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Offshore sector employs 0.5 percent of working Bahamians

A survey of international banks and trust companies has revealed that Bahamian employment in the offshore sector amounts to around just over half of one percent of the employed labor force.

Bahamians make up the vast majority of those working in the sector, at around 80 percent of total employees, and many of the “key executive positions” are Bahamian-occupied – bucking the popular perception that the industry is dominated by expatriates, according to one industry executive, Aliya Allen, chief executive officer of the Bahamas Financial Services Board.

Referring to the findings of the Association of Banks and Trust Companies (AIBT) Human Capital Survey, Allen said: “The survey reveals that the financial services industry is indeed a valuable contributor to the advancement of the Bahamian professional class.  The general public’s perception of the sector does not always coincide with the reality, which is that Bahamians do occupy many of the key executive positions and that most firms are committed to ongoing training and advancement.  Notwithstanding this fact, there will always be a need for international participation in the sector and also for initiatives and policies that seek to support that participation.”

The survey, conducted in April 2013, indicates that those institutions which responded represent 614 who work in the sector.

If extrapolating from the 80 percent of those represented who were Bahamian to the full 1,090 said to work in the sector, this would indicate that around 872 Bahamians work in the international bank and trust company arena.

This is equivalent to just over half a percentage point of the 0.52 percent of the employed labor force of 165,296 as it stood in November 2012.

In a summary accompanying the survey, AIBT indicated it was carried out with the intention of gaining a deeper understanding of the employment levels within the sector, the breakdown of employees by Bahamian and expatriate at each level, and the ongoing human development plans of the firms.

Respondents representing over 56 percent of sector employment returned the survey.

Among those surveyed, there were 458 full-time Bahamian employees and 96 expatriates.  Contract employees numbered 38 Bahamians and 20 expatriates.

At the executive level, the Bahamian expatriate ratio was almost equal, with 28 Bahamians and 30 expatriates.  Bahamians outweigh expatriates in the area of management, 75 to 38.

Meanwhile, Bahamians also vastly outnumber expatriates at the level of supervisory and general staff, with 54 Bahamians to seven expatriates, and 288 Bahamians to 33 expatriates, respectively.

At the highest levels, Bahamian and expatriate employment is roughly equal, with Bahamians numbering 31 to 29 expatriates.  This includes at the “senior officer I”/chief executive officer level, where there are 11 Bahamians and 17 expatriates.  At the “senior officer II” level, Bahamians outnumber expatriates, at 16 to 11, while at the chief information officer/chief operating officer level, Bahamians number four while there is just one expatriate.

Pointing to the fact that this pans out as a total of 18 expatriates at the CEO/CIO/COO level, compared to 15 Bahamians, the AIBT has suggested there is “room for advancement” of Bahamians at this level.

The survey also looked at bank and trust companies’ commitments to providing training or overseas internships to employees, and found that 72 percent of members did so.

“A strong majority (58 percent) of firms have an active development plan specifically geared toward succession planning, and a decisive majority (55 percent) have formal budgets for training and employee development.  This, we believe, is extremely important as AIBT and its members seek to attract the best and brightest into the sector,” added the AIBT in its summary of the survey’s findings.

In 2007, Oxford Economics, in a report on the economic value of financial services in The Bahamas, prepared for the Bahamas Financial Services Board, found that 1,114 were employed in the offshore banking sector, of whom an estimated 912 were Bahamians.

This indicates that while overall employment in the sector is today essentially at the same level as it was in 2007, the number of Bahamians working within it has fallen slightly.

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