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The maritime industry, the branding of The Bahamas' financial services industry and future possibilities for the country's financial services industry are on the agenda for the upcoming Nassau Conference, which takes places on June 15, 2011 at the British Colonial Hilton.
'Financial opportunities in the maritime industry' will be explored by Chandler Sands, managing director of Nassau-based Campbell Shipping Company Limited. A certified internal auditor, Mr. Sands brings 25 years of banking and finance (retail, private and international), accounting, internal audit, compliance and insurance experience from leadership positions held in several national and
international companies. In 2009, he initiated the development of a ship technical management company in Nassau and a crew manning company in Mumbai, India. Today, Campbell Shipping Company Limited, Bahamas, and Campbell Shipping Private Limited, India, manages the day-to-day operations of twelve international bulk cargo ships and employs over 650 sea and shore staff, including thirty Bahamian seafarers.
'Branding the Bahamas financial services industry' will be the luncheon presentation led by Wendy Warren, CEO and executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB), with support from Karma Bahamas, a Nassau-based design firm which has been working with BFSB and its marketing committee on creating an updated branding program for the industry. Delegates to the conference will have an opportunity to comment on the direction for the program.
'A look ahead: Where will the industry be in five years' will feature views from both the private and public sectors.
Among the many speakers will be Adrian Crosbie-Jones, managing director of The Private Trust Corporation Limited (PTC) since 2008, the largest independent trust company in The Bahamas. Prior to joining PTC in 1994 he was actively involved in private banking in London with a large Liechtenstein trust and fiduciary group, principally to help them establish a U.K. subsidiary. He was actively involved in their international trust, fiduciary, financial planning and asset management operations. In 1988 he established his own fiduciary company with offices in London and Hong Kong, which specialized in the provision of international taxation, financial and corporate advice, mainly to clients in the Pacific Rim.
Brian M. Moree is the senior partner of McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes and the head of the Litigation Department. He is also the chair of the firm's financial services practice area. His practice includes commercial and civil litigation, insolvency, corporate, trusts and financial services. He regularly appears as counsel in the courts of The Bahamas including the Privy Council. He has been involved in a large number of the major commercial cases which have been litigated in The Bahamas relating to banking, trusts, insolvency, receiverships, companies and investment funds. Mr. Moree has acted as a stipendiary and circuit magistrate and a judge of the Supreme Court of The Bahamas.
Stanislaw J. Bereza was appointed inspector of banks and trust companies, The Central Bank of The Bahamas on July 28th, 2008. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Bereza served as a senior relationship manager with the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA)/Bank of England, with over thirteen years experience. During his tenure with the FSA, Mr. Bereza held a number of other positions including: Project manager for the FSA team responsible for the development of the FSA's industry-wide risk assessment framework for all UK authorized firms; senior manager and head of the FSA's Traded Markets Department and senior manager, Emerging Markets Department of the Bank Supervision Division of the FSA, during which time he participated in World Bank/IMF missions focused on bank restructuring and the development of banking supervision for the Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Indonesia.
LENO CORPORATE SERVICES has hired former CFAL executive Khalil Braithwaite as the firm's manager for business development and client relations.
"Leno Corporate Services is pleased to secure Khalil Braithwaite's services, and expects that he will make a valuable contribution to the team," said Sean Longley, Leno's president and chief executive.
"Mr Braithwaite is a young Bahamian financial services professional of tremendous potential. He has acquired a lot of high quality experience, and has already made a noteworthy contribution to the industry. He holds a degree in Economics & Labour Studies from York University, Canada, and has recently completed the programme and ...
Each of the Caribbean hotel investment conferences held in April and May this year included sessions to encourage closer cooperation between the public and private sector but, immediately prior to the Caribbean Tourism Summit in mid-June, the governments of Jamaica and of Antigua and Barbuda announced significant new airport arrival taxes, with a new hotel occupancy tax also added in Jamaica. The Caribbean hotel industry's greatest fear now is that other governments will follow.
