Barbados has all the fundamental elements needed to become the financial and wealth management centre of choice in the western hemisphere, but this won’t happen through wishful thinking, says the head of a local asset management firm.
“If we set our minds to it, we could be to the Caribbean and the Americas what Singapore is to Asia,” says John Howard, President of Summit Asset Management. “When you look at the elements that have contributed to Singapore’s success as a wealth management centre, the model is very similar to ours. But the difference lies in the degree of commitment.”
Howard says Singapore is now the second largest wealth management centre in the world, with almost US$600 billion in assets under management there. Switzerland, with US$2.8 trillion, is the first. Barbados, by comparison, has assets under management in international banks and international business companies of at least US$44 billion but probably more.
“No one is suggesting that we can close that gap with ease, but we can certainly make gains and increase our share of the global pie, and that pie is US$19.8 trillion,” he says. “We have a similar model to that of Singapore, but it won’t carry us far if we don’t follow it with the same intensity and determination.”
Howard, a former president of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), says Barbados, thanks to its legislation and the calibre of its international business sector, already enjoys a solid reputation as wealth management centre for high net worth individuals, families with extremely large fortunes, and institutions such as captive insurance companies.
“But if we want to move to the next level, and the level after that, everyone with a vested in making this happen needs to collaborate, and the sooner the better, ” he says. “This means the Government, the Central Bank of Barbados, the Financial Service Commission, BIBA, and even the Chartered Financial Analysts Society. We all have to get on board.”
Howard says the focus on facilitating business in Barbados must be exceptional – “hassle-free”. He suggests government take a page from Singapore’s playbook to ensure public sector support for the effort that is needed.
“In Singapore, civil servants receive bonuses tied to how well the country’s economy performs,” he says. That’s how serious and focused they are about their place in the world.”