Minister of Financial Services, the Hon. Hope Strachan, M.P. was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the [Bahamas Institute of Financial Services]( (BIFS) Caribbean Regional Conference yesterday. The two-day conference is being held at the British Colonial Hilton September 16-17 under the theme *“Enhancing Professionalism in Financial Services through Innovation, Education and Confidence.”* The Minister urged practitioners in the financial services sector to continue to pursue education and training in order to remain competitive. She said given the important role of financial services in the Bahamian economy, it is incumbent for professionals to remain relevant in an ever-changing environment.

*“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of The Financial Services Industry to the economy of The Bahamas,”* said Minister Strachan. *“The sector accounts directly for 15% of the GDP of our country, second only to the tourism sector in terms of economic impact. It also employs the largest segment of highly skilled workers and offers a diverse range of job opportunities and professions for individuals who desire to pursue a career in the financial services.”*

The Minister said that these job opportunities range from entry-level, supervisory, middle management positions to executive management. With such a vast range, the Minister said that today’s financial services sector professionals must first recognize that it cannot be ‘business as usual.’ She said: *“The substance or basis for a career or profession in the financial services industry is a quality education. It might well sound cliché but education is “the key.” Apart from the obvious need to ensure that we make the most of our high school education I believe that it is fair to say that tertiary education is critical to a successful career or profession in Financial Services. It is important not only to your career but also to your own personal development.”*

Minister Strachan congratulated BIFS for its many contributions to the continued professional education of persons in financial services, taking note of the wide array of courses offered, including compliance and anti-money laundering, trusts and estate planning, risk management, and executive leadership. *“BIFS has partnered with a number of leading international educational institutions to offer these courses. I further applaud BIFS for establishing the G-12 programme for students entering grade 12 to follow a seven-month, four (4) module program to study business calculations and computers, economics, financial institutions and ethics. The programme also affords them the opportunity to visit a financial institution to explore and learn about its operations. I note that over 100 students have graduated since the programme was launched in 2008,”* she said.

The Bahamas was selected amongst Caribbean counterparts as the country in which to establish the Centre for Excellence, along with Barbados, primarily because of the progress already made in providing education in financial services as well as this jurisdiction’s infrastructure and technology.

The Minister also took the opportunity to commend the [Association of International Banks and Trust Companies in The Bahama]( (AIBT) for its language immersion programme.

Other educationally-focussed strides in the sector include the [Towards a Bilingual Bahamas]( (TABB) programme under which the Ministry of Financial Services has partnered with the [Bahamas Financial Services Board]( (BFSB) and [The Ministry of Education]( to introduce The [Rosetta Stone]( Language programme within Public High Schools, with a pilot programme launched at this beginning of this school year. The initiative also is supported by a number of Professional Industry Associations and BFSB member firms. *“This programme is being offered to 200 learners, and the top performing students will have the opportunity to visit either a Spanish-speaking or French-speaking country for language immersion”*, said Minister Strachan. She said the Ministry supports these initiatives, recognizing that the future for financial services, and indeed for The Bahamas, lies within our youth. *“History shows that this is the best investment that a country can make.”*