The Barbados brand is well established and known in the international financial services circles as a jurisdiction of quality and substance. Constant progression and revision of its enabling legislation and the maintenance of a positive image in the marketplace, while constantly developing a facilitative business environment, has been the island’s recent emphasis.
However, an attractive and simplified tax regime, a tried and tested suite of double taxation treaties, great air links and leisure activities, are not all that would be needed to make your international business in Barbados work. The key feature that drives the cogs and ultimately the success of any enterprise is appropriately skilled, driven and engaged people, whether in the boardroom or on the production floor.
A jurisdiction that prides itself as having moved beyond brass plates to real corporate substance, Barbados has, along with the right business environment, also developed a relevantly-skilled professional workforce to support the needs of its international business sector. Whether deliberately planned or merely fortuitous in hindsight, the island’s historic emphasis on education has positioned it to surpass other similar jurisdictions in possessing a homegrown capacity to provide professionals to support this industry.
This competitive advantage has not been lost on investors as they have, in their numbers, taken advantage of the attractive business environment and access to this workforce by locating their operations in Barbados.
At the strategic level, the quality of the Barbados-resident Director candidates is on par, if not exceeding, many other jurisdictions. With professional histories in law, finance, medicine, engineering, communications and banking, there should be little challenge in constructing a Board of Directors with relevant skill sets and perspectives, which is a vital first step to building credibility and substance in an international business structure. Experience and knowledge in the boardroom cannot be discounted and is just as important to venture success as any other incentive.
On the operational front, investors can be comforted by the availability of university graduates who also hold all major, internationally recognised business and professional designations in accounting, finance, trust and estate planning, banking, investment management, compliance, project management and many more. As might be expected, some designations are more abundant than others but trends are suggesting that the supply shortfalls are being addressed as young professionals actively position themselves for evolving market demands.
Completion of a course of study is only part of the picture. A workforce that has the experience, exposure and ability to execute successfully is the second component. Experience has been gained on several fronts. The early establishment of the major accounting firms – PWC, E&Y, Deloitte and KPMG – in Barbados before the country’s full foray into international business, fostered the development of a cadre of industry stalwarts with the business acumen needed to drive an international industry and these firms and others continue to be the training grounds for many.
The island’s building boom has spawned architects, environmental specialists, engineers, project and construction managers to whom foreign investors confidently entrust their ventures. Transfer of vital knowledge continues as legal teams in Barbados work on even terms with colleagues from major law firms in North America, Europe and Asia gaining their respect with each transaction. Other international firms in several fields have established operations here, further facilitating the transfer of knowledge to local professionals.
Organisations such as the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), the Barbados campus of the University of the West Indies and the Government itself have not rested on their laurels but have taken a long-tem view in developing programmes to ensure the workforce pool to support the international business sector remains buoyant. Through career introduction sessions, specialised degree programmes and specific training, such as in the case of call centres and medical transcription, potential industry entrants at all levels familiarise themselves with the opportunities and demands and can tailor their career paths accordingly. A recent example can been seen with the Barbados Government taking the initiative of establishing the International Institute of Financial Risk and Regulation as an international training centre of excellence in the areas of regulation and compliance.
Certainty and comfort are just as important to an investor as success. Barbados offers investors the certainty that the appropriately skilled human resources are available and the comfort that these resources can get the job done.
As a closing footnote, it is perhaps ironic that the attractiveness of the Barbados workforce has also not been lost on competing international business jurisdictions. In seeking to meet the skill demands of their own sectors, the Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, Bermuda, Bahamas and others are now playing host to an ever-increasing number of Barbadian professionals. The island is now ‘exporting’ some of the very skills that built its key international economic sector.
Clearly the word on Barbados is out!