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Intellectual capital

Trust and estate professionals stay on top of trends through STEP

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 1, 2006
January 1, 2006
Julie Charles

When advisors from around the globe seek to use Bahamian structures to manage client assets, their best resource is a network of local experts. One strength that has kept The Bahamas in the top ranks of offshore finance is its calibre of specialized expertise, which includes some 4,500 locally based bank and trust professionals.

An indicator of what keeps this tightly knit financial community up to date is the the local chapter of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), an organization comprised of attorneys, chartered accountants, insurance specialists, tax planners, trust officers, private bankers and other wealth management experts.

“Within the trust world, we are one of the most active chapters anywhere,” says Alyson Yule, chair of STEP Bahamas, the fifth largest of 75 chapters globally, with about 375 members. Yule is managing director of private Swiss bank Banca del Sempione (Overseas) Ltd and previously worked for accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand in Nassau.

STEP draws members from many disciplines and is linked to other national professional associations. The STEP Caribbean Regional Training Centre, established in Nassau in 2003, shares space with both the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) and the Association of International Bank and Trust Companies (AIBT). The Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), formed in 1965, now has some 400 licensed accountants. The Bahamas Bar Association includes 800 lawyers. Anticipating the demand for more oversight over industry compliance, The Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO) was formed in 1999.

Cross-disciplinary experience is exemplified by professionals like Heather Thompson, a lawyer and past chair of STEP who, prior to becoming a partner in the law firm Higgs & Johnson, managed The Bahamas trust operations of a Swiss bank, gaining client-focused trust expertise.

“A big part of private banking is the human element … I think The Bahamas is well suited for financial services in that respect because we have a large pool of locals who have both experience and expertise,” says Thompson. “We have a lot of interest in educating ourselves. There’s a real desire to always improve ourselves.”

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