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Features - July 2011



The Bahamas Investor

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Ansbacher Bahamas

Ansbacher Bahamas

Bahamian-owned bank and trust company cites “personalized services” as core competence

The Bahamas Investor Magazine
July 13, 2011
July 13, 2011
Tosheena Robinson-Blair

For 54 years, Ansbacher, one of the oldest trust companies in The Bahamas, has catered to the financial well-being of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). Through the years the company has changed hands, image and location, but remains a well regarded member of the international banking industry. As the company celebrates its second anniversary as a wholly owned Bahamian company, the financial services provider is remembering its past, taking stock of the present and plotting a strategic road map to success in the future.

“It’s all geared towards being the premier wealth management company in this jurisdiction,”?says Mary Rodland, head of fiduciary at Ansbacher (Bahamas) Ltd. “The vision would be to see this Bahamian bank have branches in all the major [financial] centres.”

A leader in private wealth management, the depth and breadth of Ansbacher Bahamas’ capabilities include: fiduciary services, such as the establishment of private investment companies, trusts and foundations; wealth management, to structure a client’s portfolio for better investment performance; and, private banking services ranging from multi-currency accounts to specialist lending and brokerage services. The company says it takes a proactive approach to engaging its clients through “truly personalized” services.

Backed by a full line-up of wealth management professionals, legal and financial advisors, managing director Carlton Mortier says Ansbacher Bahamas is well equipped to tailor unique long-term solutions designed to build wealth and ensure asset protection. Mortier, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, says Ansbacher’s staff strive to find “innovative and creative solutions” for clients.

“We have been in the business since 1957, so we have a track record of excellent service. Some of our original clients are still clients of the bank,” says Rodland.

Changing hands
Ansbacher Bahamas currently has $1.6 billion in assets under management and has had a long wealth management career spanning more than five decades, during which time it has had several owners.

Established on January 3, 1957, as the Bahamas International Trust Company (BITCO), the company was originally owned by a consortium of banks, with Barclays as the majority shareholder. In 1989, BITCO was sold to the Ansbacher Group of Companies–a bank founded in 1984, in the City of London. The Ansbacher Group provides tailored financial solutions to HNWIs worldwide. The group’s services span private and specialist banking, wealth management, investment advice, fiduciary and fund services.

Ansbacher Bahamas changed hands again in 1993, when the Ansbacher Group was acquired by First National Bank Holdings Ltd of Southern Africa. Then, in 1998, First National merged with Rand Merchant Bank to form FirstRand. By July 2003, the Ansbacher Group and FirstRand (now its parent company)?decided to go separate ways, citing that their strategies had “diverged.”

By July 2004, according to Ansbacher, QNB [Qatar National Bank] had emerged as the right strategic partner for Ansbacher [Group] to grow its business operations. At the time of the sale, Ansbacher Group chief executive officer Richard Spilg lauded QNB’s pre-eminence in the “wealthiest of Middle Eastern countries” as a key attribute.

However, the relationship between Ansbacher Bahamas and Qatar would not last long. The Bahamian offshoot severed its ties with the Ansbacher Group when the former was bought by AF Holdings in 2009. AF Holdings is a consortium of financial services, insurance, banking, health care and media companies, with real estate holdings in The Bahamas.

The Ansbacher Bahamas office retained its former parent company’s name after it merged with AF subsidiary Sentinel Bank and Trust Company Ltd. At the time, Mortier served as the president and CEO of the latter.

“We believe this acquisition is an excellent strategic fit that will significantly expand our product offerings and capabilities in some important lines of business–resulting in economies of scale that will bring considerable value to our clients and make our collective operations that much stronger,” said Anthony Ferguson, director of AF Holdings, at the time of the acquisition.

Changing times
Ferguson’s words proved prophetic. Ansbacher Bahamas is a major “new” player in the international banking industry, one wholly owned by Bahamians and governed by local regulators.

Since the merger, Ansbacher Bahamas has plotted a steady course of growth. The company has expanded product offerings, enhanced its account opening applications to make it easier for clients and introduced electronic banking solutions.

In December 2009, the company relocated to its new home on East Bay Street.

“I think we have accomplished a lot in two years and now we stand poised to begin to do more marketing to locals as well as international clients,”?says Rodland, whose responsibilities include enhancing and developing new fiduciary offerings based on market developments and client needs, in addition to managing the trust administration department with a team of eight trust professionals.

Mortier, who has over 30 years of domestic and international experience in public accounting and in the offshore fiduciary and banking industries, sees challenges and, more importantly, opportunities on the horizon.

“The industry itself is going through a big change. The demographic change globally is phenomenal. There’s a whole transition of a workforce into retirement mode,” he explains. “Clients are going to be more concerned with protection of the principal and income generation, as opposed to growth. What we are doing at Ansbacher is repositioning ourselves to meet those kinds of challenges. You need different products. Products that were good 10 years ago are gradually being phased out. You need new products for this generation of clients.”

To this end, the bank’s greatest asset is its human resource. The bank is aggressive when it comes to talent acquisition. That’s why the company believes it has the perfect blend of “the old and the new,” in terms of its experienced and qualified staff.

“We are positioning ourselves by getting the right skill set in the bank. We have a very strong staff complement, which varies from 45 to 50 persons… . We have lawyers, financial analysts and [staff with] MBAs. Our focus is to get people with language skills now,” says Mortier. “This is a very people oriented business. Everything is relationship driven. You have to have the right people.”

The bank prides itself on being able to attract and retain the “cream of the crop” from The Bahamas’ labour pool and this is key to its future success. Says Rodland: “As a Bahamian organization, we are headed in the right direction.”

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