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2005-05-18 07:22:08

Bahamas Urged To Think Outside The Box

According to Mr. Sussman, opening the practice of law in The Bahamas to foreigners could also help to propel the financial services industry.

Two of The Bahamas' major competitors are Bermuda and The Cayman Islands, which according to Mr. Sussman have designed distinct markets to meet the needs of their high-end clients.

The international high net worth market is estimated to reach US$40 trillion by 2008, and according to David Sussman, president and chief executive officer of Franklyn Templeton Fiduciary Bank, The Bahamas can tap into it in a more meaningful way.

But he said there are certain practices that must first be revised or tailored in the Financial Services Sector.

Mr. Sussman was the keynote speaker at The Bahamas Institute of Financial Services seminar at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel on Tuesday.

He said that there are a number of trends both globally, regionally and locally that The Bahamas can look to for guidance on how best to position itself to move forward.

"The Bahamas is criticized on a regular basis, rightfully or not, for a number of perceived limitations. Those would include our telecommunications infrastructure, and I guess we just have to ask someone that visits us from Europe or North America who tries to use a Black Berry, a closed bar, rising rates of violent crimes and an opaque regulatory regime," Mr. Sussman said.

"These are often cited by -prospects as reasons why they choose to book business with our competitors."

Two of The Bahamas' major competitors are Bermuda and The Cayman Islands, which according to Mr. Sussman have designed distinct markets to meet the needs of their high-end clients.

However, he pointed out that there are significant opportunities on the horizon for The Bahamas.

"It is not all doom and gloom. As I have stated we have a new sweep of legislation, which in many instances will give us a competitive advantage and in the worst case scenario, allows us to acheive parity with some of our competitors," Mr. Sussman explained.

"Immigration, again although the local market is often perceived as hostile towards expatriates -I would encourage the government to examine the model that is in existence in Cayman where the immigration authorities in The Cayman essentially say to the overseas bank and trust companies that are on the island, if you would like work permits we would like you to fund scholarships-but in this case it would be for Bahamians and I think that is a terrific way to go."

According to Mr. Sussman, opening the practice of law in The Bahamas to foreigners could also help to propel the financial services industry.

"If you open the practice of law on a limited basis to overseas practitioners, a rising tide tends to lift all boats," he said. " I don't think the local bar should perceive that as a threat. I don't think they should perceive that as an indictment of the quality of service that is available-but rather view it as a marketing opportunity," Mr. Sussman said.

He pointed out that Bermuda's open bar policy, has worked to the country's advantage.

In the meantime, Mr. Sussman said that, "We are now catering to a next generation audience, not only in traditional markets like Western Europe, but perhaps more importantly in markets such as India, China, Russia, Poland and for that matter all of Eastern Europe.

"As far as the offshore sector is concerned it is still growing, but at a much slower pace than in the past. I think we need to ask ourselves why-as the offshore sector of the higher net worth market is in the mature stages of its evolution.

"Clients are demanding more sophisticated structured and compliance solutions. They are no longer satisfied with what I call soft advice. It is highly unlikely that our children will be able to earn a living by merely servicing simple money."

The seminars continue throughout the week.

By: Royanne Forbes, The Bahama Journal

 
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