By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas must continue to “make the best case” for itself in the face of continuing industry consolidation, a top financial executive saying she did not subscribe to “the gloom and doom” surrounding recent local downsizings.
Aliya Allen, the Bahamas Financial Services Board’s (BFSB) chief executive, speaking after UBS (Bahamas) decided to wind-down its local private banking unit, and before Credit Suisse (Bahamas) let go 10 employees, said the only thing this nation could do was make itself as attractive as possible to global financial institutions.
Pointing out that consolidations, downsizings and lay-offs in the financial services industry was “a global story”, and not just confined to the Bahamas, Ms Allen exuded confidence that this nation was “well-positioned to meet the challenges ahead”.
“All we can do really is make the best case for the Bahamas,” she told Tribune Business. “The best case for the Bahamas means recognising and appreciating your crore values and strengths, and making decisions not only on the basis of those strengths but looking at the entire product.”
Ms Allen’s message is that if the Bahamas can achieve a ‘market leading’ position in the international financial centre(IFC) world, with a differentiated, competitive offering, this nation and the institutions it hosts will be best-placed to withstand cost-cutting initiatives by global head offices.
“All you can do as a jurisdiction is position yourself to make the decision easier when [head offices are] evaluating jurisdictions,” Ms Allen said.
“We do have to recognise how important it is to strengthen and facilitate business processes. We have to continue to work on regulatory efficiency and policies, and continue to invest in promotion of the jurisdiction in a real and significant way. Human capital is enormously important, and we can’t underestimate how important that is.”
The BFSB chief executive said “various evaluations” of the financial services industry’s strength would be made in the wake of UBS (Bahamas) move, and now Credit Suisse (Bahamas) consolidation of its private banking and wealth management units.
“I certainly don’t agree with the doom and gloom set,” she told Tribune Business. “Yes, we are going through some pretty significant changes as an industry. There have been widespread consolidations.
“But that’s not the Bahamas’ story; it’s a global story. I think provided we are willing as an industry, as regulators, as a government and from a country perspective to continue to invest in strengthening and growing the industry, I think we are going to be very well positioned to meet the challenges ahead.”
Ms Allen said the financial services industry had been through ‘peaks and troughs’, in terms of its economic cycles, and this was “part and parcel of playing in an international environment”.
She pointed out that UBS (Bahamas) was not exiting the Bahamas, and in recognising that this nation remained the trust and private wealth management leader in the Caribbean, had effectively “doubled down on that side of the business”.
Other institutions were “solidifying” their presence in the Bahamas as a private banking centre for Latin America, while others were treating this nation as a private wealth management, trust or captives hub for clients on that continent.
“The Bahamas is still incredibly well-positioned with respect to Latin America,” Ms Allen told Tribune Business. “From a BFSB perspective, we remain committed to ensuring the brand message of the Bahamas resonates in Latin America, and we are making some good strides there.”