Since its origins in Israel in 1963 to the establishment of its headquarters in Hong Kong some 15 years ago and its rapid expansion in Asia, the story of Malca-Amit tracks the globalisation and the dramatic increase in private wealth worldwide. The company today has 70 offices in 45 countries worldwide and provides the luxury goods industry, high-net-worth individuals and international banks with a seamless, secure logistics service for the movement and storage of high-value, precious items. Hubbis recently met with Ariel Kohelet, Managing Director, who recounted the company’s history, explained the uniqueness of its services and highlighted the company’s priorities for future growth in the Asia region.
“We provide peace of mind for our clients,” reports Kohelet. “The assets we handle for them are items that people have worked a lifetime for, their collections. They are immensely precious to them, both sentimentally and in monetary value. They need us to keep the assets for them, to move them and to preserve them, so that is why we are also deeply involved in the whole business of wealth preservation.”
Malca Amit clients, he explains, own anything from diamonds, jewellery, to art, or precious metals, basically anything that has a price tag. “Some of them keep these items for wealth preservation,” he explains, “some keep it because they want to put them away somewhere for a rainy day, some for risk allocation, diversification of portfolios, in short for many varied reasons.”
Malca-Amit offers a global team of experts, including logistics, security, customs house and special operations professionals. The company provides a smooth, expedient and professional service tailored to precise specifications and needs for the expert, efficient, secure movement of their highly valuable assets.
Malca-Amit has offices and affiliates around the world and states on its website that it is committed to an “unsurpassed level of excellence” in customer service and reports that the assets for which the company is best-known include diamonds and jewellery, watches, precious metals, fine art.
The company is also involved in the planning of special events. “We offer absolute peace of mind when it comes to the security, logistics and operational execution for special events worldwide,” the website recounts. “Our team of international security and special operational experts enables us to provide unparalleled discretionary service, with luxury and security remaining at the forefront of every operation.”
Malca-Amit’s highly-secured, strategically located storage facilities are recognised as market leaders, Kohelet reports. Numerous facilities are located in free trade zones and others are strategically positioned around the globe in locations including Bangkok, Hong Kong, London, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, Toronto and Zurich.
Kohelet clarifies the lines of demarcation between different providers. “We are not a trading company, we are purely a logistics company. In the storage space, for example, we might have large banks working with us, and we operate the big vaults for them. And we also have individual clients, investors that have safe deposit boxes. So, the spectrum that we cater to is quite broad. We work, for example, with numerous retailers, wholesalers, and others to store and ship, we provide liability coverage, the whole array of logistics services.”
For the wealth management community, this is a vital element in the big picture of their assets and wealth preservation. “We have a very extensive network of offices,” he reports, “so, for example we can collect assets from anywhere. A client might walk in to one office in New York, deposit the goods, we then ship those to Singapore, we place them in a safe deposit box or a vault, ship them the keys, without them having ever to have to step into our facilities after they have originally passed the assets to us.”
Liability coverage is essential. “The banks do not do this,” he reports. “If you have a safe deposit box in the banks, the banks won’t cover, they won’t be liable for the loss or damage of the goods. We are. We are outside the banking system.”
He observes that looking at today’s global situation, a lot of people are nervous. “In the US, for example, “we see the government shutdowns, new tax policies, we see China-America trade wars, growth plummeting in Europe, geopolitical tensions and crises and so forth. When people get nervous, they traditionally fall back on tangible assets, and they need safe space to keep these tangible assets for them, and ideally needs to be out of the banking system, as people have less trust in banks, at least not as much as they used to.”
The clients, he elucidates, benefit from security and peace of mind, including what Kohelet terms as a “seamless end-to-end offering” that includes the liability in case the client loses the item or misplaces it.
“We are not the ones connecting directly with the end client,” he explains, “but we do deal with a variety of intermediaries. We work with some companies on a referral basis, but for example, if you are a family office and you run the wealth of a family, you are getting paid for finding solutions and we are one of those expert solutions. It would be in the best interest of a family office to work with a company like us because we believe that we provide the best solution outside the financial system.
As to the exact choice of location, Kohelet observes that the client selects. “Here in Singapore is considered a safe haven,” he comments, “as it is politically stable, it is very safe, and very stable economically. It offers a big service centre with excellent infrastructure, certainly the best location in Southeast Asia and perhaps in the whole of Asia. Hong Kong is the most comparable location, but it is still China, so for example, an American investor would rather not have money in China.”
“The reasons might not be entirely rational,” he observes, “the client decisions might be driven by human psychology that says that if something happens, they want to have something tangible. Would stocks or bonds help if someone needed to pack up, run away and feed the family? But gold and diamonds have historically always been traded as tangible assets that retain value. Gold is a core hedge against the worst possible scenarios.”
But Kohelet also notes that for countries such as Malaysia and others that have tight capital controls Malca Amit will not transgress the rules of the day and the company performs its own KYC on clients, to ensure they are bona fide and that they act in accordance with the regulatory environment. “We do that because at the end of the day reputation is all you really have in a business like ours and people trust us enough to pass us millions and millions of dollars, whether be it to ship or to store.”
Delivering Peace of Mind since 1963
Kohelet explains that Malca Amit was formed in 1963 by two families that are still in the business today. “The company is a privately held business and began by shipping diamonds from Tel Aviv to Hong Kong. Today and we have a presence in 45 countries through 70 offices. While the company was originally Israel-based the holding-company moved to Hong Kong around 15 years ago. We employ about 1800 people globally and the company remains privately held to this day.”
The story of Malca-Amit, in fact, tracks globalisation and the dramatic increase in private wealth worldwide in the past 50 or more years. In 1963, Raphael Amit established a small office in Tel Aviv, Israel, providing typing services for export papers. At the time, valuables exported from Israel were simply sent by regular mail accompanied by export documents. The office was run by his wife, Rachel Amit, and her sister, Malca Tykocinski. When the diamond business moved from Tel Aviv and made its home in Ramat-Gan, the office began shipping valuable airfreight shipments. That was the company’s first step into the world of international freight forwarding.
In 1979, the Israeli government prohibited diamond shipments via mail because many diamonds were disappearing in transit. Amit, along with his wife and sister-in-law, formally defined Malca-Amit as a shipping company and opened the first Malca-Amit office outside Israel in Hong Kong. They began shipping diamonds and other valuables in a safe and secure manner. The company’s rapid international growth ensued.
Offices were opened one after the other as the demand for secure, professional and expedient logistical solutions grew in tandem with the growing scope of the international diamond, jewellery, and precious cargo industries. New York, Antwerp, Los Angeles, and London, soon saw the opening of new Malca-Amit offices. Today, the company’s network spans the globe.