a range of services from risk management, fraud monitoring and compliance checks to "Know Your Customer" verification systems for leading players worldwide.
QGen's services are white labelled, which means clients brand its applications as their own. But while this is a hindrance to QGen explicitly linking its services to major clients for marketing purposes, it has also ensured the relatively small operation garner repute in a specific niche by providing cost-effective, rapid and reliable offerings.
QGen is led by a highly experienced international management team including a Maltese operations director, a head of compliance (a registered money laundering reporting officer) and a head of fraud. Such is their experience they are able to attract top end international businesses.
With around 20 multi-lingual agents on the floor, sophisticated technology and high level expertise, QGen completes customer verification procedures in just under half an hour from the time applicants submit identification documents online or by MMS via their mobile phones. QGen's clients may then proceed with loans or card delivery within the hour - a remarkable feat given such procedures usually took several weeks just a few years ago.
Originally from Attard, Damian Mifsud, whose mother is British, has a vast background in card IT and business solutions for banks. Educated at De La Salle College, he furthered his studies at Buckingham University before returning to Malta to join the government's Management Services Unit in the early 1990s. The Kalkara-based agency, which fell under the Office of the Prime Minister, was at the time responsible for designing IT system frameworks for local councils and the Armed Forces of Malta.
Itching to venture into the smart card business, Mr Mifsud joined RS2, the electronic card payment software solutions company which later listed on the Malta Stock Exchange. The experience proved beneficial and led Mr Mifsud to fulfil his longer term ambition to relocate overseas solo as a consultant.
The journey took him to the UK, Ireland and Belgium where he was instrumental in the establishment of multicurrency/ regional acquiring platforms for Barclays Merchant Services in the UK and for First Data Merchant Services (Omnipay) in Dublin.
He also worked on high level assignments at MBNA (Bank of America) and MasterCard in Belgium and was one of the founder members of Altair Financial services, as it grew into a global issuer of prepaid debit cards. He was the original chief executive of Crew Card Networks and took it to its AIM listing in December 2007.
"In late 2004, I was approached by some investors in London to set up a company to manage prepaid card issuance," Mr Mifsud recalled. "We were managing global issuance of prepaid cards and also the use of prepaid cards as a money remittance product through internet or SMS technology for all sorts of applications from payroll, travel cards, gift cards and gaming payout."
Monique Schaak, Mr Mifsud's wife, in the meantime, carved out a high flying career managing fashion shoots for New York Vogue and the Condé Naste group. She is now dividing her time setting up a new company, Forsey & Schaak Wedding Design, between shoots and planning high end weddings in Malta.
The entrepreneurial couple always planned to return to Malta and Mr Mifsud decided to finally establish his own firm and identified a niche pertaining to the prepaid card sector - a call centre encompassing a range of essential services to clients within the international card industry.
After examining the potential of established call centres in London, Poland, Bulgaria, South Africa, India, the Philippines and even Malta, Mr Mifsud and some partners decided they would set up their own venture on the island in October 2006.
"In those days the exchange rate was favourable," he explained. "We had a global business with customers in France, Germany, Spain, and Latin America, and Malta offered an advantageous cost base, access to staff with various language skills, and considerable support from Malta Enterprise. We started out on a 24/7 basis, essentially carrying out call centre business for cards and billing for about two years."
Mr Mifsud relocated permanently to Malta in 2008 and immediately sought ways to expand and diversify QGen, particularly as the call centre model was becoming less attractive with the competitiveness of the local market starting to wane.
QGen ventured into risk management and KYC solutions heavily, building on its call centre platform, and soon developed remarkably rapid procedures. The word spread within various industries internationally, and QGen slowly won business across sectors.
The company's newest clients are an online Norwegian e-wallet and the UK's largest and fastest growing short term loan (payday) providers. Short-term lenders grant small loans to customers for two to three weeks. The model originally grew out of the US and has gained popularity in some European markets. QGen handle back office operations for such clients, including customer identification and employment checks so that loans are granted as quickly as 15 minutes from verification. QGen also provides consultancy, transaction monitoring and due diligence for firms involved in the card acquiring and merchant end of the spectrum.
But last year, QGen was caught in the eye of the storm at the height of the financial crisis between March and September. Mr Mifsud travelled extensively to win new business as some clients scaled back their operations and others went into administration. The resulting tighter regulations after the downturn has, however, favoured QGen with clients requiring more sophisticated and extensive customer verification procedures and wider compliance checks.
"We dug our heels in," Mr Mifsud said. "We spent a lot of time and money on new technology in those quiet six months. At the time, we had a five-member team developing software; we now outsource development. By last October, we were back in business, processing 10,000 documents a month. QGen is the only company dedicated to these procedures, although other firms perform this function as part of a wider offering. We are the only global solution for KYC, risk management, fraud monitoring and compliance checks in a range of languages, including English, German, Spanish, French and Italian. We recently started verifications for the Korean market as well."
QGen is currently venturing further into the retail business as operators seek tighter customer registration procedures. Mr Mifsud believes that throughout Europe most operators with online platforms and payment gateways require some form of KYC solution, essentially expanding QGen's potential client portfolio.
"There is no limit to our growth," Mr Mifsud added. "We aim to process around 200,000 documents monthly through our KYC business and we are able to handle multiple major clients requiring extensive fraud and risk management."
The company's long term plans include obtaining licensing by a financial service authority to become a regulated business, which will further add to QGen's quality and credibility.