With 70 years of history and a string of prestigious projects, Halmann Vella Group has come a long way since its foundation in 1954. Standing strong in the face of varied challenges, the company is set to continue diversifying its operations under the direction of CEO Kevin J Rapinett through new and sustainable solutions.

Kevin J Rapinett perceives his role as CEO through a distinctly macro lens, recognising the broader strategic implications and global perspectives that shape his leadership style. “My job is to provide strategic leadership and direction to the organisation. As the head of an executive team, my role involves overseeing the performance of our group’s multifaceted divisions and subsidiaries, ensuring their seamless operation and success,” he explains. For Kevin, reaching this position has been a bottom-up journey, from hands-on micromanagement to a broader vantage point necessitated by the constraints of his full schedule.

Stepping into his tenure at Halmann Vella in 2020 marked a significant shift in Kevin’s career, following 33 years at HSBC Bank Malta. “This was a move between two starkly different environments: from the rigorously structured, highly regulated corporate environment of a global bank to a more eclectic role in a personally connected family business setting,” he shares. Kevin adapted his leadership style, strategic thinking and business approach in line with the dynamics of a company culture nearly seven decades in the making – all while preserving his fundamental values and leadership principles.

Looking back on his career, Kevin does not attribute his success to individual milestones but to the collection of roles, achievements, projects, and collaborations that have shaped his professional journey. To him, the gains lie in the skills developed, the life lessons learnt and the impact left on others.

As a people-centric person, Kevin sums up his personal work ethos as “a philosophy that reflects who I am and how I aim to positively influence the lives and work of those around me, whether colleagues or customers. Relationships, personal growth and ethical conduct are the guiding principles that resonate throughout my work and interactions. They are an integral part of my ongoing character transformation.”

These are critical qualities in the context of evolving cultural dynamics. “In today’s rapidly changing world, organisations must navigate and respond to the evolving landscape of workplace dynamics and cultural shifts that stem from a multinational environment, the introduction of younger generations into the workforce, higher expectations, and a growing sense of entitlement,” Kevin observes, remarking that it is now increasingly challenging to nurture a high-performing team, while ensuring the company advances in sync with rapidly shifting economic cycles and the family’s vision and values.

On the other hand, Kevin feels privileged to have the opportunity to impact the group’s future meaningfully. Indeed, today, the company boasts over 200 employees, an iconic showroom and modern offices, operating from two large production sites spanning 40,000sqm, and complemented by a new state-of-the-art logistics centre. Beyond the natural stone and marble markets, the group has broadened its horizons significantly, venturing into property development and building a robust portfolio of investment properties.

It all began 70 years ago, when two Vella brothers, hailing from the quaint village of Mġarr, set forth on a venture. Their mission was to manufacture terrazzo tiles using the humble machinery available at the time. Over the years, the business expanded and transformed, introducing marble and natural stone to the local market, earning it the long-standing reputation of quality workmanship it still enjoys today.

“It was a transformative period for the business, which shaped its future success,” Kevin believes. In his view, the group has since transitioned from a purely family-run business to one that strikes a healthy balance between family dynamics and professional management, while respecting values instilled by the family since inception.

“Today the group’s strong asset base stands as a testament to the strategic expansion and diversification efforts,” he adds. “As a result, our group continues to uphold the traditions of Maltese manufacturing while adopting modern business excellence and remaining fully committed to growth, sustainability, and the people and communities we serve.”

Some of Halmann Vella’s landmark projects include iconic structures such as Valletta City Gate, Trident Park, the Citadel in Gozo, Tigné Point, Skyparks, SmartCity, the Malta Life Sciences Park, the House of Four Winds, and even a number of overseas projects. “The group has had the privilege to collaborate with some of the world’s most esteemed architects, like Renzo Piano and more recently Ian Ritchie on the Trident Park project. It is immensely satisfying to contribute our own experience and expertise to projects of this calibre,” he smiles.

Reflecting on the past year, Kevin notes that the business demonstrated remarkable stability despite ongoing global challenges. “Of course, we aren’t immune to what’s going on around us, and we have had to grapple with the impact of inflation, increased wage costs and resourcing challenges. But we have worked tirelessly to respond to market demands and position ourselves strategically for future growth,” he shares.

2023 was a pivotal year for Halmann Vella as it initiated significant investment in a new manufacturing plant. Kevin says “we are strategically positioning ourselves for future growth. We are enhancing our capabilities to meet growing demands. Additionally, we continued to drive innovation through our research and development programme, exploring new products and solutions.” These innovative products have the potential to make significant strides in addressing sustainability and waste management challenges associated with the construction industry.

“This initiative underlines our commitment to providing the market with environmentally responsible solutions and opens the door to new customer segments by shifting how construction is approached locally,” he reveals.

“Over the past months, we’ve navigated the unknown and unexpected with resilience and determination. Importantly, we managed the impact of inflation by implementing effective strategies and adapting to evolving market dynamics,” he states.

The company’s experience aligns with Kevin’s belief that, in the face of uncertainty, a business must turn its attention inward and focus on being proactive. “Assess the market, understand trends, but bear in mind that you can only influence your own actions, such as optimising operational efficiency and planning future investments. This is why we remain optimistic, despite the pressures, as we focus on maintaining our strong pipeline of projects and delivering more value through our work,” he asserts.

Musing on the future, Kevin predicts a much-needed cultural shift which, albeit potentially difficult for some businesses to navigate, builds on ESG considerations more tangibly to meet the expectations of consumers and stakeholders. “I expect the local market to respond to the growing demand for a better quality of life and establish a broader perspective on what we define as success. I firmly believe that this goes beyond the conventional economic matrix and data-based measures such as GDP growth,” he claims.

With a forward-looking, practical outlook, Kevin concludes: “our primary drive for the year ahead is to stay at the industry’s forefront, as we continue to lead it by advancing innovation and sustainability. As we expand our markets, our goal is to introduce environmentally responsible solutions, positioning ourselves for the future while building on our enduring legacy.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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