**Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, M.P.
Minister of Financial Services and Investments**

Minister Maynard-Gibson presented opening remarks at the STEP Caribbean Conference today at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort. Extending a welcome also on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, she said he sent indications of pride in the STEP Bahamas Branch, conference hosts, whose members *”exemplify the depth of intellectual capital in The Bahamas.”*

Pointing to some of the challenges in the private wealth management arena, the Minister said, nevertheless, the numbers of HNWIs and the value of HNWI financial wealth continue to show positive growth — though at a decreased rate. In fact, HNWI wealth is expected to grow an average 7% a year during the next 5 years, reaching approximately $38 trillion by year-end 2007.

She challenged wealth management planners to be creative, and to determine how best to respond to and capitalise on the changing environment.

The introduction of more players through both new centres and new product offerings was seen as one of myriad issues facing the industry today. The Minister said, *”Of course, we in The Bahamas are especially proud of the new products that we have on offer or are about to have on offer – SMART Funds, other Investment Funds, Segregated Accounts Companies, Foundations and Purpose Trusts. These all play a role in changing the environment for the provision of trust and estate planning services.”*

STEP Worldwide was commended for “crossing the divide” – playing a constructive role as an independent and truly global organisation, and engendering cooperation industry wide. Particular reference was made to its training and education programmes, as well as the networking outreach which allows the exchange of ideas and information for the benefit of its members and the industry at large.

The STEP Caribbean Conference agenda over the next few days addresses a number of key developments impacting trust and estate practitioners: Balancing the Rights and Needs of Beneficiaries; Credit; Litigation; Terrorism; Access to Information; Case Law Developments; International Probates; Building the Level Playing Field, Tax Information and Exchange Treaties; and International Initiatives.

Special Features of the event include “Technical Tutorials” and “Ask the Expert” sessions covering subjects such as the Anatomy of a Trust Deed; Expert Trust Drafting, Matrimonial Law, Preparation of Trustees’ Resolutions and Minutes; Bare Trusts and Nomineeships; Exculpation Clauses; and Compliance, Trust Administration, Tax Planning, Alternative Structures, and Corporate Issues.

Clare Colacicchi, STEP Worldwide Chairman, also presented welcoming remarks this morning.