|The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 1, 2017
January 1, 2017
Erica Wells Cox
The 600-acre Albany luxury residential resort community in southwestern New Providence has long been an attractive proposition for ultra-high-net-worth- individuals (UHNWIs). With fine dining on site, a fitness centre, a 71-slip marina, a spa and adult and family swimming pools, it’s the perfect island residential retreat for people of means. And it just got even more attractive.
The Albany Financial Centre housing some of the island’s premier high-end financial services providers is poised to provide the industry’s already strong brand with an added boost.
The 50,000 sq ft facility will provide office space for around 40 tenants, the core of which will be representatives from some the world’s most prestigious private banks, accountancy and law firms, trust companies and financial service providers. The centre will also house the Rolex Technical Institute–the luxury brand’s watchmaking school launched in 2015–and the corporate office of Rolex Caribbean, which oversees 22 countries throughout the Caribbean region and Central America.
A good fit
The centre is expected to enhance the overall ecosystem of the community, which carries the motto “work, live, play,” reinforcing the idea that The Bahamas is a great place to live and do business.
For Scotia Wealth Management, an office in the Albany Financial Centre represents a great opportunity.
“Our office at Albany allows Scotia Wealth Management to focus on providing tailored financial solutions to ultra- high-net-worth families, primarily those within our international footprint of Latin America and the Caribbean,” says Peter Slan, Scotiabank’s senior vice president. “Many investors in Albany precisely fit this potential client profile. The Albany Financial Centre provides us with a great opportunity to deliver all of the capabilities of Scotia Wealth Management locally and provide an excellent client experience.”
The centre’s facilities have been deliberately designed to complement the differing needs of residents in the Albany area.
“We will provide clients with a dual currency ATM and bespoke credit solutions for those investors looking for pledge-lines on investment portfolios, mortgage financing, construction loans and the release of equity from properties already purchased,” adds Jeremy Proffitt, international private banker, Scotia Wealth Management, Bahamas.
Local centre, global brands
One of the first global premium brands to sign up to the centre was Julius Baer. “As the global reference in private banking, this is the perfect place for us to have a second location on the island, providing additional access to clients,” says Patrick Feuz, chief executive officer at Julius Baer Bank & Trust (Bahamas) Ltd. “Our neighbouring tenants are top businesses, making it a good fit for our brand and something of which we want to be part.”
It’s also about making the most of what The Bahamas offers.
“It is important for us to be able to leverage the unique position and location of The Bahamas to attract new UHNW residents who wish to relocate. Albany is playing an important role in that respect. As a luxury location, it is a perfect pairing for our own premium brand to have a presence in the way of a second office,” says Feuz.
For the Holdun Family Office, a boutique financial firm, the decision to set up an office at the Albany Financial Centre was a “no-brainer.”
“We picked Albany for two reasons,” says chief executive officer Brendan Holt Dunn. “Firstly, our family was lucky enough to be one of the founding members of Albany. And secondly, the financial centre is just the best building. The infrastructure is top quality.”
Having the centre right at the heart of the complex is a “win-win” both for residents and service providers, says Albany managing partner Chris Anand. “We will have some of the top global companies here to serve all the financial and wealth planning needs of our residents on a daily basis. The financial centre is there to enhance the overall ecosystem of the community,” he says, adding that there will also be turnkey offices available for residents.
State of the industry
The Bahamas’ financial services industry is the second pillar of the country’s economy after tourism. A leading international financial centre in the Caribbean region, the jurisdiction has spent years building a strong brand presence in the market. The new facility at Albany adds to that.
“It reinforces the position that The Bahamas is a responsible and well- regulated international financial centre,” says Tanya McCartney, chief executive officer of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB). “It creates an attractive environment for doing business.”
Since the late 1970s, The Bahamas has built a strong financial services industry, attracting some of the biggest names in global private banks, trust companies and financial service providers. The new centre comes at a time when increasing regulation and pressure from groups such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are changing the way the industry operates.
“I anticipate that we will see transformation in the sector,” McCartney predicts. “Transformation that embraces the use of technology and leverages our core strengths–regulation, expertise, location and an innovative spirit.”
McCartney points to key opportunities for repositioning the sector for long-term growth and sustainability. They are all tied to finding ways to differentiate the sector as an international financial centre and maintain a strong and positive brand.
