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Bahamas Must 'Raise Financial Services Game'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

NICHE providers could gain greater market share in the Bahamas and expand their business as larger firms streamline their operations due to global regulatory pressures, a financial services executive believes.

Craig Lines, president/director of LOM Financial (Bahamas), told Tribune Business that in order for offshore firms to survive they must "raise their game". He added that LOM Financial, which has operated in the Bahamas for 17 years, believes in the long-term viability of the sector.

Mr Lines said the opening of LOM's new $2 million office in Old Fort Bay last week showed the Bermuda-headquartered firm's faith in this nation.

"We are very comfortable with the Bahamas and its laws. This investment in the building is really a manifestation of our belief in the Bahamas, and the long-term belief in the development of financial services here.

"I think you will see growth of a lot of the boutique operations like ours for people who are willing to invest and plan," said Mr Lines.

LOM Financial is headquartered in Bermuda and operates through a network of subsidiaries there and in the Bahamas, Asia and the United Kingdom. The firm offers a full range of private investment services and products including brokerage, custody, asset management and corporate finance services.

"We have been here in the Bahamas for 17 years. Our approach has been a little different than most. We have been a bit quieter, but we have been building and developing our internal systems," said Mr Lines. "We put a lot of time, money and effort into building our platform, and our core strengths and technologies.

"What we see happening in the offshore world is the shrinking and the withdrawal from some of the traditional players due to regulatory pressures from overseas. Some banks are making the decision to withdraw purely for public relations reasons to avoid risks to their reputations.

"Some of the larger institutions are pulling out or narrowing their services, and niche and boutique operations such as our own are able to gain market share by catering to these people looking for services such as trading, good steady investment management, as well as face-to-face contact in the jurisdictions in which they live and work. The withdrawal of the bigger operations is offering opportunities to develop business here."

Mr Lines said that in order for the international financial services sector to survive, firms have to raise their game.

"You have to have systems in place to provide top notch, fast responsive service. That's how the offshore sector will survive; by raising your game, having greater fund managers, networks of people you can rely on and having the proper systems in place. That's how the Bahamas going forward has to compete," he added.

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