By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas has enjoyed an “influx” of private wealth management business due to a change in Swiss banking laws, a senior accountant yesterday warning this nation would continue to face external pressures for greater regulationa and transparency.
Michelle Thompson, managing partner at Ernst & Young (Bahamas), who will lead a financial services presentation at the upcoming Bahamas Business Outlook conference, said increased regulation will “continue to drive and determine how we shape our financial services industry going forward”.
“The Bahamian financial services industry will change as we have known it in the past,” she added. “I think we are definitely going to see a change, but as with everything - challenges and threats - there are always opportunities.
“We have always considered ourselves a premier private wealth management nation, and as the globe starts to shift and there is more transparency being demanded, we have to look at whether the whole private wealth management theme is changing or whether it is disappearing.”
Mrs Thompson said: “Private wealth management will change as we have known it in the past. This is clearly the result of FATCA and the exchange of information.
“Recently, the US government, from its conversations with the Swiss government, is able to go directly to the Swiss banks and demand that that information be disclosed. We’re seeing an influx of some of that wealth to the Bahamas a a result of those engagements.”
Mrs Thompson was referring to the deal struck between the US and Swiss governments last summer to crack down on American tax evasion.
She added that Latin America was among the emerging markets that the Bahamas should look to attract more business from.
“Latin America would be the destination of choice. I would say we can look at countries [such as] Brazil, Panama and Chile,” Mrs Thompson said, “when you look at Latin America from that perspective.
“China is one of the bigger countries which will be a focus for the Bahamas, certainly with the development of Baha Mar. In my mind the biggest growth opportunity area when we’re looking out into the emerging markets would be in Latin America.”