June 17, 2015

Defining Leadership

Deborah Schembri, the Managing Director of STM Malta Trust and Company Management Ltd, maintains that aspiring female executives should look for leadership roles by seeking progressive responsibility. The Malta Business Review discovers why Deborah is using her experiences to help other women progress to take on leadership roles.

This woman climbed the ladder and broke the glass ceiling. Mastering the line of business, Deborah Schembri, Managing Director of STM Malta Trust and Company Management Ltd, maintains that aspiring female executives should look for leadership roles by seeking progressive responsibility. So let’s find out why Deborah is using her experiences to help other women progress to take on leadership roles.

MBR: Would you provide an overview of STMM and the role you play within the company?

DS: STMM primarily provides pensions administration services for international clients. STMM is registered as a Retirement Scheme Administrator with the Malta Financial Services Authority. It is also authorised to act as trustee or co-trustee to provide fiduciary services in terms of the Trusts and Trustees Act. We are part of STM Group which is an independent firm listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company opened the offices in Malta in 2010 and as today it employs circa 40 employees.
As a Managing Director I am responsible for the performance of the Company as dictated by the board’s overall strategy. This entails formulating and successfully implementing company policy, directing strategy towards the profitable growth and operation of the Company, developing strategic operating plans that reflect the longer-term objectives and putting in place adequate operational planning and financial control systems.
It is of utmost importance that you lead and nurture an entrepreneurial culture within the organisation. The basic principles that guide me in my role are:
• resiliency
• focus
• invest for the long term
• find and manage people
• sell
• learn
• self-reflection
• self-reliance

MBR: How challenging is it to address strategic investment and what motivated STM Group to open the offices in Malta?

DS: STM Group plc was formed as a strategic investment company specifically to build a leading financial services group operating in the international corporate and trustee service provider (CTSP) sector. This has been achieved through acquiring, consolidating and growing high-quality existing CTSPs which offer complementary products and services that operate from complementary jurisdiction. Strategic investment is achievable provided the strategy is clear.
The Group opened its offices in Malta in 2010 in view of the advantages offered by the Malta jurisdiction. Malta is an English-speaking jurisdiction with excellent regulation. As a full EU and Commonwealth member, the island has a long history of economic and financial
security. Malta is on the OECD ‘White List’ for global standards in tax co-operation and information exchange.

MBR: Are there enough opportunities today for women to reach top levels of leadership?

DS: Our firm believes in:
• the equal opportunities perspective
• the meritocratic perspective
• the view that women can contribute something special and
• the idea that women uphold other values that could inspire radical changes in the way organisation functions
Nevertheless it is still a reality that in a number of cases a woman still needs to overcome social stereotyping in business to succeed.
However my feeling is that glass ceiling exists if you allow it. I believe that there is always a way to overcome obstacles and women are good at figuring out ways to push through whatever barriers are there! It could be that we need to work harder to accomplish but where there is a will there is a way.

MBR: Is it more challenging to maintain the entrepreneurial culture as STMM grows?

DS: In an entrepreneurial culture work is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. Employees are more like a team. Our firm believes in a set of rules:
• treat people with respect
• open doors to communication
• make time for people to get to know each other and the Company
Maintaining entrepreneurial culture as the Company grows is challenging, it needs to be watched so that it grows as you intended. The trick is standing back but not too far back!


MBR: How do you show what makes a company stands apart from the rest?

DS: STMM operates in a highly competitive and dynamic industry. However few companies have to subject themselves to the corporate rigour of being part of a Group listed on the London Stock Exchange. Our size is also very important in terms of number of clients, value of assets under management and financial performance. We do set ourselves apart through responsiveness and expertise.

MBR: What are you most focused on to ensure growth for STMM continues?

DS: The competitive forces shape strategy. Awareness of these forces can help a company stake out a position in the industry that is less vulnerable to attack. The nature and degree of competition in an industry hinge on five competing forces:
• the threat of new entrants
• the bargaining power of customers
• the bargaining power of suppliers
• the threat of substitute products / services
• and the jockeying among current contestants
STMM growth strategy is focused on maintaining a high level service standard and developing new products.

MBR: How do you define corporate strategy within the organisation?

DS: Corporate strategy is the overall scope and direction of a corporation and the way in which its various business operations work together to achieve particular goals.
In achieving our growth platforms STMM focuses on highly trained and diverse staff complement ensuring accuracy and responsiveness.

MBR: As a leader within the corporate strategy, what are you focused on to make certain you are achieving your goals?

DS: To achieve the goals the focus is on:
• Innovation
• Developing
• Focus on people
• Inspire trust
• Long range perspective
• Challenges the status quo and asks why
• Originates

MBR: How critical is having a diverse workforce and how successful have you been in growing your female workforce?

DS: It is critical that we find staff that is motivated and responsive. We are not influenced by gender in our recruitment.
In fact 50% of our workforce is female. A diverse workforce provides tangible and intangible benefits.

MBR: What do you think makes an effective leader/entrepreneur and what do you find most fulfilling about your leadership role?

DS: I believe that in a leadership and entrepreneurial role it is important that:
• you love what you do
• know your strengths and weaknesses
• be prepared to learn
• be action-focused
• have a reasonable amount of financial understanding and keep an eye on the bottom line
• be customer focused
• create a vision …a dream

Setting strategic objectives and in coordination with all my team, accomplishing such objectives is pleasing. Working with fantastic colleagues is fulfilling!
And I would like to conclude the interview by a Nelson Mandela quote, “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind”

Source: Malta Business Review

special feature: women leaders



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