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Custodians of a sector

Custodians of a sector

Co-chairs of the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies offer some insight into its aims in a new era of compliance and transparency

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 1, 2017
January 1, 2017
Staff Writer

The Association of International Banks and Trusts Companies (AIBT) in The Bahamas is a prominent umbrella body in the financial services industry. Established in 1976, the membership organization has been serving the needs and looking after the interests of the industry’s stakeholders for four decades. AIBT constituencies include banks and trust licensees from the Caribbean, South and Central America, the Far East and Asia, Europe, North America and Switzerland.

Last year, the representative body elected chief executive officer of The Winterbotham Trust Company Limited Ivan Hooper and director at The Private Trust Corporation Limited Bruno Roberts as co-chairs. Between them they have more than 40 years

collective experience in financial services, with expert knowledge in accounting, management, investments, trust administration and corporate consultancy.

In an exclusive interview with The Bahamas Investor, the two executives offered some insight into the state of the industry and AIBT’s role in it.

Q: What do you see as the primary purpose of the AIBT?

IH: AIBT is the representative body for international banks and trust companies operating in The Bahamas. We represent the needs and serve as the voice of the international financial services sector. Over the past 40 years, we have worked hard in partnership with key industry stakeholders to fulfil AIBT’s mission of industry advocacy, professional development and social partnership.

BR: We also work very closely with other bodies within the sector such as the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB), the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, Bahamas Institute of Financial Services and The Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Q: What do you think have been the biggest achievements of the AIBT in its recent history?

BR: On the educational side, I would say successfully hosting the Nassau Conference for 11 years. The annual event underscores AIBT’s ongoing commitment, as founding partner, to the continued development and growth of the sector and its professionals. The conference is the centrepiece of our wider Nassau Conference initiative that includes our annual summer internships programme and six-week language immersion for qualified students and young professionals.

IH: AIBT is also proud of the contribution that it makes through the Financial Community Advanced Technical Education Trust. Recognizing the importance of skills development outside of our sector, in 1973 the leaders of the banking industry established The Education Trust with the goal of providing financial resources towards the cultivation of technical skills in young Bahamians of upstanding character and good academic standing. Over the past 43 years, more than 160 Bahamians have benefited from scholarships approaching half a million dollars, to pursue studies in areas outside of finance, ranging from electronics to aviation and marine navigation, to electrical engineering and auto servicing.

BR: We also collaborate with government on key initiatives such as the implementation of VAT and have worked with the BFSB and regulators in the development of the legislative initiatives including Private Trust Companies, Financial Services Foundations and the ICON.

Q: What is the current state of the organization?

BR: AIBT continues to be a vibrant member-driven organization and we are well aware of the issues facing the industry today. Hence, we serve as an advocate for the sector engaging with all relevant stakeholders. We are delivering on our mandate which is to represent the industry in its dealings with the government, industry regulators and comparable foreign associations.

Q: What do you see as being your main role as co-chairs?

BR: As co-chairs our role is to engage with our members to ensure that we represent their views, interests and concerns accurately to government, regulators and other international associations.

Q: The Bahamas has come under close scrutiny once again in recent months. What evidence can the jurisdiction present to the international financial community to show that it is compliant?

BR: Undoubtedly, there is now greater international transparency and cooperation on fiscal matters. The Bahamas government has gone on record with its intention of attaining and maintaining the very highest levels of conduct as a clean jurisdiction, complying with the highest standards to prevent the abuse of its financial system by money launderers and criminal elements.

It has committed to satisfying recommendations coming out of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, and Financial Action Task Force in relation to simplifying and making more efficient The Bahamas’ cooperation with foreign jurisdictions in legal proceedings.

IH: The Bahamas meets international standards for transparency and tax cooperation and continues to be committed to doing so. We have entered into 33 Tax Exchange of Information Agreements; we are Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) compliant; and we have repeatedly shown our commitment to the Automatic Exchange of Information/Common Reporting Standard. The government has restated its commitment to the bilateral approach (one of two options presented by the OECD) and industry and government are collaborating on the implementation strategy. Industry has made recommendations to the government on the approach to effectively implement AEIO/CRS.

Q: What other progressive steps have been taken by The Bahamas to maintain best practice?

IH: There have been some key elements that have come out of the rounds of The Bahamas’ regulatory reform. In 2000, we eliminated bearer shares, for example, and a year later, created a public register of directors and officers.

The law mandates that financial institutions have Know Your Client/Client Due Diligence as well as counter financing of terrorism processes. Further, regulators continue to enhance guidelines to industry outlining best practices for verifying customer identity and for developing anti-money laundering procedures and measures to prevent terrorist financing.

BR: There is a regulatory framework for the reporting and investigation of suspicious transactions; and independent inspections and regulatory examinations of financial service providers including corporate service providers for compliance with AML/CFT laws. In 2000, there was significant legislative restructuring included in the Evidence (Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions) Act and the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act.

Q: What is the current mood among your membership? What are their primary concerns?

BR: Our members are cautiously optimistic about the future. While we know that there are challenges ahead, we see opportunities to strategically reposition the sector for long-term growth. We would like to see policies put in place to take advantage of the opportunities to strengthen and reposition the international financial services sector.

IH: AIBT is actively engaged in strategy discussions with its members and other key stakeholders of our industry to ensure that The Bahamas embraces the opportunities that this evolving and fast-changing environment presents.

Q: In what areas do you see potential for growth?

IH: There are opportunities that exist to strengthen the sector and make us a more competitive jurisdiction. Things such as an improved ease of doing business and an enhanced immigration policy and process are areas where we are seeing progress. We need to continue to focus on key target markets and build capacity in areas where there is potential for growth such as trade finance, corporate finance, fund services, private and institutional asset servicing, Fintech and captive insurance.

BR: It is our aim to continue leveraging international business and foreign direct investment for the benefit of the financial services sector–focus on real trade and international business. Oneofthewaystodothisisto continue to enhance our jurisdictional branding.

Q: Are you planning any changes to the Code of Conduct in the near future? If so, what are they?

BR: We continuously review our Code of Conduct to ensure that it is robust and meets international standards. The next review is scheduled for this term when our committee will propose updates to enhance our Code of Conduct.

Q: What would you like to achieve in your tenure as co-chairs?

IH: We would like to build upon the very good relationships that we have with key industry stakeholders to ensure the continued success of this important sector in the Bahamian economy.

BR: AIBT is collaborating with government and industry stakeholders to ensure that policies are put in place that support growth in the sector for the long term. We would like for The Bahamas to be recognized as the responsible IFC that it is, while we strive to preserve the industry for generations to come.

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