By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamian regulators have hailed a financial services group’s expansion into online banking, and its $12m investment in a new head office, as signalling that this nation remains a “viable” jurisdiction for the industry.
Christina Rolle, the Securities Commission’s executive director, said in a video accompanying the FxPro Group’s groundbreaking near Lyford Cay that the move showed The Bahamas remains competitive in “niche areas” despite the financial services industry’s contraction over the past decade.
FxPro, which is currently based at the Albany Financial Centre, has been operating in The Bahamas since 2017 as online broker/dealer focused primarily on contracts for difference (CFD) - a form of derivative.
“This expansion into banking means that people still see The Bahamas as a viable place for financial services,” Ms Rolle said. “I think that’s important especially with the amount of contraction being seen in the industry; that we still have niche areas where The Bahamas has a good product offering, we have a good platform in anti-money laundering/counter terror finance regulation, so we’re still seen as a good place to do business.”
FxPro Group has acquired a 16,000 square foot double commercial lot on West Bay Street for its sole use as a headquarters building. When construction is completed, it will house both its online broker/dealer operations and new online banking arm, BankPro.
Nick Wright, FxPro’s chief operating officer, said: “This is an online bank which will offer seamless trading, transfers and banking services straight off your phone.” He added that the new head office will take two years to build, with the group having received “some outline planning approvals from Town Planning”. Suggesting that final approvals were near, Mr Wright said he hoped construction could “start within the next week or so”.
No media appeared to have been invited to what was a private ground breaking. Describing FxPro as “one of the leading online brokers in the world, Mr Wright said: “We came to The Bahamas about six to seven years ago with a view to regulate here. We were very successful in that mission.”
With FxPro now focused on expanding its business, Mr Wright added: “We always had an ambition to expand into banking and equities trading, and to that end we applied to the Central Bank of The Bahamas for an international banking licence, which we were granted, and as we move towards the end of the year we will be opening our new banking and trading platform, BankPro, which pretty much offers every banking service straight off your local phone.”
BankPro will be headed by Bahamian banker, Andrew Pike, and is targeting a November 2021 opening. Mr Wright said FXPro operates in “almost every country in the world”, although it does a relatively small amount of business in the European Union (EU).
“I’m asked a lot: ‘Why regulate in The Bahamas?’. My response is ‘Why not?’” Mr Wright said. “It has a strong regulatory environment, the geography is great, and it’s a lovely place to be.” In particular, he added that this nation provides a strong platform for its international trading activities, and said other brokers had followed it to domicile in The Bahamas.
John Rolle, the Central Bank’s governor, said of FxPro: “I think their all-digital model of providing financial services is very important and signals the direction of finance in the future, where we’re reaching more and more clientele through digital channels, and it will challenge us as a regulator to continue to build capacity to deal with the kind of issues that are involved with digital services provision.
“It has relevance to what we are trying to achieve in the local economy, because we realise that to reach more of the Bahamian population we have to provide more services through digital channels and deal with all the issues that come from that around consumer protection, data protection, privacy and there’s a national approach that’s necessary.”
The FxPro headquarters design has been completed by N & M architects of Sandyport, Nassau, and the main contractors are the Mosko Group and The Bahamas Environmental Group.