Business

Not Just for The Rich & Famous

yachtsBy Gregory Greatrex, Temple Securities Ltd.

Mel Gibson, Ben Affleck, Madonna, Donatella Versace, Bruce Willis, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Greg Norman, Bill Gates — with a line of celebrities this long you might think you were standing near the red carpet on Oscar Night. But nowadays, these same people have been seen at the Providenciales International Airport or on nearby ivory beaches.

The Turks & Caicos Islands seemed to have been one of the best kept secrets of the past 30 years. That is fast changing as high-end tourism, offshore investment and some of the prettiest beaches in the world are putting these Islands on the map. Above all, their exclusive ambience is contributing to the quiet growth of the most sophisticated financial sector in the Caribbean.

In less than a decade, the Turks & Caicos Islands have evolved from a tax haven for simple bank deposits into one of the Caribbean’s largest financial centers, specializing in full service stock brokerage and asset management services. The financial sector has proven to be an extremely harmonious marriage with the high end celebrity tourist market, with one encouraging and supporting the other. In doing so, it has conferred several direct and indirect benefits to the economy of the Islands, providing a credible means of development for a country with few appreciable natural resources for growth and diversification.

A Caribbean leader
With thousands of law firms, trust companies and company management firms in the offshore industry, how should investors go about choosing the right firm in the right jurisdiction? In the Turks & Caicos, the belief is that such a decision is really secondary. Instead, investors should be focused on locating the best financial advisors, who can help them build their wealth, not just manage it. The emphasis should not be just the provision of company formation and trust services but rather, providing customized investment advice and value added international financial products that help investors build their wealth.

Offshore professionals witnessed a plethora of wealth managers and brokerage service providers pop up in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, St. Lucia and elsewhere in the Caribbean during the late 1990s. They have all since shuttered their doors, often with unfortunate results for their clients. However, in the Turks & Caicos Islands, you will find a quality brokerage and asset management industry that is strongly supported and regulated by the local government. In fact, many company and trust service providers in the Caribbean region and Europe now direct asset management and brokerage service requirements to the Turks & Caicos Islands for fulfillment.

To properly operate a full service financial firm, particularly at the brokerage level, a massive investment is required in systems infrastructure, personnel and industry expertise. This is the largest barrier to entry of this specialized business and the reason why very few firms in the Caribbean are able to deliver the sophisticated service and execution demanded in the modern investment community.

With that in mind, the Turks & Caicos Islands has positioned itself to be the Caribbean leader for full service brokerage services, mutual funds and asset management. It has made wealth management its primary focus and through its private sector, currently offers the best securities trading execution, investment funds and access to leading money managers in the Caribbean region.

In addition, the costs investors must pay for the professional management of their portfolios is significantly less in the Turks & Caicos Islands compared to some of the traditional banking centers. In the past, bankers in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland would argue that their high fees were justified because they offered the utmost in financial privacy and safety. In our modern financial marketplace that reasoning no longer holds up and investors in those jurisdictions often find themselves paying high fees for mediocre results and little or no financial privacy.

Political climate
The Turks & Caicos Islands are officially English speaking, with a population close to 30,000 people made up of both Turks & Caicos citizens and expatriates. The official currency is the US Dollar.

Presently, the Turks & Caicos Islands are an internal-governing British Overseas Territory with a ministerial system of government. The country operates from the 1988 Constitution which provides for a Governor appointed by Her Majesty the Queen, an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. The Governor is responsible for external affairs, defense, internal security, offshore finance and certain other matters, but is otherwise normally required to act on the advice of the Executive Council.

The Executive Council deals with the affairs of the government. It is presided over by His Excellency the Governor and is made up of the elected ministers of government. The Legislative Council is responsible for the passage of laws, monitoring government policies and bringing to account the Executive Branch on behalf of the electorate.

Under this structure the Turks & Caicos enjoys a stable government guided by British law. The government is pro-development but taking a responsible approach by learning from the experiences of other West Indies neighbors, such as the Bahamas. Tourism is the number one industry with financial services coming in second and growing.

Investment climate
Traditionally, investment opportunities in Turks & Caicos have been based in real estate, as witnessed by the recent high-end condominium developments springing up along 12-mile Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales. However, as more people become familiar and comfortable with this country as a viable investment centre, we have seen tremendous interest and growth in offshore investment structures, brokerage services, wealth management and mutual funds.
Part of this attraction is a well defined regulatory framework within which to operate a comprehensive range of financial activities including banking, insurance, trusts, mutual funds, investment dealing, companies and partnerships. TCI’s modern legislation is complemented by an experienced professional infrastructure in the public and private sectors.

The Financial Services Commission (FSC) embodies in a single agency all regulatory aspects of the financial services industry. The FSC is responsible for licensing and supervising all finance-related operating entities to internationally accepted standards.

The Turks & Caicos Islands have no taxes on income, capital gains, corporate profits, inheritance, estates, interest or dividends. An added advantage in the investment arena is having the US dollar as the national currency, with no restrictions on transferring funds in or out of the jurisdiction. As well, the Turks & Caicos Islands are not a party to any tax treaties and strictly enforces its Confidential Relationships Ordinance, which protects confidentiality and privacy in business and professional affairs.

A solid reputation
Over the years, the Turks & Caicos Islands has built its solid reputation slowly. Today, the financial services sector is recognized as a flourishing modern entity firmly anchored on the Islands’ stability, financial integrity and protective regulations — all delivered in one of the world’s hottest new tourism destinations.

Furthermore, the Turks & Caicos Islands are ever mindful of their commitment to responding to the international marketplace to build a more sound financial architecture and to deliver investment and wealth management services at levels expected by the onshore investment community.

As a demonstration of its commitment, the private sector has invested millions of dollars and undertaken significant measures aimed at ensuring that the Turks & Caicos Islands remain the leader in the Caribbean in the areas of wealth management and brokerage services.
The Turks & Caicos remain poised and well positioned to offer financial services to the astute international investor seeking to maximize the return on their investments and minimize their management fees in the ever changing global marketplace. So sit back and watch the sunset and listen to the warm breeze through the trees, the waves rolling on the beach and the soothing sound of your money quietly growing in this tax free paradise.

Gregory B.A Greatrex, LLB, TEP, is an attorney and trust/estate practitioner focused exclusively on private wealth management with the Providenciales-based firm Temple Securities Ltd. He can be reached at 649 946 5740 or via email at greatrex@temple-group.com. More information can be found at www.templefinancialgroup.com.



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