The Bahamas Financial Services Board hosted its annual International Business & Finance Summit (IBFS) at the Hilton Resorts World Bimini on February 28th through March 2nd. Delegates heard from both local and international speakers. This year’s theme was, “Balancing Change with Continuity” which focused on giving delegates insight into the current regulatory environment and key international initiatives whilst highlighting area of opportunity for growth within the sector. Attendees were encouraged to leverage the key elements of the Bahamas’ Value proposition, namely location, innovation and expertise, as the jurisdiction balances change in the operating environment with the need to remain sustainable.

BFSB’s Chairman, Ms. Antoinette Russell, stated that, “We meet at a crucial juncture for our industry. The forces of change currently in play causes many to question our prospects for the future. In this context, we determined that it was important that we use this opportunity to do some introspection and look at the role of IFCs such as ours in the global economy moving forward. With this backdrop, we will then consider the most recent changes impacting the way that we do business. It is anticipated that we will then engage in a full and frank discussion on how we should balance these forces of change, repositioning of our core attributes whilst leveraging opportunities for innovation.”

Challenging delegates to see opportunity in the current situation, Hon. Brent Symonette, Minister of Financial Services Trade & Immigration in his opening remarks stated that,A challenge can often be viewed as an opportunity. A downturn can be a chance to streamline a business. And a changing regulatory environment can be seen as an opportunity for The Bahamas to demonstrate its professional skills and high standards. I believe we are in a good position to use the shifting landscape of global regulatory standards to attract more business to our country.  In short, I see the challenges facing The Bahamas now as opportunities. These opportunities must be the focus that will enable us to fortify them into reality.

The event opened with a distinguished panel comprised of Mr. John Delaney, Former Attorney General and Senior Partner at Delaney Partners and Mr. Diego Zuluago, Policy Analyst at The Cto Institute, Washington D.C and Mr. James Smith, Former Governor of The Central Bank of The Bahamas. The panel focused on “The Future of International Financial Centres”. The evolution of the industry was outlined by Mr. James Smith whilst Mr. Delaney focused on the opportunities that exist for the sustained growth of the sector if there is a focus on creating real substance for both individuals and entities. Mr. Zuluaga, who is a sought-after international speaker, highlighted the importance of international financial centres such as The Bahamas in the global economy.

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, who recently debated the mid-year budget, in his remarks at the conference dinner, outlined the government initiatives to shore up the the economy as a whole, with emphasis on the financial services sector.

A highlight of the event was the Minister’s Roundtable. Participants included Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, Hon. Brent Symonette, Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Immigration and Hon Ellsworth Johnson, Minister of State for Legal Affairs. Delegates engaged in a full and frank discussion as to the future of the financial services industry. Some of the themes covered in this dialogue included:

  1. Outcomes of recent dialogue with EU and FATF Officials
  2. Removal of preferential tax regime
  3. Beneficial Owner Registers
  4. Mitigating De-Risking
  5. Immigration Process/Policy
  6. Impact of WTO on the financial services sector
  7. Controlled Liberalization of the Bar
  8. The Role of Private sector in educating the public on the issues impacting financial services

Other engaging topics and speakers over the two-day dynamic summit included:

  1. Michael Paton, Partner, Lennox Paton gave an in-depth update on “International Initiatives and The Bahamas’ Response”
  2. Michael Halkitis, Consultant, FxPro/Morgan and Drake presented on “The Death of Privacy?”
  3. Linda D’Aguilar, Partner at Glinton, Sweeting O’Brien, examined “Global Tax Enforcement Measures-A Case Study”
  4. Christina Rolle, Executive Director of The Securities Commission of The Bahamas presented on “Fintech: Balancing Innovation and Regulation”
  5. Michael Allen, Partner at Higgs & Johnson and Mr. LLewelyn Boyer-Cartwright, Partner at Callendars & Co led a panel on “Aviation and Financial Services: Creating Linkages”
  6. Hal Webb, Partner at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP presented on “Advising the LATAM Client”
  7. Alyia Allen, Partner at Graham Thompson, spoke on “Professional Expertise, Substantial Presence: Keys to Continuity”
  8. Michelle Thompson, Country Manager, EY and Mr. Valdez Russell, CEO of VKR Insights, who facilitated a vision board experience where delegates discussed, “What Do We Want the FSI to Look Like?”

Conference organizer and host Tanya McCartney, CEO and Executive Director of BFSB noted at the closing of the event that, “Despite the numerous policy and international initiatives which threaten to overtake us, we must continue to focus on business development.” She noted that members continue to focus on Latin America as a target market, whilst also looking at opportunities for new product development. She outlined that BFSB intends to host promotional events in New York, Miami, Brazil, Mexico City as well as Dubai in 2019.

The International Business and Finance Summit brought together key stakeholders, executives, local and international thought leaders together for two days of engaging discussion on next steps in ensuring that the Bahamas remains the clear choice for financial services.

A selection of photos from IBFS 2019: