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BFSB seeking to tap into Brazilian market

Bahamian financial professionals are aggressively wooing Latin America for high net worth Individuals(HNWIs), and Brazil saw the’landfall’of arguably the largest Bahamian contingent to date this past week.

Approximately 25 Bahamian professionals accompanied the Bahamas Financial Services Board(BFSB)to that jurisdiction, according to Antoine Bastian, managing director of Genesis Fund Services Limited, who was one of the participants.

“The problem… is that whilst few people may have a general idea of The Bahamas, the consistent road shows done by the Cayman Islands, and the roadshows done by the British Virgin Islands(BVI)to Latin American lawyers and asset managers have really placed the Bahamas at a competitive disadvantage, further than we have ever been,”said Bastian.

The BFSB presented”Bahamas Landfall”to attorneys, asset managers and other key players in the Brazilian financial services sector at venues in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on November 24 and November 26, respectively. The professionals that accompanied the BFSB”to coalesce the financial services sector under one brand”represented Bahamian lawyers, auditors, trust administrators, bankers, asset managers, fund administrators and representatives of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, according to Bastian.

In Brazil, The Bahamas remains a little known commodity, noted Bastian, and although Brazilians’have become more aware’, of the jurisdiction, resources are being spent to tell Brazilian asset managers and lawyers just what The Bahamas has to offer.

“The questions are not fundamental to the products we have–how can I use a professional fund or how can I use a trust–but it’s really germane to,’Why the Bahamas?'”Bastian toldGuardian Business.

“Obviously within the financial services sector lawyers and asset managers will know where The Bahamas is, but most[Latin American]lawyers, I will tell you, have never spoken to a Bahamian lawyer, and the opposite will be said of their relationship with the Cayman Islands and the BVI.”

Brazil dominates the Latin American HNWI market, according to the World Wealth Report 2010, with 147,000 HNWIs.

HNWIs are generally defined as having over US$1 million in investable assets, though usage and definition of the term varies. Similarly UHNWIs(Ultra High Net Worth Individuals)are defined differently but typically possess wealth in excess of US$50 million. Together they are prime targets for managed investment accounts, fiduciary structures and other financial services. According to the World Wealth Report, HNWIs globally had invested more outside of their home regions in 2009 than the prior year.

Brazil also had over 8,550 individuals worth over US$10 million in 2007, according to the Scorpio Partnership Wealth Distribution Analysis report.

“Our event was pretty good… but it has to be an entrepreneurial aspect in the sense that firms, audit firms and law firms, have the gravitas to want to go out and find business, to invest in the promotion of the country for their own benefit,”said Bastian.”They have to do it.”

“At the same time governments, both past, present and future, have to understand that the promotion of the financial services industry is critical to its development.”

The delegation was very well received by the Brazilian participants, another local participant, LaTonia Symonette-Tinker, Compliance Manager and Legal Advisor of Swiss Financial Services(Bahamas)Ltd., toldGuardian Business. She said they were quite familiar with the BFSB and stayed long after the presentations to probe local participants for more information, especially on SMART(Specific Mandate Alternative Regulatory Test) funds.

“It allows them to tailor-make that product for whatever needs they have for their funds, and it’s cheaper,”she said.

Symonette-Tinker said that the Cayman Islands and BVI allow their institutions more foreign participation than Bahamian firms, and she used the international law firm Maples and Calder as an example. Maples and Calder has offices across the world, including the BVI and Cayman, so those jurisdictions benefit from the exposure that brings, according to Symonette-Tinker.

“We are as competitive in terms of what we have to offer,”Symonette-Tinker said,”perhaps not so much in the strength of our marketing.”

According to Bastian, the professionals who accompanied the BFSB did so at their own or their firm’s expense to promote The Bahamas.”It’s a relationship oriented business,”said Bastian,”You don’t develop relationships by staying home and watching TV. You have to go outside and play.”

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