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Booting up the tech sector

Booting up the tech sector

Freeport as a tech hub and wider adoption of Fintech are key components in the effort to develop technology as an economic driver

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
June 26, 2018
June 26, 2018
Steve Cotterill

It has long been accepted that The Bahamas’ economy sits atop two established pillars: tourism and financial services. But there is a movement afoot to kickstart a third economic engine based around technology.

There are already some notable successes in the tech field in The Bahamas. Managed cloud service provider Cloud Carib, which has data centres in Nassau and Freeport in The Bahamas, has been rolling out an ambitious expansion programme over the last 12 months. Launching a newly rebuilt data centre in Panama, the tech firm also announced service extensions into Barbados and Jamaica and additional regional sites planned in Trinidad, Cayman, and other locations in the region.

Success stories such as these have spurred the government move to promote specific areas as tech hubs, most notably its efforts in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The current Minnis administration envisions the nation’s second city as becoming home to a Bahamian version of the famed high-tech hubs of the US.

“The government believes that Grand Bahama has the potential to become the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean,” said Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister Kwasi Thompson. “There are real opportunities for data centres, blockchain technology, data protection and security, business incorporation centres and technology corporate headquarters and conferences.”

With this in mind, the government hosted a tech summit in November last year which boasted an impressive list of speakers, including tech innovators and IT developers from Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and others.

Opening the event, the prime minister noted that the island of Grand Bahama is uniquely suited to being an internationally recognized science, technology and innovation hub, highlighting the “island’s modern infrastructure, location in the region and its reliable high-speed internet network.”

Fintech at the forefront
In the field of financial services, technology is also beginning to play a more prominent role in the way companies invest and manage clients’ wealth and it is vital that The Bahamas stays ahead of the curve.

Some companies are already embracing the change. Nassau, Bahamas business services and family office firm Caystone Solutions Ltd is now partnered with cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions provider Acumatica to offer flexible and scalable reporting tools for the company’s clients. The tools include multiple currency support to accommodate its global clientele, as well as a flexible licensing policy that lets the start-up add users at no additional cost.

Most importantly, the cloud-based platform can be hosted on servers located in The Bahamas.

As well as established Bahamian organizations adopting Fintech, new firms are also entering the local market, such as TigerWit Group which launched its subsidiary, TigerWit Financial Services Ltd in Nassau last year. The firm is authorized and regulated by the Securities Commission of The Bahamas, with a broker-dealer licence giving it permission to deal as agent and principle, arrange and advise in securities including CFDs in Forex, indices, commodities and metals to retail and wholesale clients on a global basis under The Bahamas’ legislative and regulatory framework.

Fintech includes all aspects of financial services including retail banking, investment and cryptocurrency and, according to managing director
at Deltec Fund Services Brian Jones, is changing the industry at a rapid pace. “The Fintech movement is taking over. We need to make sure we are technologically savvy. We have to improve our level of efficiency in client delivery. There is a steep learning curve when it comes to new technology but the information is there, I think it is a matter of us having the will [to embrace it].”

To this end, the Ministry of Financial Services has established a Fintech working group to assess the sector’s capabilities and develop policy in this area.

Tanya McCartney, chief executive officer of the Bahamas Financial Services Board and a member of the group, recently urged the financial services community to get involved and have their voices heard. “There is tremendous public, private sector cooperation and collaboration,” she said at a recent event. “If we are to move the industry forward, we need all hands on deck.”

For the tech initiatives to really take root both government and the industry needs to get behind the idea and incentivize new talent and innovative businesses to come to The Bahamas. It is early days yet, but the island nation is in a strong position to take advantage of this growing trend.

The Bahamas embarks on a programme of reform and modernization to revitalize financial services

New initiatives look to boost tourism and attract new investment

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