These extra charges target the region's highest spending visitors - the stay-over guests. While everyone understands the difficulties that island governments currently face in trying to balance their own budgets in times of world economic uncertainty and with increasingly youthful populations, it is a fact that much of the region's hotel industry is in deep financial crisis and has been for some considerable time. The region's largest employer and biggest direct and indirect taxpayer cannot be "the cow you take to market and milk it twice".
Today, most lower and middle market Caribbean hotels, which have significant bank loans, are in default to some degree or other. Energy and water costs on many islands are as high as US$40 per day per occupied room - with little actual utility cost differential per day per room between budget hotels charging US$80 a night and luxury resorts charging US$800 a night.
Reservation systems, like Expedia, and tour operators continue to negotiate aggressively low hotel room rates, such that Smith Travel Research projects that average room rates in the Caribbean will not recover back to 2007 dollar levels until 2014.
My own research suggests that lower end hotels will not even achieve that level of rate recovery. More tour operators are pressuring hotels for all-inclusive rates, where meals become part of the tour operator's "commissionable" package, but Caribbean hotel restaurants are already incurring operating losses in the face of escalating world food prices. Inevitably, hotel refurbishment and marketing budgets continue to be cut.
Prior to this year's two hotel investment conferences, I researched opinions from the hotel sector, relative to its perceived needs from Caribbean governments, and the following points summarize the concerns and suggested requests.
Review taxation structures for new and existing hotels, "in their role as the region's biggest export industry and foreign currency generator". Many hotels currently require major re-investment and are struggling with bank debt and increased operating costs.
Without new thinking, continuing low levels of inward investment in the sector and a downward spiral of standards are resulting in a consequent loss of global competitiveness for the overall Caribbean hotel product. At least a certain percentage of hotel taxation should go directly towards generic Caribbean global marketing in order to create world class campaigns of adequate scale.
If taxes are reduced on the hotel sector - the current principal direct/indirect "tax cow" - governments should seek to derive compensating levels of tax revenue from the following alternative targets: much higher cruise ship port fees; effective taxation of private condo/villa rental income; a wider property tax base; corporation tax increases paid by a wider range of businesses; abolish duty-free concessions for car rental companies. Governments should also take steps to re-invigorate and grow the region's agriculture and fishery industries as major components in sustainable economic activity - for export and for direct supply to the hotel/restaurant sector and to other local consumers.
Governments should simplify and improve duty-free import concessions for refurbishment of existing hotels and for development of new hotels - but also expand them to include incentives for furnished condos and villas, providing that those units are in a hotel managed formal rental program that generates taxable income on island.
This latter action will speed up the recovery of the leisure real estate market, provide construction work, ultimately generate additional tax revenue and create new fresh resort inventory with extra earning potential for the region's hotel companies. In general, current fiscal incentives are significantly better in many Central American tourism destinations than in most Caribbean countries.
In the light of rising world food prices, there is a need to eliminate import duties for hotels on all food items - not available from local sources -- and governments should actively encourage the growth potential for local food supply.
Reduce utility costs through part/full privatization of existing electricity companies in order to finance investment in better infrastructure: the proposed gas pipeline from Trinidad or on-island LNG trans-shipment facilities; replacement of old diesel generators with efficient gas turbines, hydro, wind and tidal generators.
Similar privatization of water companies should be undertaken for greater efficiency through re-investment in updated and extended infrastructure. Given likely increases in long-term energy and water demand, this is a safe investment for the region's social security funds, insurance companies, unit trusts, credit unions and private conglomerates - many of them still too risk averse to invest directly in the Caribbean hotel industry.
Re-invigorate human resources within the hotel sector and improve the industry's profile as a career choice. Governments and the hotel sector should cooperate in developing and resourcing better, larger management and operative level training facilities throughout the region. Speed up and expand CSME to effectively allow CARICOM citizen managers and specialists to work anywhere within the region. In the meantime, expeditiously grant medium-term work permits for other skilled personnel from outside the region - where their expertise helps to drive world class standards and disseminates their specialist knowledge.
All stay-over visitors to the Caribbean (except yachtsmen) arrive by air. Greatly increased UK airline and regional airport taxes continue to have a significant negative impact on air travel to, and within, the region. The UK's APD tax was highly discriminatory and costly for the Caribbean but lobbying by the public and private sector has been completely ineffective to date and must be more vigorously pursued with the UK government.
The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain can be a powerful lobby at the next UK general election, if the APD issue is successfully communicated to them. The region now faces additional potential negative effects from the proposed European Union's airline "carbon tax" and must avoid further increases in regional airport taxes.
Almost all Caribbean-based airlines are currently loss making but their ticket prices (including taxes) are some of the highest in the world per seat/mile. The private and public sector across the region should work together to help create, finance and under-write a viable pan-Caribbean international and regional carrier, which will genuinely "partner" with the rest of the Caribbean tourism industry. Meanwhile, the cruise sector, which operates in the region virtually tax free and increases its "Caribbean hotel market share" year on year, must also be forced to make its fair share contribution to government tax revenues in the region.
I do not pretend that this commentary from the Caribbean's hotel sector represents a panacea, but the region's most vital industry is on a slippery slope, with a significant part of it in danger of being decimated by strengthening world-wide competition.
It seems very likely that middle market hotels on the islands with a lower cost base, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, will survive. Highly likely too that the region's luxury resorts will survive, but what are the survival chances for some of the rest of the Caribbean's hotels, particularly older properties with significant debt finance? Some of the dominoes are already falling.
Governments and the hotel sector should communicate quickly and effectively to act together with the greatest sense of urgency. Arguably, the French market has already left for the Indian Ocean and most of the Germans for South East Asia. And some people still think, "These islands market themselves!"
o Robert MacLellan is CEO of MacLellan & Associates, the largest hospitality, tourism and leisure consultancy based in the Caribbean. He has 18 years experience in the hospitality industry in the Caribbean and was a cruise ship hotel officer and vice president, hotel services, of a cruise line earlier in his career. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
The business manager at the Bahamas Automated Clearing House (ACH) says individual money transfers between banks will finally come to fruition in the beginning of 2012.The innovation, now commonplace in many areas of the world, is expected to make doing business and everyday banking far easier for Bahamians.
Brian Smith from ACH told Guardian Business it will get done in the time frame"because everyone wants it to get done".
"It's part of the evolution of banking in The Bahamas," he said. "We want to make things more convenient for consumers and they really want it to happen-and it will happen next year."
Although it is not possible for large employers to do transfers, and for banks to send other banks sums of cash, individuals continue to work through tellers or with checks for everyday services.
The managing director of Bank of The Bahamas (BOB), Paul McWeeney, said the capacity of performing these transactions has not been the issue. Instead, ensuring the security of clients has been a central focus for the ACH.
"The sooner it happens the better. But we had to be satisfied that when debiting someone's account, it was coming from a legitimate source. All transactions are final and we have to make sure the safeguards are in place,"he toldGuardian Business.
The ACH has made considerable strikes in defending against fraud, he said, and once individual transfers are enabled, ease of doing business in The Bahamas will improve greatly.
At BOB, McWeeney pointed out operations at the bank will be made far easier through the innovation, allowing staff typically wrapped up in these transactions to be freed up for other duties. It will likely reduce queues and wait times at banks as well.
In particular, the world of online banking will take center stage, Smith told Guardian Business.
"It has to make business easier," he added. "If you're paying someone directly into their account, there are so many personal transactions for small business owners and other clients that are made simpler. I want to book an airline ticket and I need payment right away, for example. Right now you have to go to a merchant and make a deposit. But if I can credit someone directly, I don't have to go there. That's a huge difference."
