By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The firm that gave the Government's "technology hub" ambitions a major boost is expanding its Bahamian presence through opening a satellite office in Nassau by early December.
Greg Wood, founder and chief executive of GIBC Digital, told Tribune Business the move came after demand for the company's services proved "more than expected". The company expects to hire ten persons for its Nassau office initially, having already employed 35 in Freeport.
Mr Wood said: "We are going to open a satellite office here in Nassau so that we can seamlessly deliver our services to the local community. We will hire about ten people initially and, based on the demand, we may hire more persons in the coming year.
"We will start the process probably in late October, with plans to open the office in early December. We're looking for people who are smart and motivated. We have to have people on the ground so that we can service our clients here. Freeport will always be our main office, I think, but we will need to have people on different islands around the country."
As for GIBC Digital's Freeport operations, Mr Woods said: "We have hired and are training 35 people thereabout, and plan to hire 50 in Freeport by the end of the year."
"We will continue to hire people as business demands dictate. We are also looking at ways to use people we hire here in other countries, such as Nigeria, for example. Long-term, we are going to build a data centre, an artificial intelligence centre, as well as a global training centre.
"I think that will employ a lot of people, and will really establish Freeport, in particular, and The Bahamas in general, as a tech hub. I think it's going to attract a lot of innovators because they will want to come here and work with other people who are doing things that are cutting edge. Overall, I think it's going to be a great thing for The Bahamas."
GIBC Digital, which is headquartered in New York, also has offices in Boston, Stamford, Tampa, London, Hong Kong and Singapore. The company markets itself as a "digital transformation facilitator" with expertise in data intelligence, cyber security, customer experience, process engineering and automation, as well as regulation and compliance.
In announcing its entrance to Freeport earlier this year, GIBC Digital unveiled ambitions to triple its initial Freeport workforce to 150 staff within three years, pledging to have an annual $50m economic impact by 2020.
Mr Wood yesterday described his reception as an investor in The Bahamas as "outstanding". "I think there has probably been more demand than expected for our services," he added. "The reception by the people has been phenomenal. They have really welcomed us and that's been quite helpful.
"There is a great infrastructure here. You have a government actively trying to encourage investors to come here, and the country's proximity to the US is another benefit. We think we can outsource some technology work that would normally go to India and bring that here. We have found that the people are really hungry for opportunities and they want to be empowered to be a part of the global digital community."
GIBC Digital was "among the first companies" to apply for, and be approved, under the Government's new Commercial Enterprises Act, which aims to smooth the path for investment in targeted industries by easing Immigration bureaucracy and 'red tape'.
The Act allows approved companies to send key personnel to the Bahamas, and establish operations, without first being in possession of valid work permits. Such permits must be applied for within 30 days of these executives' arrival in the Bahamas and, should no reply be received from the director of Immigration within 14 days, the permits are automatically deemed to have been granted.
The Act, together with the Grand Bahama 'technology hub' initiative, are major components in the Government's plan to restructure and reposition the Bahamian economy by diversifying away from its reliance on tourism and financial services.
With liberalisation/deregulation, and full World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, other important elements, the Minnis administration is focusing on attracting knowledge-based industries with the potential to be major foreign exchange earners and creators of high-paying jobs.
GIBC Digital was founded by Mr Wood in 2011 as an enterprise focused on the provision of operational and information technology (IT) strategy, with a focus on regulatory-driven change. As client demands changed, its business model has evolved into a focus on other sectors, including cyber security and fraud prevention, plus data intelligence.
The company's website describes it as "having more than 35 people around the world", indicating that the Freeport expansion may double the existing workforce. Clients are said to have included many of the world's major financial institutions, including Citibank, J. P. Morgan, HSBC, UBS, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and AIG. Former high-ranking UBS and Citigroup staffers are said to be among its executives.