The East Coast. Photo: Mike Toy
“The wealth management industry is looking for new frontiers and opportunities”. This was the introductory statement intended to entice delegates to a recent Summit. My immediate thought was, excellent, Barbados is on the right path and poised for continued success as an exemplary international financial centre. Recently, stakeholders operating within the international business and financial services sector in Barbados met and were engaged in a Consultation to inform Barbados’ strategic efforts in this regard. One message that was clearly articulated during this Consultation is that Barbados aspires to be the centre of excellence for international business and wealth management for this hemisphere. Whilst Barbados is already viewed to be in the very top tier of jurisdictions, its industry players are striving to go one better and make Barbados a true Centre of Excellence.
Why would the stakeholders, a blend of public and private sector, focus on this message? Because we truly believe that this is completely representative of what Barbados is and realistically aspires to. Barbados has always differentiated itself from other international finance centres by strategically focussing on robustly expanding its growing network of double taxation and bilateral investment treaties. This has facilitated a drive to real and actual international trade and investment flows, and a concentration on business that needs a physical and intellectual presence in Barbados. We have also focused on marrying that strategy with the high quality lifestyle available here, to attract investors to Barbados. Our wish is to work with our treaty partners to develop trade and other opportunities that will help to enhance Barbados and its people.
Prior to the Consultation, a number of immigration policies, which will allow certain non-nationals to obtain special entry permits to reside here, were approved by the Cabinet of Barbados. Additionally, the range of qualifying overseas professional services eligible for the foreign currency earnings credit under the Barbados Income Tax Act has also been expanded to include exploration, extraction and other mining, oil and gas activities, licensing and sub-licensing of intellectual property and shipping services. These immigration proposals, combined with the availability of the foreign currency earnings credit on the remittance of foreign income to Barbados, the benefits of a double taxation treaty, and the absence of inheritance and capital gains tax, all increase the appeal of Barbados, particularly to high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs.
This is yet another initiative that has been put in place to facilitate the ease of entry and movement of investors attracted to Barbados and is consistent with the wide range of attributes that appeal to the amalgam of people who choose to live, work and play in Barbados. The 2011 United Nations Human Development Index (a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living) gives Barbados a rank of 47 out of 187 countries worldwide with comparable data, placing Barbados above the regional average and ahead of countries such as the Bahamas and Mexico. In the prevailing challenges surrounding the global banking environment, it is indeed a significant achievement that the soundness of Barbados’ banks has been ranked 3rd within Latin America and the Caribbean and 11th internationally by The Global Competitiveness Report 2011 / 2012. With many of the commercial banks having been operating here for more than a century, they have developed significant sophistication in their product offering to corporations and individuals alike with a specific focus on high quality international banking services. Together with the international banks licensed here, there is now an expansion into the niche of providing true wealth management services. Among the many words used to describe Barbados, non-nationals who have already chosen Barbados often refer to: “relaxed, high quality lifestyle”, “progressive”, “stable and safe”, “sound infrastructure”, “ favourable tax environment”, “excellent global communications”, “diligently regulated”, “ease of travel”, “ well educated”, “high global rankings”, all of which are imperatives to those interested in making a life change.
In addition to a relaxed, high quality lifestyle and charming culture, Barbados has a tremendous amount to offer the international business community. Some of these attributes were highlighted by industry leaders and entrepreneurs who consider Barbados the perfect location to set up and run their business, when I specifically reached out and enquired why they had chosen Barbados.
Lenstec is a Florida-based medical device corporation serving the global ophthalmic surgical market, with products currently marketed in more than 60 countries. They design, manufacture and distribute a wide range of intraocular lens implants and lens injection systems, and have an established reputation for rapid prototype design and development and high quality/low cost manufacturing. This manufacturing is done in Barbados. Ian Hickling, Managing Director of Lenstec in Barbados, credits their success to: “ The unique combination of factors available in Barbados. We have 175 employees and continue to grow.
All but two of our staff are Barbadians and come from a wide range of disciplines, including science, IT, engineering and accountancy graduates, as well as a large group of polytech engineers. The business climate here is ideal for us – our competition is largely in expensive places in Europe and USA, so our cost structure is competitive, and being able to do a lot of our R&D here enables us to climb up the value chain to be a truly innovative medical device manufacturer. Our products are small and high value, so the brilliant transport links we have here to our major markets make it work even better than it would be if we were based in the US.”
For Claudio Macchi, President of Manulife Financial in Barbados, the main drivers for this leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States the stable political environment, the well educated work force and a tax treaty with Canada. However, for Claudio personally, the lifestyle available in Barbados played a large part in his decision to move to Barbados. He moved here in 1998 and it has been an incredibly great experience. “I have fallen in love with the place and purchased property”. Now married, with his children born on the island, Claudio says that he is fully committed to his adopted country and would encourage other so-called westerners and entrepreneurs to consider Barbados.
Damian McKinney visited Barbados more than 25 years ago while serving with the British Royal Marines and craved a notion that one day he would return to live. This he did in 2009, moving the global headquarters of his hugely successful consultancy practice, McKinney Rogers, to Barbados. Business Execution Professionals, whose purpose is to inspire people to achieve the extraordinary, they boast an impressive client list including the likes of GlaxoSmithKline, NFL International and Wal-Mart. In Damian’s words: “As CEO of a highly successful global execution firm, I can tell you that Barbados is primed and ready for business. We run our entire worldwide business from here, including back-office operations such as Finance, IT, HR. I can also personally attest to the unsurpassed quality of life. That is perhaps the greatest advantage of Barbados, the fact that you can enjoy a wonderful lifestyle while still getting the job done. From my experience, Barbados is an excellent location to operate an international organisation.”
Come to play and stay to live – that has happened to several others who have made Barbados their home and business base, including Eugene Melnyk of Biovail and Trimel Pharmaceuticals fame, as well as Neville Isdell, former Chairman and CEO of Coco-Cola. Eugene visited Barbados to experience the renowned beauty and warmth of the island but then quickly realised that he could run his business ventures from Barbados. He has been living in Barbados for more than 20 years now. For Neville who retired twice to Barbados, it is the special ambience and the warmth of the people. For them and other high profile individuals, this is home.
There are so many reasons to choose Barbados as a new home for your family and business. The best way to learn more about relocating to Barbados is to visit our island and see for yourself.