**Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, M.P.**
The Bahamas remains an attractive jurisdiction for financial services, in part due to the work undertaken by the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments to develop and introduce new products that will expand the range of the sector. Minister Allyson Maynard-Gibson says success in this area has been achieved in collaboration with the Financial Services Consultative Forum, the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) and other stakeholders in the sector – a public/private partnership that ensures the financial services sector in The Bahamas remains at the cutting edge of the industry.
Latest products in the Bahamas financial services toolkit include Foundations and Segregated Accounts Companies. Other pieces of financial services legislation recently adopted include Investment Funds, Purpose Trusts and amendments to the International Business Companies and the Perpetuities Acts. The Ministry is continuing to work with the sector on the delivery of new products, notably the Private Trust Company legislation. PTCs increasingly are the preferred tool in the structuring of estate and inheritance planning needs of the high net worth family (‘HNWF”). With the focus of The Bahamas’ finance industry on private wealth management, the introduction of this legislation will allow The Bahamas to build on recent positive momentum and further develop its position as a leading choice for the HNWF. These steps will strengthen the jurisdiction’s ability to reap definitive benefits notwithstanding the fiercely competitive environment.
Minister Maynard-Gibson pointed out that local developments have been complemented by initiatives to ensure that information about the changes in the legislative regime is brought to the attention of key players in the sector. *”To that end, in collaboration with the BFSB, the Ministry has participated this year in two promotional tours to Europe and Brazil to meet with banking institutions, wealth managers, lawyers, and the like to inform them of the changes we have made and are making in The Bahamas.”*
In addition, the Minister pointed to the number of other promotional tours undertaken by BFSB with the support of its members – all serving to highlight that while there is a great deal of interest in The Bahamas, there are others who need to be familiarised with the range of products and services offered by this jurisdiction. *”As The Bahamas wishes to remain an important player in the financial services sector we need to continue to enhance the delivery of timely information about what we are doing.”*
Recognising that if the Ministry is to fulfill its mandate to further develop and promote the financial services sector, continual refinement of the 5-Year Strategic Plan is essential, the Ministry has engaged in a review exercise. This will ensure that the plan reflects the changing dynamics of the industry and The Bahamas. The Ministry of Financial Services, in collaboration with BFSB and the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies, (AIBT) earlier this year sponsored a report by Mr. Bruce Weatherill, Global Leader, Private Banking and Wealth Management, PricewaterhouseCoopers UK (“PWC”). The exercise focused on the status of the global financial services sector and The Bahamas’ positioning.
This report – in conjunction with ongoing industry input – is intended to (i) assist in understanding the directional changes of the marketplace and, (ii) define The Bahamas’ position within the marketplace and, as a result, how the jurisdiction should position itself over the next 5 years.
The jointly commissioned report identified a wish list for the ideal offshore centre:
• Good legal and regulatory systems
• Specialist products and asset class coverage and structures
• Good reputation/brand/infrastructure
• Adherence to international benchmarked standards – regulation without bureaucracy
• Functional and relevant investment and tax reporting
• Ease of access to businesses and for skilled employees
*”Even though there is room for improvement, The Bahamas is well on its way to achieving all of these “wishes”,* says Minister Maynard-Gibson, noting further that *”Our private sector collaboration shall be continued and enhanced.”*
The financial services sector remains the second pillar of the economy, contributing between 15 to 20 percent of the gross domestic product. More than 6,000 persons are employed by this sector and The Bahamas has been recognised internationally for the commitment to education and professional enhancement displayed by the Bahamians employed in the sector. The Ministry continues to work with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that this remains true.
Speaking specifically to the issue of regulatory regime, the Minister says there is an existing committee, representative of the existing regulators, charged with considering options for consolidating these agencies into one or more regulatory organisations. *”I look forward to receiving the recommendations of this Committee. It is anticipated that by December there will be a decision on the future shape of our regulatory regime.”*
The Ministry is redoubling efforts to foster efficiency and innovative service delivery; specifically, the introduction of e-government for the online registration of companies and in the near future electronic processing of civil documents, and a transformation initiative aimed at the reengineering of MFSI’s existing operations and its information and communication technology. *(See separate news article linked below)*
The Ministry has refocused both the Department of the Registrar General and the Office of the Registrar of Insurance Companies to better meet the needs of both businesses and citizens, while enhancing the competitiveness of The Bahamas as a global financial services and investments centre.
The 2005-2006 Budget, recently passed in Parliament, builds on these initiatives and is intended to be supportive of the Ministry’s ongoing strategies to enhance the jurisdiction’s global competitiveness, diversify its economic base, and generally restructure the economy into one that is perceived as more receptive to the infusion of new enterprise and ideas.