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Why Frédéric Genta is Eyeing the Greater Bay Area

Why Frédéric Genta is Eyeing the Greater Bay Area

Famously the playground of the rich and famous, the world’s second-smallest nation now has its sights set on the Greater Bay Area. Frédéric Genta, the tiny country’s secretary for attractiveness, development and digital transformation, tells Prestige why.

Monaco, the wealthy Mediterranean microstate, is on a mission to strengthen its ties with China and seek investment from Asia’s richest, with a special focus on the Greater Bay Area. As the tiny haven marks 30 years of diplomatic relations with China next year, it has its sights set set on Hong Kong and Macau, says its secretary for attractiveness, development and digital transformation, Frédéric Genta, during his recent visit to the region.

Monaco’s Frédéric Genta. Photo: Galaxy Entertainment Group

A member of the Monaco government since 2018, the 43-year-old Genta is responsible for modernising the country while building and managing an ecosystem that will attract and integrate the ultra-high-net-worth individuals, family offices and investment funds that are at the heart of the principality’s economy. His objective? To make Monaco a global leader in today’s competitive environment.

“My role is really about managing all the digital transformations for the country, from the  city’s infrastructure and satellites in space to every service that digital can provide including education, administration and digital economy,” Genta tells me when we meet at Raffles at Galaxy Macau. Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG), operator of the largest casino in the world’s biggest gambling hub, acquired a five percent stake in Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) in 2015, alongside French luxury behemoth LVMH. Both paying US$45 million to be granted a stake in the government-controlled company that owns the 161-year-old Casino de Monte-Carlo. GEG Vice Chairman Francis Lui lent weight to Genta’s visit by helping to foster meetings and introductions at government, corporate and private levels

“On top of that, it’s about making sure that top talent, investors, companies and tourism come to Monaco, stay in Monaco and invest in Monaco,” he adds.

And when it comes to sharing the country’s goals, Genta isn’t afraid to make comparisons. “If I have to sum it up in one sentence, Monaco wants to be the Singapore of Europe,” he says candidly. “It’s the kind of place where top talent from around the world goes to develop economic value and it has a high level of security, so we want to apply this business model to Europe.”

Troy Hickox, GEG Representative on the Board of Monte Carlo SBM, Frédéric Genta, Francis Lui, Vice Chairman of GEG, and Madame Marie-Pascale Boisson, Ambassador of the Principality of Monaco to the PRC

The world’s second-smallest country after the Vatican City, Monaco is famous for its lavish tourism hot spots, the Formula 1 grand prix, the annual yacht show and its casino scene. Of course, with no taxes on income, capital gains or inheritance, and a booming private banking sector, it’s long been a popular haven for the world’s ultra-rich.

One perks on offer is potential membership of Monaco Private Label – an invitation-only network for leading investors. Inaugurated in 2009 to attract the global elite to the principality, it now has around 2,000 members from more 60 countries. Genta says he hopes to grow the club’s membership with more investors from Hong Kong and Macau, and possibly even hold some of Monaco Private Label’s events in the cities next year.

But that’s not all. To help move Monaco forward, Genta helped in the formulation of the major transformation initiative, Extended Monaco, which includes e-education, e-health, smart city, e-government, telecom upgrades and the launch of a sovereign cloud.

“It’s worth noting Extended Monaco is one programme for the whole country,” Genta declares. “There’s no city programme, country programme, private sector programme or even public-sector programmes – everyone is working together for Extending Monaco. The main success of the programme has been the ability to get everyone around a table, to be able to share ideas and deliver them.”

Monaco hosts various events throughout the year, including the Formula 1. Photo: Supplied

And in just a few years, it’s already doing what it set out to achieve. “The first phase of Extended Monaco has already been delivered: we launched a sovereign cloud, rolled out 5G fibre and even our digital identity,” says Genta. “We’re also very active on training people to master these new digital tools.”

But of course, major change isn’t always easy. According to Genta, one of the biggest challenges is securing the right people to make things happen. “There’s a fight for talent, all around the world,” he admits. “Monaco has a value proposition, but the Americans have one too. In the Asia region, so does the Greater Bay Area and Singapore. Typically, Europe isn’t always a place where growth happens as fast as in Asia or the Middle East. Because our region is small, we’re focusing on finance and digital, because we have to find industries and businesses that are high value per square metre. That’s very important to us, so that’s what we’re doing.”

“We want to make the value proposition known and fully understood by people, because they are many clichés about the country. We really want to push the fact that it’s a place for business, and Monaco is open for business,” Genta declares.

And although things are moving forward fast, Monaco still holds on to its heritage. “Some countries are just about disruption and brands, and some countries are only about keeping the existing model,” he says. “Instead, Monaco is all about keeping its DNA while evolving, and that’s what really makes it different.”

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According to Genta, another one of the sweeteners on offer in Monaco is a sense of community – something money can’t always buy. “Best of all, we’re a strong and friendly community,” says Genta. “You could be a fund manager, a tennis pro, a Formula 1 driver or even an artist, and you’ll feel at home as part of the Monaco community.”

At the Galaxy Integrated Resort, Mr. Francis Lui, Vice Chairman of GEG; Mr. Frédéric Genta, Secretary for Attractiveness, Development and Digital Transformation, Principality of Monaco; H.E. Madame Marie-Pascale Boisson, Ambassador of the Principality of Monaco to the PRC; and Mr. Troy Hickox, GEG Representative on the Board of Monte Carlo SBM.

Through his work with Extended Monaco, Genta has worked closely with the country’s ruler, Prince Albert II, who has reigned since 2005. “What really impresses me about Prince Albert II is how forward-thinking he is,” says Genta. “He was very involved in the Earth Summit in Rio and already understood the need for green before it was fashionable.

“Whenever I’ve had the honour of speaking to him, he’s always thinking about the future – he really thinks globally,” Genta adds. “I think he’s been doing an amazing job carrying the image of the principality and embodying this modernity that he really wants his country to portray. So the first things that come to mind is come to mind is how international and modern he really is.”

Royalty aside, Genta himself comes from a prominent background. If his last name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the son of the late watch designer Gérald Genta, creator of some of the world’s most innovative and sought-after timepieces. In fact, during our interview, I can’t help but notice Genta is wearing one of his father’s most classic designs on his wrist – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak – which he proudly takes off to show me.

“Sadly, I don’t even have a tenth of the talent of my dad, but his work ethic definitely inspired me,” says Genta. “What I liked about him when he was alive, and the relationship I had with him, was that he was a disrupter. He was always thinking how he could disrupt the world of watches, and I’m trying to do the same with Monaco. We’re changing a lot, but it’s about keeping the DNA. He did many different watches, disrupting the market while keeping the DNA, because things change. And that’s something that’s really inspires me in my job.”

Of course, that isn’t the only inspiration behind Genta’s unique role and passion for Monaco’s development. While he’s also a Swiss citizen, he largely considers himself Monégasque. “I’m one of the local 10,000 people living here,” he says with pride. “Although I grew up in Monaco, I had the opportunity to live different lives in different places. I worked at Google in California, I went to Harvard, but now I’m lucky enough to be doing this job in this country.”

And while he counts himself lucky to be at the forefront of Monaco’s future, it wasn’t exactly what he had in mind a couple of years ago when he started. “I thought five years ago it was all about digital, but now I understand with AI that we’re in a transition – somewhat of a change in civilisation, and there’s a revolution coming. So I feel really blessed to be in this role at this time.”

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