Since January 2010, Smith said ACH has been working on projects to make financial services easier for Bahamians. Check clearing was a"big thing", he said, and then bulk payments came along. Consumer payments are the"next thing", and then the ACH will fall into a more supervisor role to ensure the system works properly.
"My role is to keep things running. We go from a project mode to a business as usual type of mode,"he explained.
The ACH continues to work with banks and the Central Bank to make sure everyone's needs are met. The main challenge, he felt, was getting everyone on the same page and facilitating testing.
Individual transfers between banks will undergo a series of further tests before being unveiled to the general public in early 2012.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
BANK of the Bahamas International is eyeing an initial client base of "several hundred" Bahamian merchants for the planned launch of its e-commerce platform in six months' time, telling Tribune Business yesterday that the private sector was "crying out" for such online services.
Paul McWeeney, the BISX-listed institution's managing director, said the facility - part of its expanded electronic banking platform - would enable Bahamian retailers and other companies to establish online merchant accounts and receive payment for goods sold via the Internet.
Explaining that the bank's e-commerce platform would "add value...
Freeport, Bahamas -
On October 3rd-4th, 2011 students on the island of Grand Bahama were
given a wonderful opportunity to attend a Health Careers Fair, which
focused on Allied Health Careers. The two day event, held at the St.
Georges High School Gymnasium, was a collaborative effort between the
Grand Bahama Health Services and Doctors Hospital Health System. The
Health Careers Fair, under the Theme:
Healthcare Now & Beyond, Today's Youth.Tomorrow's Professionals was opened to students from grades six through twelve.
The objective of the Health Careers Fair was to bring awareness to Grand
Bahamian Students about the job opportunities in Allied Health fields.
Ms. Shawn Mader, Acting Senior Manager of Human Resources at the Grand
Bahama Health Services indicated that "Many times when young persons
think of a career in healthcare...
The business community is sounding off over blackouts and inconsistent service from the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).
While some entrepreneurs are more sympathetic than others, Bahamians are in general agreement that persistently poor service is having an impact on business.
Chester Cooper, the chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), said he commends BTC for investing in upgrades. He also appreciates the firm's long-term view.
But the company also has to face up to the fact that widespread disruptions, and at times total blackouts throughout the country, gives it the responsibility to make it right.
"I trust that at a minimum, BTC will provide refunds to the business community as an effort to compensate for excessive down times experienced recently," he told Guardian Business.
The comment from the BCCEC chairman comes shortly after arguably one of the worst days for the country's sole mobile services provider.
According to Jerome Sawyer, BTC's senior manager of public relations, there was a commercial power failure at BTC's Poinciana Drive location, which houses the majority of the company's telecommunications network facilities.
The plant's generator and batteries reportedly failed and "did not function as designed".
"The failure of the central exchange created a full disruption in BTC's mobile and internet services nationwide," Sawyer stated. "Further, most landline subscribers were unable to make calls."
As of press time, normal phone services had not been fully restored to both the cell phone and landline networks.
Jeffrey Knowles, the operations manager at Aquapure, said BTC disruptions had made the leading manufacturer "absolutely crazy".
He said the company has been scrambling since service became spotty, particularly last Friday.
"I had shipments on the dock. I couldn't get my broker on the phone. I couldn't get the driver. Friday was very serious. It is usually a very busy day for us, and we couldn't contact anybody," according to Knowles.
Fortunately, someone in Customs allowed his staff to arrive at the docks on Saturday to make up for the lost time.
Cooper at the BCCEC added that "constant and unfortunate" disruptions in cell phone services greatly impact productivity. The chairman said he was particularly sympathetic for small businesses who work from the road, using cell phones as the only tool for communications.
"The BCCEC has discussed this matter candidly with BTC and they have assured us that the situation will be resolved once and for all within 30 days when their infrastructure upgrades are completed," he told Guardian Business.
Other businesses, such as Bahamas Waste, reported minor problems to the flow of business.
