Nir Matalon, Managing Director of Malca-Amit Antwerp, an international logistics, security, customs and special operations firm for the luxury goods industry and international banks, and Director of Gem Lab Services Antwerp, which specializes in diamond and precious gem transport, is moving on after 21 years with the company. Matalon has been an integral part of the many transitions and expansion of the group's activities, as he explained in an exit interview. "Twenty-one years ago, Malca-Amit's focus was on shipping diamonds, with jewelry slowly coming into play as well. To grow and to lead, we needed to expand, horizontally and vertically. At that time we weren't yet aware of the term 'logistics', but neither were any of our clients!"
Matalon quickly identified what the clients wanted, namely, "speed, good insurance, real time information, a low price, and last, but not least, security." Mainly security, he said, physical as well as legal. "A company like Malca-Amit today is more like a bank - the legal implications of any missteps are enormous and therefore we are as strict as we are today." During his tenure, Matalon says Malca-Amit, "succeeded in identifying those fields and areas where we could offer new services and bring in new clients", growing the group's activities substantially along the way in response to market needs - such as door-to-door delivery of relatively low-cost shipments for smaller companies in need of secure and affordable transport.
Speaking to the Antwerp market specifically, where he settled in 1997, Matalon says, "Antwerp is unique, due to its role as the world's exclusive hub for the rough and polished diamond trade. Throughout the years, we have developed and provided customized products for the industry in Antwerp. A service specifically custom-made for Antwerp is our GemTrade service." He explains that while Antwerp is the leading center for the diamond business, not all foreign companies can afford to open an Antwerp office. "We became the conduit and agent that handles, executes and - not less importantly - guarantees the business deal. These business agent services have brought a lot of business to Antwerp. We're now offering similar services in China! Companies that work with GemTrade like to use Belgium as the port of entry as the country is the only EU member that does not require the payment of VAT on diamonds!"
An additional service Matalon spearheaded in Antwerp and subsequently Ramat Gan is Gemlab. "We decided to open Gemlab in Antwerp after we recognized the opportunity to create a win-win situation (service) for our customers." Gemlab was introduced as a solution for Malca-Amit clients wanting to send their stones overseas to be graded, which was neither economical nor particularly fast. "With Gemlab, customers can submit their stones locally, as if the laboratory was on site, and Gemlab takes care of all the rest. It creates value all around and mostly, peace of mind."
Antwerp has become the clear industry leader when it comes to rough diamond auctions and tenders, particularly with regard to providing smaller companies access to goods on the open market. Whether miners or traders, smaller companies have particular needs that Malca-Amit moved to address. "Let me give you a specific example", Matalon explains. "A medium-sized mining company wants to sell a run-of the-mine production by auction. While the auction itself will be held online, the potential buyers need to view the goods. If the company is large enough, with its own office in the diamond quarter, the logistics are relatively easy. But if it does not have an office, it needs representation. And that's where we come in. We can handle the entire process for them."
Matalon is now ready to set sail on his next endeavour - and this is not just an idiomatic way of saying he is moving on, as he is passionate about sailing. "Sailing gives a man peace of mind. The sound of the sails, the boat cutting through the waves, the wind, its calming and soothing. At the same time, on a sizable boat, you need a team that know the drill, know what the preparations are and how to execute each his or hers designated task. It's teamwork under the best and most pleasant of circumstances. And of course, you're all literally in the same boat, which enables good conversations and exchanges with people of different cultures and backgrounds who share the same passion as they all speak the same language of sailing. Of course, it is easy to see how these principles have allowed me to sail so many years with Malca-Amit as well!"