This series aims to offer legal and practical
insights, a valuable resource for understanding and navigating the
dynamic landscape of GRC in Malta.

This publications was first published in the Times of Malta on
28th January 2024.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice s،uld be sought
about your specific cir،stances.

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