Electronic Money Institutions (EMI) in Malta


General Background

Electronic Money Institution (“EMI”) is defined in the Third Schedule of Financial Institutions Act as “a financial institution that has been licensed in accordance with this Act and authorised to issue electronic money or that holds an equivalent authorisation in another country in terms of the Electronic Money Directive to issue electronic money”

Electronic money is defined by the Act as:

“electronically, including magnetically, stored monetary value as represented by a claim on the issuer which is issued on receipt of funds for the purpose of making payment transactions … and which is accepted by a natural or legal person other than the financial institutions that issued the electronic money”.

Permitted Activities

In addition to issuing electronic money, EMIs are entitled, subject to the prior authorisation of the Malta Financial Services Authority (MSFA), to engage in any of the following activities:

  1. the provision of certain payment services;
  2. the granting of credit related to certain payment services. Provided that any such credit shall not be granted from the funds received in exchange of electronic money and held in accordance with the prescribed safeguarding requirements;
  3. the provision of operational services and closely related ancillary services in respect of the issuing of electronic money or to the provision of payment services referred to in point (1) above;
  4. the operation of payment systems;
  5. business activities other than the issuance of electronic money, having regard to the applicable law regulating such activities.

Payment services are regulated by the same Act thereby avoiding the burden of having duplication of compliance procedures and related fees and expenses.

Although the difference between a Payment Services Provider and Electronic Money Institution is not always clear, the following distinguishing features must be evident in order to qualify as an EMI rather than a PSP:

  • The prepaid feature of electronic money;
  • The ability to freely transfer electronic money to third parties.

Main Features of EMIs

  • Minimum initial capital requirement of € 350,000. The licensed EMI is obliged to ensure that its own funds may not fall below this amount of initial capital;
  • It is necessary to have at least two individuals who will effectively direct the business of the EMI in Malta and such persons are of sufficiently good repute and have sufficient experience in the opinion of the MFSA to perform such duties;
  • All members of the board of directors and senior managers and shareholders of the applicant are subject to a rigorous due diligence exercise whereby their individual fitness and properness is assessed;
  • EMI Malta are allowed to issue debit cards (such as a chip device) but not credit cards since such institutions are not permitted to undertake lending or other bank related activities;
  • EMIs based in Malta are allowed to outsource services subject to the MFSA’s evaluation on their own merits.

MFSA costs in respect of financial institutions (including EMIs) are as follows:

  • Application and processing one-time fee payable upon submission of an application by a financial institution applying for a licence – €3,500
  • Annual supervision fee (equivalent to a percentage of the total items in the balance sheet) – Not less than €2,500.

NOTE: Licence fees are payable on the date of the granting of a licence pro-rata to 31 December, and thereafter annually on 1 January. Licence fees are payable on a six monthly basis and are not refundable.

Licensing

Applications must be submitted to the MFSA on the appropriate forms. The application procedure revolves around two basic processes – the analysis of the business plan (including financial projections) and the due diligence exercises on directors, senior managers and shareholders.

Once the relative Malta licence is obtained, the EMI would benefit from the right to passport such licence into other EU Member State country/ies by following some basic procedures of notification thereby enabling the EMI to provide its services within the relevant Member State/s and/or EEA State/s either through the establishment of a branch or remotely, under the freedom to provide services.

GVZH Advocates provides a comprehensive consultancy and support service throughout the application process, the establishment of the appropriate company/ies required to conduct the operation/s in Malta and post-licensing.

For further information about how GVZH Advocates can help you with your Electronic Money Institutions law requirements kindly contact us on finance@gvzh.com.mt.