Alpine Group appoints new chief executive officer
Alpine Group, the travel, hospitality and financial services family business chaired by Tony Zahra, has named non-family member Lawrence Buttigieg chief executive officer, one year after he was appointed chief operations officer.
Mr Buttigieg, who has just turned 33, joined the group in 2007 as personal assistant (finance), a role which soon evolved to group financial controller. Four years later he was named chief operations officer and appointed to several group company boards.
After completing an honours degree in accountancy at the University of Malta, Mr Buttigieg first joined the staff of PricewaterhouseCoopers as an auditor and also worked in New York for some time in banking and capital markets.
“Alpine has allowed me to grow, admittedly quickly,” Mr Buttigieg told The Sunday Times.
“Our chairman’s vision of financial services as a growth area for the business is one that I share. Alpine is a family business but non-family executives like myself have ‘ownership’ of ventures within the group.
“The governance structure is designed so there is a large team sitting around the table. The business is built on traditional family values but is also run according to solid corporate governance principles.”
Established by Mr Zahra in 1967 as Alpine Rent-A-Car, now the Europcar franchise, Alpine Group has diversified its tourism portfolio and grasped the opportunities presented by the financial services sector through its two holding companies.
Bastion Holdings, its financial services arm, includes Fexserv Financial Services, Fexserv Investment Services, Digivoucher, and SGGG Fexserv Fund Services (Malta), of which Mr Buttigieg was general manager for some time.
Alpine Holdings’ portfolio includes the Europcar franchise, pest control company Comtec, travel agency Alpine Sterling, a 50 per cent shareholding in San Antonio Hotel, aircraft registration business Aircraft Corporate Services, and some start-ups. The group has a staff complement of more than 250 people, including the hotel’s staff.
“It is a very diversified group,” Mr Buttigieg added. “Alpine views Malta as a hub to service international markets; we started fund administration about four years ago and aircraft corporate services two years ago. We are ready to roll out a credit card acquiring operation, a joint venture with established partners.”
Mr Buttigieg’s new role comes with a dual mission. He heads an executive team, largely composed of non-family members apart from Warren Zahra, who leads the travel operation. Nicky Zahra will return to the business after completing his Chartered Financial Analyst qualification. Meanwhile, Mr Buttigieg has also been tasked with business development – the “nice side” of the business.
“Alpine is in the throes of constant change and change brings opportunities,” he explained. “We are fortunate to be nimble as a country, as an economy and as an organisation in terms of decision-making. Malta is highly skilled and we can react. We share the confidence in the financial services sector and we continue to direct investment into this sphere.”
Mr Buttigieg said he was looking forward to leading the highly reputable business into its next phase and build on the chairman’s achievements. Alpine, he pointed out, will continue to be present in the hospitality sector, while the group’s financial services arm will pursue innovative strategies.
The chief executive stressed it was also time for Alpine to expand its interests outside Malta in collaboration with strategic partners, particularly as some operations are ripe for internationalisation in specific regions.