|The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 21, 2014
January 21, 2014
The vintage crystal drops on the chandeliers of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hyde Park trembled to an unfamiliar beat on a muggy summer night last year in London. Instead of the restrained reverberations of an Elgar cello concerto, the walls echoed with booming oil drums, clacking cowbells and piercing whistles. Junkanoo had come to Knightsbridge.
The event was one of a series of briefings and receptions held around the world by the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) to promote the jurisdiction and its financial services offerings. Broadly, the format involves a technical briefing where industry stakeholders make presentations in their particular areas of expertise, followed by a cocktail reception.
At the London event, the junkanoo troupe wasa vibrant finale to the evening, offering a taste of the colourful local culture.
The BFSB first added this type of event to its international promotional repertoire in 2010 and, channelling the seafaring history of the archipelagic nation, named them “Landfall.”
“The concept behind Landfall was to provide a platform in new geographic markets where we could discuss the whole brand offering and we could invite participation by key stakeholders, as well as the government,” says BFSB chief executive officer and executive director Aliya Allen. These events complement a full schedule of BFSB’s overall external communications and marketing programme, which features conference and seminar participation across the key sectors of private wealth management, investment funds and insurance.
The multidisciplinary body now hosts the Landfall events in several strategic locations throughout North and Latin America, Europe and Asia each year. In 2013, for example, Landfall events were held in the UK, Switzerland, Brazil, the US and Canada, with customized briefing visits to Uruguay and Mexico. Although the itinerary was not confirmed at press time, Allen says the focus this year will be on Latin America, with return visits to Brazil and possibly Mexico.
The events are primarily targeted at financial services intermediaries, who act as advisors to their clients and have the influence to recommend a jurisdiction in terms of investing, banking, structuring wealth or setting up business operations. “But the events are also targeted at the end clients,” adds Allen. “Nowadays, clients are much more sophisticated and don’t simply rely on their advisors, so they are interested in doing their own due diligence.”
Reflecting the brand
The choice of venue and structure of the Landfall events are important as BFSB is attempting to market the entire Bahamas brand. Consequently, the Landfalls tend to be in upmarket hotels, such as the Mandarin Oriental or Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva, and other sophisticated venues. This of course adds to the cost, which can run anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the location and type of venue.
“We try to keep the Landfall events to high-class, sophisticated venues, which fit well with the brand recognition of The Bahamas,” says Allen. “Obviously, that can make it quite costly, but we try to be as economical and cost-effective as possible, whilst getting the most out of each trip.”
Funding for the events comes from a number of sources, including the BFSB membership fees and government funding that make up part of the organization’s marketing budget. The BFSB also invites corporate sponsorship. This, Allen adds, is vital to the success of the events in more ways than one.
“Stakeholders pay for sponsorship and brand exposure, but they also contribute a list of contacts, so that invitations get to the right people. They also contribute their expertise by speaking at the events. That is more important than the financial contribution, because it is the intellectual expertise that we are actually selling. I always say that the Landfall events are only as good as the people who travel with us.”
Marketing budgets have laboured under constraints over recent years and Allen says that the BFSB is mindful that many members have had to make cutbacks and may look for cheaper alternatives for promotion.
Although being on the doorstep of North and Latin America makes those markets relatively accessible, for markets further afield, such as in Asia, a more creative approach is required to keep down expense.
With this in mind, the BFSB has been building media partnerships in large markets such as China, Hong Kong and Singapore to maintain a brand presence without the cost of travel. China Offshore, for example, will be a media partner for this year’s BFSB International Business and Finance Summit in Exuma, offering enhanced exposure in the Asian market. “We are finding ways of getting the brand message out and using limited resources in a way that gives us the most bang for the buck,” says Allen. “We may well do a Landfall event in China this year, but what is key is to continue building on our partnerships there.”
The BFSB is also attempting to cut costs by extending its marketing strategy to include a number of more affordable options, most recently with the introduction of webinars. “We started the webinars to negate the costs and logistic complications of travel,” says Allen. “We had good participation of 50 or 60 in our first one on the Bahamas Executive Entity and a follow up, which covered the whole Bahamas financial services toolkit, was also well received.”
Value of face-to-face
However, despite the convenience of modern technology, there is an intrinsic value gained from promoting directly in different jurisdictions, stresses Allen. “It is essential to have face-to-face time with prospective clients and maintain those connections.”
The Landfall events usually attract 100-130 attendees depending on the venue and the time of year. But the number, says Allen, is irrelevant. “It is not really about numbers. It is about getting the right people in the room. You could be speaking to 10 people, but if they are the right 10 people, then the event will be a success.”
How successful the events are is hard to gauge in terms of direct return on investment, but Allen is confident that The Bahamas is getting its message across and business is being done. “We ensure that we follow up with all the Landfall attendees. We have meetings and we ask them how they now feel about the jurisdiction and how we could do things better. We rely on input from BFSB members and some have told me that they have picked up business after participating in a Landfall event.” Allen says that the BFSB intends to increase the number of pre- and post-Landfall meetings with targeted individuals, investors and intermediaries, to maximize the amount of face-to-face time. “The thing about brand marketing is that it is accumulative and you have to continue to reinforce that message.”
In a cramped and increasingly competitive market, The Bahamas brand has to stand out and the Landfall events offer an intimate and highly focused opportunity to impress upon the wealthy and those who work for them that the jurisdiction is stable and, above all else, trustworthy. “I think the challenge you have with someone who knows nothing about The Bahamas is dispelling preconceived notions about offshore,” says Allen. “If there is one thing we want them to take away from the event, it is that The Bahamas is a jurisdiction that they can trust. A jurisdiction that has professionals that they can trust because of their expertise; a government that they can trust to act in their best interest as an offshore financial centre; and a jurisdiction that will remain stable, with stable policies going forward.”