The Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO) newly-installed executive team is aiming to foster regional unity to ensure the financial services industry meets global standards.
"Regional cohesion and assisting the financial services sector in ensuring that the business and products produced are resilient, and meet international standards, must be the first order of business," said attorney Cheryl Bazard, pictured, who assumed the two-year presidency last month.
Mrs Bazard has effectively come full circle, as she is again taking the helm of an organisation she founded exactly 20 years ago ahead of The Bahamas' "blacklisting" in 2000 by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
That resulted in the Ingraham administration executing a widespread overhaul of the financial services sector's regulatory regime, with the introduction of key legislation to enhance supervision and deter money laundering and other criminal abuses.
Two decades later, and The Bahamas yet again the jurisdiction finds itself under fire, this time from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU). The latter placed this nation on a "blacklist" of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions before eventually removing it.
"We are quite aware that foreign policy decisions, economic relations, development co-operation and foreign investment inflows are hampered when a nation is deemed non-compliant. In these scenarios, the downsizing, or loss even, of financial institutions pose a real threat," said Mrs Bazard.
"However, BACO has always been on the cutting edge, and we are again seeking to take the lead by becoming a self-regulated organisation that grows relationships not only regionally but internationally."
With the focus on managing regulatory risk expected to increase, compliance officers have a key role to play in ensuring financial institutions are more transparent and able to withstand scrutiny locally and internationally.
BACO's executive team has an average of 20 years in the compliance field, dealing with areas such as wealth management, private banking, commercial banking, trust and corporate, investment banking, gaming, and money and consultancy services.
"As compliance practitioners it's imperative that we safeguard our institutions and, by extension, the industry from the dangers of abuse. For too long we've been reactive. It's time to get proactive," Mrs Bazard said.
BACO's newly installed executive team includes: Cheryl Bazard, president; Maria Dorsett, executive vice-president; Endric Deleveaux, vice-president; Esther Johnson, secretary; Todney Marsh, treasurer; Cheryl Fox, assistant treasurer; Denora Marshall-McPhee, education committee chair; Shaniqua Woodside, administration committee chair; Siobhan Lightbourn, membership committee chair; Rayneth Darling, public relations/social committee chair.