The Hon. T. Brent Symonette, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs provided opening remarks for the first ever [International Business & Finance Summit](http://www.bahamassummit.com), sponsored by the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) on January 29-31. The event was held at the Bimini Bay Resort, Bimini and attracted over 120 participants representing the Government and Regulators (11%), International Presenters and Summit delegates (21 %) and the private sector (68%).
The Deputy Prime Minister spoke to the need for both political and economic domestic policies to ensure that The Bahamas became and remained in tune with global developments, particularly those relating to the regulation of international trade and trade in services. This, he said, was necessary position the jurisdiction to take advantage of the many opportunities, arising at bilateral and multilateral levels.
The main working sessions of the IBFS, which is the successor event to BFSB’s annual Bahamas Financial Services Retreat, focused on identifying and securing opportunities in international business and finance, with a selection of international presenters providing food for thought on these measures, including the challenges ahead.
Recognising that the first step in any business strategy is to understand the scale and nature of available opportunities, BFSB invited the Scorpio Partnership to present a sector review, looking at the “size of the prize” in the private wealth industry. Scorpio’s Sebastian Dovey led these discussions, speaking to topics such as market definitions, market sizing and global distribution of high net worth wealth. He followed this with an assessment of the “global drivers of value” in private wealth, with focus on The Bahamas. He tabled a proposal for a SCRIPT for The Bahamas, noting that key success factors include: A Strategy for cross-sector Coordination; a proactive and pragmatic Regulatory environment; a recognition that Infrastructure is vital; a Proactive and targeted business development strategy; and an emphasis on attracting and building a world-class Talent Pool.
Philip Marcovici of LawInContext was next on the packed agenda, speaking to what model The Bahamas should adopt to take advantage of the prevailing opportunities, and some of the prerequisites for success. Mr. Marcovici identified transparency and unprecedented wealth transfers in a transparent world as two megatrends that The Bahamas must address. He stressed that jurisdictions must have the right people, asking the right questions, and a government and private sector prepared to be leaders.
Vince Colvin, formerly of Deloitte’s International Financial Jurisdiction Advisory Services, discussed mechanisms that would engender a consistent approach to strategy building across sectors; and possibly as a part of an overall “national” plan. Referencing the work done since the 2009 Bahamas Financial Services Retreat with regard to possible strategies for tax and insurance, and his own experience with other IFCs, he noted that it was important going forward to use key industry and government stakeholders collaboratively to provide input not only into a national strategy but to drive commitment to action. He likened the process to the same core steps that a company would take from (i) strategy development; to (ii) performance management; to (iii) resource allocation, all working in parallel.
##Securing Opportunities & Examining Building Blocks##
Moving away from The Bahamas centric opening presentations, the agenda turned to ones that were more client focused, bringing together experts to give advice on building the client base. Under the “**Securing Business Opportunities”** theme, each of four international presenters spoke to **“Capturing the Client”**, providing client profiles and doing business: Monica Reyes Rodriguez of Reyes Abogados Asociados – Colombia; Ivan S. Sacks, Withers Bergman LLP – United States; Rene Werner, Werner & Associados – Latin America , with a focus on Brazil; and Joe Field, Withers – Asia. All presenters were positive about the opportunities available for jurisdictions such as The Bahamas – provided there is a clear understanding of client needs and a willingness to address these.
The next session – **“Reexamining our Building Blocks”** — concentrated on how The Bahamas can stay ahead of the competition. Landmark changes in regulatory and tax policy have changed the international financial services industry and BFSB positioned these discussions to engender a better understanding of what can be expected of this unrelenting momentum. Andrew Todd of Deloitte (UK) spoke to what a Bahamas Tax Strategy might be, referencing a study on “The Changing Global Landscape”, a project commissioned by BFSB in 2008 to look at how tax and privacy influence development of the sector. The primary focus of his presentation was to provide an update on developments since the 2009 Report and how these might impact The Bahamas Strategy going forward. John Lawrence, Chairman of STEP Caribbean and Latin American Region, along with Philip Marcovici participated with Mr. Todd in Panel Discussions on this topic, both also speaking to international developments and the response by The Bahamas.
Other presenters included the Hon. Alfred Sears, who brought remarks from the Official Opposition, who he said was mandated to play a significant role in promoting The Bahamas and the international business and finance sectors, in the national interest. The Opposition firmly believes, he said, that the many challenges facing the business and financial services sectors require a bipartisan response, with a strong private/public partnership of stakeholders, to clarify the way forward.
##Regulation, Business Development & Workshops##
Regulation and Business Development & Promotion were the concluding topics under the **“Re-Examining Our Building Blocks”** Session, with presentations from Governor Wendy Craigg of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, the Hon. Zhivargo Laing, Minister of State for Finance, and Sen. The Hon. John K.F. Delaney, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs. These presentations all focussed on providing a review of 2009 developments, globally and domestically, and a Perspective of 2010.
Governor Wendy Craigg of the Central Bank provided an overview of the global financial regulatory reform agenda – taking into consideration initiatives within the United States, and by global standard setters – and the response by The Bahamas. The latter, she said, has focused on building high quality, capital, and mitigating procyclicality. In this connection she provided an overview of initiatives relating to (i) enhanced surveillance; (ii) the strengthening of (a) accounting standards and (b) liquidity risk measurements – with standards and monitoring; (iii) addressing cross-border resolutions and systemically important institutions; (iv) adherence to international supervisory and regulatory standards, and (v) developing macro prudential frameworks and tools.
Attorney General John Delaney presented on a “New Commitment for the Future”, noting that the Government of The Bahamas, working hand in hand with the private sector and other industry stakeholders, is steadfast in its approach to strategic development for the nation and the financial services sector. He said notwithstanding the challenges of 2009, a framework was developed and a number of preliminary steps already taken. In this connection, he spoke to the nation’s commitment to transparency and cooperation and related initiatives with the Global Forum, legislative and judicial developments, and tax and trade matters.
Minister Laing spoke to the need to forge ahead in interesting times, noting that as a national priority, the Government remains committed to the preservation and growth of financial services industry as the second pillar of the national economy.
The Summit concluded with Workshops on **”Building Sustainable and Profitable Businesses”**; specifically, action that must be pursued to build winning and mutually consistent strategies across sectors. The four workshops focused on the Private Wealth Industry; Securities & Capital Markets; Business Environment; and Competing in the International Arena.
BFSB Chairman Craig Tony Gomez says developments relating to transparency and information exchange, the evolvement of the level playing field, and the need to evaluate the approach to financial services all bring focus to the strategy framework and “vision” first announced last year and around which IBFS sessions were structured. Specifically, BFSB’s work programme going forward will reflect the vision that The Bahamas will become a globally competitive international business jurisdiction for private wealth management, capital investment into the Americas and emerging markets, and residency for High Net Worth Individuals, creating high value jobs and business opportunities on a sustainable basis.
BFSB CEO & Executive Director Wendy Warren confirms that the groundwork has been set, noting that various Reports commissioned in 2008 and 2009 also were successful in awakening awareness within the industry on the need for change but, more importantly, the need for a comprehensive action plan to ensure sustainability of the financial services sector – within the integrated context of international business and finance.