Business

Taking Part In History

bankcpTurks & Caicos Banking Company Ltd.
By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos Courtesy Anton Faessler

In 1852, cast iron pieces for the Grand Turk lighthouse were shipped from England and assembled in the Turks & Caicos Islands. To this day, the lighthouse stands guard on North East Point, sending its beacon to protect seafarers from potential disaster on the treacherous shallow reefs below.

It seems fitting that this bastion of stability, longevity and security should serve as the symbol of the Turks & Caicos Banking Company, one of the Islands’ original financial institutions. Established in 1980, Turks & Caicos Banking Company has been involved from the birth of TCI’s role as an offshore finance center and “grew up” along with the Islands.

It all began in the late 1960s when Norwegian national Nils O. Seim and his wife Grethe visited Grand Turk, fell in love with the island, and planned their retirement there. A keen businessman, Nils had a clear vision that the Turks & Caicos would someday emerge as an important financial and tourism center. He recognized the need for an alternative to retail banking in the form of a European-style private bank that could serve the needs of private investors. He incorporated Turks & Caicos Banking Company and obtained a banking licence from the government in May, 1974.

Although Grand Turk was bustling at the time with operations at the U.S. Air Force’s Missile Tracking Station, nothing much happened in the financial sector until the 1980s, with Air Florida serving the nation’s capital three times weekly direct from Miami and the Company Ordinance of 1981 taking effect, regulating the formation of offshore companies. It was at this time that the financial market began truly taking shape, with many of the country’s original professionals–Richard and Peter Savory, Joseph Connolly, Ian Miller and Barrie Cooke, among others–setting up shop in Grand Turk.

The bank’s Managing Director, Anton “Toni” Faessler, remembers those days well. He says, “The bank opened in December, 1980 with the original office being in the wooden Misick building in the vicinity of the fish market. There were two desks, a telephone and Sandra Garland as the secretary. There was one client–Nils Seim, the founder of the bank.”

The next year, the bank financed local builder Evan “Storm” Missick to build Harbour House, the first modern commercial building on Grand Turk, and quite naturally became its first occupant. The bank was based there until 1997 when it moved to the Mac Law House, its present location on Duke Street, Grand Turk. In February 2002, following the death of Grethe Seim, the Board of Directors took another major step forward and opened an office in Caribbean Place, Providenciales, a reflection of the branching out of financial activities into the country’s tourism mecca.

bankplteOver the past 21 years, Turks & Caicos Banking Company has kept pace with the Islands’ tremendous growth. From a $500,000 initial capital and one client, the bank currently has approximately 1,000 accounts with $20 million under management, and maintains a $50 million balance sheet. At the same time, it has built a sterling reputation on that of its shareholders, management and clientele.

Anton Faessler was given the task to “build the bank” in November 1981 when he took up the challenge of the Turks & Caicos Islands. His extensive, Swiss-based training began in 1968 at Bank Leu, the oldest Swiss bank and now a part of the Credit Suisse Group. His moved on to Barclays Bank in London, England; Bank Leu in Nassau, Bahamas; and Warburg/Leu in Luxembourg, another well-known banking center. He, like the Seims, was enamored of the Turks & Caicos and soon made it his home, was naturalized and became a Belonger in 1990. He, like the bank’s shareholders, is strongly committed to the country’s growth and advancement, and over the years has served as president, vice president and treasurer of the Grand Turk Chamber of Commerce and is currently vice president of the Bankers Association and a member of the Investment Committee of the National Insurance Board. His most prestigious and recent appointment is that of one of six directors of the Financial Services Commission, newly established as a statutory body.

The bank’s Assistant Manager, Juergen Beck, brings experience gained at LGT Bank in Liechtenstein and ING Baring in Zurich prior to coming to TCI two years ago. Administrative Officer Michael Simmons is a Turks & Caicos Islander who served some six years with Barclays Bank before joining the staff in 1996.

As one of only two private banks in the Islands, Turks & Caicos Banking Company caters to the private investor, focusing on portfolio management. Holding both local and overseas licences, services include current and fixed deposit accounts, securities and precious metal trading, escrow services and foreign exchange in five major currencies and markets. As Anton Faessler explains, “We serve our clients as partners in banking and carefully build a private relationship, acting as both advisor and friend. We work with trusted local professionals when company formation or trust work is involved. Most of our business referrals come via word-of-mouth from within the local financial community.”

Conservative European by nature, Anton outlines the investment philosophy by which Turks & Caicos Banking Company guides its clients. “We believe the core principles of successful investment are preservation of capital, growth and income with the right mix of assets and investment vehicles depending on the goal and time horizon in mind.” He adds, “We suggest that everyone should establish their own purpose and investment goals and develop a strategy of how to best achieve them in a safe and prudent way. With these basic principles in mind, one can state that the time to invest is always right.”

One of AntonÕs golden rules maintains that, “We are not here to make anyone believe you can make a ‘fast buck’ . . . that’s called gambling, not investing. Historic data shows that long-term investments steadily rise. Like an ocean voyage, you must ride the waves up and down, but with cautious and careful steering, you will always reach your destination.” Fear and loss of confidence, he adds, are the biggest enemies of investors. “This is the spirit in which we work with our clients. And of course it is to both our benefit and theirs when we all don’t suffer any unnecessary losses.”

The bank’s cooperative attitude extends beyond its office walls. Anton says, “Our shareholders have always believed that it is our duty to give back to the community.” A major achievement was the Seim family sponsorship of the Turks & Caicos National Museum, an investment of over $1 million since its establishment in 1990 and with Grethe acting as a driving force in its creation. Among many other local causes, the bank also donated funds to build the new clubhouse at Waterloo Golf Course in Grand Turk.

Within the organization, Anton adds, “We believe in operating and expanding with the resources of the Turks & Caicos Islands.” As such, the current staff of nine includes one expatriate and promotions are solicited from within. Employees are encouraged to pursue continuing education and the bank pays for the bulk of expenses for any schooling venture they take up.

Does Anton see any clouds on the horizon relating to the Turks & Caicos Government’s recent commitment to improving transparency and establishing effective “exchange of information” policies to satisfy the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)? He shakes his head, “No. The bank, along with TCI’s professional community, has always operated with due diligence at it relates to our clients and business transactions and the necessary laws have long been in place. I believe that all this OECD pressure was a result of mistakes made in less regulated jurisdictions.” He adds, “We have always believed that it is important to do ‘clean business.’ Now, we need the same commitment by all players in the international financial services industry. If there is a level playing field, you don’t have to be afraid of anything. This issue only underlines the paramount importance of maintaining the good reputation of your country, your shareholders, your staff and your clients.”



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On the Cover

Agile LeVin—photographer, explorer and chronicler of everything TCI on his website www.visittci.com—took this drone photo of the multi-textured wetlands of West Caicos. He was part of the expedition that investigated the site of the historic pirate attack in the area. For more information and photos, go to page 48.

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