Enhancing the client experience tops the list of key opportunities cited by McCartney. This includes elements such as progressive residency and immigration policy and process reform; improved ease of doing business and public sector reform; taking advantage of links between commercial development and financial services; and a review of the country’s tax structure.
“The future of the financial services sector is one that is characterized by change and adaption,” says McCartney. “We are in the process of evolving to remain relevant and viable.”
Enhancing customer service is an important part of the Albany Financial Centre, says Bryan Glinton, partner at Glinton, Sweeting, O’Brien (GSO), one of the centre’s tenants.
One of the facility’s unique aspects is the flexibility it provides for the luxury community’s residents, he notes.
“When you are dealing with very high-net-worth- individuals they expect a certain level of service and that’s what they will be getting at Albany,” says Glinton.
Glinton says that he wants the same level of service that is available there to spillover into the entire financial services industry in The Bahamas.
“How do you make that happen? How do you get that at a macro level for the country as a whole? At Albany we are providing a high level of service, amenities and we are making doing business in The Bahamas easy.”
Glinton agrees that financial services are evolving worldwide. “But the question becomes, how quickly can The Bahamas adjust to prepare for this evolution?” he says. “Those jurisdictions that can adjust quickly are the jurisdictions that are going to continue to be successful.”
Dunn is optimistic about the future of The Bahamas’ financial services industry. He points to its perfect location, ease of travel and stable government. “The Bahamas has great potential,” he says. “There are a lot of people coming in now, especially when you see what’s happening in Europe. I’m optimistic about financial services here.”
Scotia Wealth Management is also bullish on continued growth. “The opening of an office in Albany demonstrates Scotiabank’s continued optimism for The Bahamas and the regional financial services industry,” says Slan. “Scotiabank has operated in The Bahamas for over 60 years and in the Caribbean for over 125 years. In fact, we have had a presence in parts of the Caribbean longer than in some areas of Canada.
“Our commitment to the region is unshakeable and deep within our roots. While our presence in The Bahamas will evolve as our customers’ needs evolve, this is a market to which we are strongly committed. We have seen solid growth in 2016 in our English-speaking Caribbean businesses and these markets remain core to our strategy.”
As for the changing operating environment, Slan says Scotia Wealth Management endorses increased transparency.
“Our clients have lots of reasons to structure their affairs in The Bahamas and they are driven by a wide variety of reasons, not mainly based on income tax,” he says. “We have very strong standards when vetting our clients and have no tolerance for tax evasion or overly aggressive tax structures. Our clients tend to prefer this approach and take comfort that their structures and affairs are fully compliant with all rules and regulations.”
While the Albany Financial Centre has been designed to fit the needs of the luxury community’s residents, its opening marks another addition to a growing number of financial services providers that have set up shop in the western end of the island. Glinton describes it as a “second financial capital.”
“Just look at the number of banks and law firms that migrated out west in the last 10 years. There’s been a lot of growth in that area,” he says.
Proffitt at Scotia Wealth Management has also noticed the trend. He believes the growth has been driven by increasing accessibility of high-quality office locations and the need to provide services in areas of the island that are convenient for some clients.
“The financial facilities in Albany will really complement the services that we have traditionally offered from the east of Nassau,” he says.
McCartney at BFSB says it speaks to the general development of infrastructure that is taking place in that area. “This is supported by the state-of-the-art airport facilities, prime residential properties and access to healthcare facilities,” she says.
Albany has been quietly building a reputation in the western part of the island for the past 11 years. With an investment of around $1 billion, 100 of the 375 capacity residential properties have been completed, with another 100 due for completion by the end of 2017.
Oceanfront homes and designer decorated condo units are available to rent at $2,500-$6,000 per night and luxury villas sell for anywhere from $4 million upwards.
The current phase of investment, which includes the Albany Financial Centre, will also feature a music studio, a sports academy and a state-of-the- art hospital.
All this adds to the sense of community at Albany. “There is a real buzz around the place and a lot of idea sharing; it has a very progressive feel about it,” says Feuz of Julius Baer. “Albany has very much been at the forefront of the trend in recent years for HNWIs to consider The Bahamas as a place to live.
“Since the financial crisis, there has been a resurgence in The Bahamas as a place to relocate. In recent years, we have become much more flexible about where we can live and work, and that has made The Bahamas even more attractive as a place to live.”