**THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY IN THE BAHAMAS – VIEWS FROM THE NEXT GENERATION**
*BFSB’s BFR GATEWAY Editor was delighted to have the opportunity to interview two young industry professionals, and to get their perspective on the financial services industry today. Sofia Papageorge, Associate at Delaney Partners and Damian Forbes, Sr. Investment & Portfolio Manager at Deltec Bank spoke to us enthusiastically about meeting the evolving needs of the Next Generation clients and whether the Next Generation of service providers bring a whole new perspective in terms of innovation and sustaining the competitive edge.*
**GATEWAY BFR:** BFSB’s “Vision” for the financial services industry (FSI) speaks to the traditional development of products and services but also focuses on sustainability. As a young industry professional, how much focus do you place on ensuring that this sector will be one that endures? In your day-to-day practice, is this even on your “radar”?
**SP:** *The ability to grow the industry and maintain The Bahamas as a premier financial services jurisdiction cannot be successful if it is solely a part of a single organization’s vision of the future. Sustainability must be a part of the industry’s view of the future. Put simply, it is a team effort. I consider myself to be a part of ‘Team Bahamas’. Businesses have an interest in generating value in the long term. The cost of setting up a business is expensive and time consuming. Therefore, the ability to demonstrate to prospective investors and clients that their investment of time and capital in the jurisdiction will benefit not only their short-term goals but also their long-term goals is key. In my day–to-day practice, I make it a priority to continue to convey everything we, as a nation, have accomplished, discuss what we are doing to continue to grow and be at the forefront of innovation and world class service and, when the opportunity is given, participate in dialogue between the private and public sector through organizations such as the Bahamas Financial Services Board.*
**DF:** D*avid Ogilvy once said “If each of us hires people smaller than ourselves, we shall become a company of midgets. But if each of us hires people bigger than ourselves, we shall become a company of giants.” One of the underlying messages of that quote can be applied to not only companies but our industry as a whole, as it speaks to growth, competitiveness, and sustainability through the building and maintenance of human capital and talent. In my day-to-day worklife, I frequently remind myself of this. Throughout my career, I have had the benefit of knowing a few individuals who have positively impacted my development through contributions of their time, knowledge, and experience; I have also had the benefit of knowing individuals who were more concerned with using others’ time and energy singularly to their own advantage. This has allowed me the good fortune to distinguish between the two. While there is a give and take in all that we do, we must be mindful of the balance. It is the former that builds companies and industries, that imparts wisdom and growth, and ensures continued competitiveness and sustainability through the development of our people and skills throughout the ranks. By endeavouring to provide genuine opportunity and through the nurturing of talent, we help to ensure that our industry endures.*
**GATEWAY BFR:** As we celebrate our 40th year of Bahamian Independence, tell us where you see the industry now and, more importantly, in the next 20 years.
**SP:** *Over the years, The Bahamas has successfully weathered its fair share of storms, has demonstrated its ability to endure the test of time and today, has earned its position as a leading financial services jurisdiction. Internationally, “The Bahamas” brand is well-known and well-respected. Locally, the industry is a leading sector in terms of providing employment and revenue to the Bahamian government.*
*In the future, The Bahamas will have to continue to address the challenges that face all off-shore financial centers, including:*
*(a) maintaining trust in the industry and the global economy;
(b) evolving to address global developments e.g. FATCA;
(c) balancing excessive regulation with transparency; and
(d) remaining cost-effective without diluting the quality of products and services.*
*I really do believe that The Bahamas has a collection of experienced industry veterans, a group of bright young professionals and stable governance, all committed to the sustainability of the industry – an arsenal well-equipped for fighting the challenges of the future.*
**GATEWAY BFR:** We suspect the changes that everyone references when talking about evolution and the new generation of financial services are not so drastic as portrayed by the “New Year’s” images of the decrepit graybeard and the spanking new baby – and that there must be traditional practices tried and proven that should not be tossed out. How do you see integrating the time-honoured methods of servicing clients with the innovation that is necessary to stay ahead of the game?
**DF:** *From the outset of my career, a common thread that has consistently run through it – one that has been passed on to me – is the importance of the relationship – nurturing, acquiring, building, and maintaining it. This has come in many different quips and idioms, “Ours is a relationship business,” “The customer is key,” and so on. No matter how our world and industry advances, at the heart of it a truth that remains is that our business is one of trust and understanding – understanding the makeup, needs, and wishes of our clients, and their trusting in us to do what is right by them in accordance with this understanding. What is paramount is that with the awareness of what our clients want, we can then continuously anticipate and tailor the appropriate innovations in our industry to our clients’ needs so that we become and remain leading service providers in our relationships.*
**GATEWAY BFR:** Do you think the FSI is a source of national pride? Do young industry practitioners and professionals hold the industry in high esteem – or work towards ensuring this place of honour?
**SP:** *While attending university abroad, I and many of my Bahamian classmates, many of whom are now young professionals in the industry, were often asked by our non-Bahamian classmates whether we would return to The Bahamas or work abroad. Our consistent response was that we intended to return to The Bahamas. And, why wouldn’t we?*
*Our predecessors worked long and hard to ensure that our financial services industry was not branded, like many other off-shore financial centers, as a “sunny place for shady people” by adhering to strict anti-money laundering standards and doing business only with high-quality clients. Further, our predecessors have always encouraged positive promotion of the industry and aimed to ensure that The Bahamas’ regulatory and legislative regime for financial services was appropriately aligned with international best practices.*
*Therefore, many Bahamian young professionals, including myself, proudly consider themselves to be Bahamas-brand Ambassadors and work towards ensuring the financial services industry maintains its high standards. For us, the promotion of The Bahamas’ financial services industry and The Bahamas generally isn’t a job that we go to from 9 to 5, and then go home. It is an extension of ourselves and our country—two things which we believe in and value.*
**GATEWAY BFR:** What would be your words of wisdom to contemporaries entering the sector?
**DF:** *Realize that the world is a much more global and interconnected place than it was even in the recent past. That the speed with which information travels and the manner in which it is communicated today dramatically decreases the reaction time to new developments and increases the sheer number of datapoints and subsequent noise that is incorporated in everyday markets. The corollary of these observations is twofold. Firstly, one should appreciate that from an informational standpoint you can effectively operate from almost anywhere in the world today and are not necessarily disadvantaged being located outside of a large, metropolitan financial centre. Secondly, one should also realize that with this globalization and interconnectedness comes the obligation to compete both inside your region and outside of it. You should not be satisfied with simply outperforming in your own local market or industry; you should compare and compete with your counterparts on a global basis and strive to ensure that your brand or product measures up with the best that the world has to offer.*
**SOFIA J. PAPAGEORGE** is an Associate with law firm Delaney Partners. Her practice focuses on securities, investment funds, banking, financial services law & regulation and commercial matters. She has acted in various aspects of commercial transactions, including financial regulatory, corporate, trust and estates, immigration, and employment matters. Prior to joining Delaney Partners in 2013, Ms. Papageorge served as an Associate with Klonaris & Co. following stints at that law firm as an intern and Pupil. While pursuing studies in the UK she also served as a Court Marshall at Cambridge Crown Court.
**DAMIAN FORBES** is the senior investment and portfolio manager at Deltec Bank & Trust Limited, a global private bank and multi-strategy wealth manager. He helps to direct Deltec’s investment activities in the alternative space, heads up the research effort on potential investments, and co-manages the bank’s internal equity fund products. Mr. Forbes is a member of Deltec’s executive investment team, which has responsibility for firm-wide investment strategy, analysis, and allocation as well as oversight of discretionary assets under management.