Responsible, well-regulated island IFCs play a central global role that goes beyond tax mitigation, offering fantastic opportunities for both corporations and individuals alike. Under ever tighter scrutiny from various forces ranged against them, island IFCs have been quick to adapt to ensure compliance with new directives from various international bodies, and have made proactive efforts to combat tax evasion and illicit tax flows as part of a concerted effort to have legitimacy bestowed upon them.
International financial services is a misunderstood and much maligned sector, which offers small island states the opportunity to diversify, innovate and grow into fiscally independent jurisdictions, unchecked by the usual restrictions associated with geography.
International financial services is a misunderstood and much maligned sector.
In this post-crash world, G7 economies show no signs of relenting as they seek to channel their combined fiscal authority into crafting a new era of tax transparency, designed to see money flowing into their depleted coffers. The screw-turning comes in the form of various programmes and regulatory requirements centred around accelerating the automatic exchange of information to leave no place to hide for those that would seek to avoid paying their way.
The irony here is that many of the jurisdictions targeted have now become more transparent than those pointing the finger, as part of their exasperated quest to achieve regulatory, political and moral legitimacy.
For those prioritising wealth preservation, and those with long-dated investment horizons, the Cook Islands can offer plenty in the way of evidence regarding its credentials. Its financial services landscape is renowned internationally by those in the know for its pioneering and much aped asset protection trust. Yet, this is merely the headline to a story of outstanding product, service, expertise, pedigree, innovativeness and trustworthiness.
The Cook Islands has remained not merely compliant, but gone over and above the call of duty.
While there has been an undoubted thrust towards greater transparency in tax matters in recent years, the Cook Islands has remained not merely compliant, but gone over and above the call of duty, having signed the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax Matters, enacted the Income Tax Amendment Act and passed the Income Tax Act. In addition, the Cook Islands International Trusts Act constitutes one of the jurisdiction’s most important pieces of legislation and is regularly updated, so further consolidating that trust’s status as the world’s premium wealth protection vehicle. Part of that which elevates it above the competition is its affording of protection from political and economic uncertainty, how and when beneficiaries receive assets, the avoidance of forced heirship provisions, as well as protection against foreign judgements and statute of limitations.
Meanwhile, macro socio-economic developments in China are accelerating the ongoing momentum towards full internationalisation of RMB, the One Belt One Road initiative gathers pace and there is exponential growth in the levels of private wealth held by Chinese citizens. It all means the Cook Islands, with its Pacific proximity, is perfectly placed to assist Chinese nationals prioritise wealth preservation and seek an international wealth management plan to reflect the increasingly global nature of their personal and business holdings.
For its part, the Cook Islands IFC space has adapted and evolved to accommodate the requirement for higher levels of service and advice that Chinese clients expect, compared to those from many other markets.
As a jurisdiction, the Cook Islands is aware that China is, essentially, a civil law jurisdiction and therefore more pre-disposed towards foundations, such that its trust offering is marked by its flexibility and ability to be used for a variety of planning purposes. These include succession, wealth protection, avoidance of probate, tax and pre-migration, illustrating that the trust can be the cornerstone of a wealth management plan.
In truth, the Cook Islands provides the fiscal maturity and regulatory environment China currently lacks for the legal protection and secure investment of the wealth its HNWIs now increasingly hold. In addition, it scores highly on the security and privacy front, which is of great importance, since in China itself, many of the financial institutions are, to all intents and purposes, extensions of the State apparatus.
The Cook Islands Government is committed to the international financial services sector as a key component of its economy, both now and going forward, which is a key reason why the jurisdiction should be on the radar of anyone concerned with wealth preservation. For here is a place that offers protection, flexibility and ease of administration, with plans customised to the client’s unique personal and family circumstances and needs.
Antigua and Barbuda in the Northeast Caribbean has prospered to become the fastest growing economy in the OECS and now one of the safest and most secure investment environments in the world.
Notwithstanding the material damage suffered at the hands of Hurricane Irma in 2017, Antigua’s solid fundamentals, willingness to collaborate with island neighbours in pursuit of common objectives and determination to highlight unjust judgements heaped upon small island developing states, such as itself, have meant it is well placed to weather any storms it is subject to.
It has also chosen its friends wisely, looking beyond its sometimes truculent near neighbour, the United States, to forge strong relations with China. This has afforded it financial grants and concessional loans to support improvements in infrastructure, health, education and community development. More recently, this has evolved into more direct investment by wealthy Chinese interests in a variety of capital projects around tourism, construction and distribution activities.
The Cook Islands provides the fiscal maturity and regulatory environment China currently lacks.
Alongside tourism, international financial services is a keystone of the economy: It is, in fact, increasingly being sought out for its provision of highly personalised wealth management services for the most discerning clientele.
With regulatory and business operations having been upgraded to meet international standards, clients can avail themselves of a jurisdiction marked by both confidentiality and compliance.
Over its 35 year history, Global Bank of Commerce has helped in making Antigua a regional financial services force of note and has led the way in enhancing the integrity of the Caribbean banking sector.
This locally owned private bank provides multi-currency accounts, strong correspondent banking services to facilitate world-wide transfers, secure internet banking, corporate and trust structures for estate planning, card services, and a multi-lingual workforce.
Through pioneering innovations, such as Sugapay, an alternative payment solution that enhances safety, convenience and efficiency and reduces cost, combined with the introduction of its Global Processing Centre, which manages electronic financial transactions, it continues to be a stable, reliable financial guardian and the ideal partner for those seeking more personal attention for their wealth management portfolios. In short, it is the first port of call and one-stop-shop for interested parties, having successfully balanced the need for confidentiality with the requirement to be compliant, a feat it has made look easy. This is thanks in large part to Brian Stuart-Young, who has overseen the growth of the bank since its inception in 1983 and is now considered to be one of the key figures in the international financial services fraternity.
Under his exemplary stewardship, Global Bank of Commerce has managed to transcend the limits of the region’s geography, to become an internationally significant operation, offering personal, commercial, and private banking and wealth management services.
Global Bank of Commerce has become an internationally significant operation.
The bank has stayed at the top for so long through embracing innovation and technology to deliver its future strategic and operational goals in the most efficient manner possible, while helping investors mitigate risk, optimise opportunity and align strategies to achieve their financial objectives.
Meanwhile, through its investment in technology-driven services and in training a pool of dedicated bankers, Global Bank of Commerce looks to demonstrate to its clients that it is better placed as a regulated institution to provide wealth management and payment services, than third-parties, to which such functions are so often outsourced these days.