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Qc: Bar Must Open For Financial Services

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

A well-known QC yesterday repeated calls for greater liberalisation of the legal profession if The Bahamas to sustain and grow its financial services industry.

Sean McWeeney, the Graham, Thompson & Company senior partner, addressing an anti-money laundering/counter terror financing conference, said The Bahamas needed to permit specialist international attorneys to practice in this nation if the sector is to attract new business.

He argued: “We simply don’t have the specialist lawyers to sustain, much less to grow, the financial services industry. There are close to 1,200 lawyers in The Bahamas but, of this number, the trust specialists can be counted on your fingers. When one looks at securities lawyers, the numbers are equally few.

“We simply cannot grow our trust business or our investment funds and securities business with such thin legal resources on the ground. It is is an open invitation to send the business elsewhere; to send it to other jurisdictions where the required legal skills are to be found in abundance or, nearly as bad, to bring the business here but then outsource the heavy-duty legal to lawyers in other jurisdictions.”

Mr McWeeney argued that foreign attorneys must not be viewed “as predators who are only interested in stealing our lunch”. “We need to view them instead as collaborators, and as an ever-replenishing source of new business for The Bahamas. The Bar is too closed. We have to open it up a lot more,” he said.

Mr McWeeney also called on Bahamians to “up” their game, referring to all stakeholders within the financial services industry. “We talk a great deal about getting to the next level, but just being a Bahamian can no longer be the litmus test for getting ahead or just getting by,” he added.

“We have to equip ourselves to go eyeball-to-eyeball with our counterparts anywhere else in the world. The thirst for excellence, not some sense of nationalist entitlement, must be at the apex of the value system that propels us forward.”

Mr McWeeney continued: “As the markets are shifting more and more to Latin America and, in time, possibly to Asia as well, we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we are really preparing ourselves for the next level up. Are our language skills, for example, being diversified?

“How many Bahamians in the industry have bothered to personally invest in the study of, say, Spanish or Portuguese or, farther afield, in Mandarin? And how many Bahamians are prepared to pull up stakes for a while and work abroad to get the exposure and the experience needed to climb the ladder?”

Comments

DreamerX 2 years, 1 month ago

The lawyers want to take the little funds being made by non lawyers in the FCSP sector.

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Veritas242 2 years, 1 month ago

How about companies invest in their employees by getting them the necessary legal skills. Say take an accountant and pay for his LLB. A University of the Bahamas LLB costs $18k over 3 years or can be done part time over 5. If more employers invested in their current employees skills they could then court the business. Employees especially high skill ones need to be treated as assets that should be invested in. (You can't do that if your accountants are working 12hr days)

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 1 month ago

"We simply don’t have the specialist lawyers to sustain, much less to grow, the financial services industry. There are close to 1,200 lawyers in The Bahamas but, of this number, the trust specialists can be counted on your fingers. When one looks at securities lawyers, the numbers are equally few."

I am simply tired of people talking about what Bahamians can't do. If you have 1200 lawyers and not enough specialists take 2-300 of the best and brightest and fund their specialist training, the same with doctors,nurses, programmers, landscapers, contractors. Stop this crap about what Bahamians can't do and why need need to import a bunch of foreign workers.

If you could find 35 million in two days to buy a crappy hotel you can find the money to invest in Bahamians

Last week I stumbled onto an article with an IDB report referencing the skills gap, our aging work force and the business sector unable to find the skilled local labour they need.... the article was from 2013!!!!!!!!

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Dawes 2 years, 1 month ago

And pass a law saying Bahamians are not allowed to work elsewhere, only in The Bahamas. There are no doubt many Bahamians whoa re qualified to do these jobs, however they would rather make their living overseas, in London, NYC, Cayman, Barbados etc they should be forced back right?

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BahamaPundit 2 years, 1 month ago

Not this again. On one side of today's paper this lawyer argued that financial services will be finished when the Bahamas publicly lists IBC beneficial owners. And on the other side of the page he argues that opening the bar will benefit financial services. Well, if financial services will soon be finished, why open the bar to foreign lawyers? He defeated his own argument all by himself on the same page of the paper!

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BahamaPundit 2 years, 1 month ago

ReThisISOurs Great point. The honest truth is people that already have their millions don't care what happens to the rest of us. Also, they don't believe in black Bahamians or any Bahamians for that matter. Trusts and security law is not that difficult to learn. The main missing ingredient is personal connections and contacts with players in the international markets. It also helps to be English and have an English accent. It's a very elitist bunch that practice in this area and highly unlikely that any work would trickle down to "ordinary" Bahamian lawyers. The Bahamas is finished in financial services. Time to bury the corpse and move on. Stop crying over spilled milk. With the removal of bank secrecy our era in financial services came to an end!

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hoopballer9 2 years, 1 month ago

The financial services industry is not dead, The Bahamas simply needs to readjust their model to accomodate innovative products. There are also many Bahamians that speak two or three languages and many of these Bahamians are in fact young attorneys. The overarching problem that exists in our system is equal access to opportunities by the most talented, who are often seen as threats to more established players. For these individuals who can compete internationally, what is the motivation to come home and build on a system intent on remaining the same? The issues that we face now as a country or that the legal industry faces should have been foreshadowed years ago--whilst I agree that we need more specialist lawyers I disagree that it should be in the area of trusts law where The Bahamas has had an established industry since the 1960s. A dearth of local talent says that there has been no succession planning at the industry level for persons to be leaders; commencing with thought leadership, a Chancery or Commercial Bar Association, a dedicated academic arm at the Univeristy of the Bahamas, celebrated Bahamian jurists, or a judiciary that actively publishes important jurisprudential rulings--of which the Bahamas has many.

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TheMadHatter 2 years, 1 month ago

No Pundit. We need to have more and more babies to take their rightful places on the throne of our incredible future prosperity !!!!

LOL. Yeah, right.

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banker 2 years, 1 month ago

LOL @ financial services. We don't have any real financial services that sophisticated High Net Worth Individuals really want. We are still pirate hidey-holes for money hiding from the tax man, and those "financial services" are dead man walking.

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