Francisco de Cardenas, the managing director of Bahamas Waste, said drivers in his fleet typically use cell phones, but were able to use VHF radios instead to communicate with the office.
"We had a bit of an intermittent problem, and it looks like at the moment, we are only having cell issues," he said.
"We had a bit of an issue communicating with Abaco, but that is a normal occurrence."
Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder says there will be a greater focus on human capital as The Bahamas continues to identify new opportunities, products and markets.
Pinder, who spoke yesterday at the Bahamas Institute of Financial Services (BIFS) Annual Seminar at the British Colonial Hilton, pointed out that The Bahamas must be able to react to new opportunities and create progressive strategies. At the center of this push, he believes, is the development of human capital.
"Your obligation is to understand new developments, not only so you can ensure that you can perform your obligations as financial services professionals, but so that you can also identify new opportunities for Bahamian professionals in the financial services industry. This not only applies to new product development, but also to new business sector development," he explained.
"We as a country have proven ourselves to be a full-service and nimble international financial center. We will continue that philosophy with new product development."
He revealed to attendees that there has been an increase in international wealth planners and investment managers wanting to do business in The Bahamas. He expressed optimism that these developments could lead to more physical operations in the country.
"We have to advance this in the international community, as it provides many direct and indirect opportunities for the advancement of Bahamian professionals in the industry. This is a great opportunity for the country, our industry, and you as compliance professionals," according to Pinder.
"Each new institution not only provides new employment and career development opportunities, but could also act as new clients for your very own entrepreneur endeavors.
"As an example, in Brazil a few weeks ago, multiple investment and asset managers inquired as to establishing both fund administrator operations and investment manager operations here in The Bahamas to service their clients internationally."
Pinder also applauded BIFS' G12 program, designed to provide high school seniors with the necessary skills and information for entry-level positions within the financial services sector. The high school-based program has been in existence for the past five years.
"This program has trained over 70 high school graduates and sparked their interest to seek a long-term career within the sector. This program sets the framework and fundamental principles for a career in the financial services sector," he shared.
"When I had the opportunity earlier this year to speak to the participating students, I urged them to take advantage of the opportunities presented, to participate in the summer internships. It's important that students participating appreciate the level of exposure and the opportunity that has been provided, and apply the same level of commitment as they attend tertiary institutions and throughout their careers."
The financial services minister believes it is through initiatives like these that The Bahamas begins to build human capital.
"If we as a country are unable to inspire and train Bahamians to be and strive in the industry, we will not hold the competitive advantage we now possess. We all must understand these are the early steps to building domestic human capital in financial services, a necessary element for the advancement and future of our industry," he added.
Thousands of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) cellular customers were unable to make calls for several hours yesterday evening, as BTC's massive upgrade of its mobile network once again affected service.
BTC Senior Manager of Public Relations Jerome Sawyer said the issue was expected to be resolved sometime last night.
Last month, BTC warned that for a six-week period beginning in June, cellular customers would experience extensive disruptions in services as the company installed a new 2G network, a new SMS platform and changes to the prepaid billing system.
BTC predicted that as a result, nearly 300,000 customers would likely experience dropped calls, delayed texting, call failures, issues accessing voicemail, using data services, including WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger and the Internet.
SONIA Beneby, manager of fiduciary investment services at the Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Company (Bahamas), has been elected president of the Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) Society of the Bahamas (CFASB).
Awarded the CFA charter in 2006, Mrs Beneby has served on the Board of the non-profit professional society for investment professionals in several capacities.
The CFASB elected 10 other members to its Board for one-year terms, which officially began on July 1, 2010:
* Vice-President - Karen Pinder, CFA, CAIA
* Treasurer - Andrew Strachan
* Secretary - Velma Miller, CFA
* Programs co-chair - David Ramirez, CFA
* Education co-chair - Andre Souza, CFA
* Education co-chair - Warren P ...