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LatAm market presents opportunity, challenges

Speaking at the Nassau Conference last week, industry experts said that although Latin America presents opportunities for financial services providers, practitioners must overcome regulatory, cultural and technological obstacles. Pictured: (from left) Felicia Mott of Societe Generale Private Banking [Bahamas]; Patrick Guye Bergeret, Executive Director of Julius Baer Bank and Trust [Bahamas]; and Michael Fields of Cititrust [Bahamas] Ltd speaking at The Nassau Conference held at The Colonial Hilton in Nassau, Bahamas - photos by Harry Cutting. 

Monday, October 15, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012

With financial services providers in The Bahamas eyeing Latin America as a lucrative new market, industry leaders have spoken of the challenges practitioners may face when targeting the diverse region.

At the Nassau Conference, held at the British Colonial Hilton last week, a panel of leading industry experts told the audience that business was booming in the region, but heavy regulation would keep compliance officers on their toes.

Felicia Mott, head of private banking at Societe General, said: “You cannot bank today without understanding the risk and due diligence that is needed. In order to survive the maze of perceived risk you have to be responsible for your actions.”

“You should know the requirements that are expected of you—know your limitations and be honest with clients. Do not see the rules as something that can be broken, but rather something that can guide you.”

Executive director at Julius Baer Bank & Trust (Bahamas) Ltd Patrick Guye Bergeret told attendees that the Colombian real estate market was enjoying growth—increasing by almost 30 per cent in the last two years—and that Venezuela was experiencing a boom in its construction and alcohol industries.

He urged Bahamian practitioners to become familiar with the intricacies of the Latin American market, saying: “When you work with the market, you have to understand the culture. You have to respect the rules.”

Mott echoed this and spoke of the challenges involved in succession planning in the region. “Latin American families are the same as Caribbean families—they are very large and everyone knows your business,” she said. “You can have that issue of first and second wives. When you know the dynamics of your client, you have to be honest with them. You have to break down how you will prepare for the next generation.”

Another serious challenge in doing business in the region is lack of technological know-how, according to Michael Fields, regional manager of Cititrust (Bahamas) Ltd, who said relying on postal mail made compliance difficult. He said older clients typically prefer to receive documents via postal mail rather than electronic delivery.

“We need to find innovative ways to deliver services to our clients in an effective manner. My goals are better, cheaper, faster. How do I get better, cheaper and faster, but yet comply with regulations? If you are going to be successful in this industry you have to adapt and overcome.”

Fields predicts that within three to five years the industry will move entirely to e-commerce.


Chief executive officer of Malaysia's Genting Energy Group Tiong Soon Ong says that The Bahamas may have oil reserves that could be tapped. Watch an interview with Ong here.

Expert panel warns that the global trend is towards full transparency and that offshore jurisdictions such as The Bahamas must be "faster and better" than the rest to maintain market share.

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