**Wendy C. Warren
CEO & Executive Director
Bahamas Financial Services Board**
Writing for European CEO, BFSB CEO & Executive Director Wendy C. Warren touts historic growth and increasing leadership in financial services, and firmly places The Bahamas amongst the world’s premier international centres.
She says the activities of the jurisdiction’s banks and trust companies encompass the entire range of banking services, and that during the past 15 years there has been *”intense and continuous development in investment management and administration, trust and advisory services and asset administration.”*
Human capital is described as being at the heart of developments within the sector, with predictable continuity of service as industry practitioners are committed to the local community more so than in locations largely dependent upon imported skills. BFSB recently issued a call for nominations for its **2004 Financial Services Industry Excellence Awards** – a programme profiling industry practitioners.
Ms. Warren cites a compelling product range, strong regulatory regime, and a favourable climate for business as key attributes impacting the ongoing growth of the sector. The legislative framework governing financial services is robust and new legislation continues to be introduced that will stimulate further growth and development of the country’s well-established financial services sector. She quotes the Minister of Financial Services and Investments, the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, who has said that the combined effect of new industry legislation places The Bahamas at the cutting edge of the financial services sector. *(See Link below)*
On the issue of information exchange, Ms. Warren notes that respect for personal privacy is a fundamental democratic principle in The Bahamas. While criminal activity will never be welcomed, The Bahamas, like other members of the United Nations, places the highest possible value on the legitimate defense of the personal privacy of individuals. She said, *”It is in this light that The Bahamas carefully negotiated a stand-still provision with the OECD that confirms that The Bahamas will not negotiate tax information exchange agreements unless and until there is a level playing field amongst all countries who are delivering cross border financial services.”*
That said, the CEO noted that the existing TIEA between the governments of The Bahamas and the United States represents a unique agreement negotiated in the best interests of the Bahamas. *”The Bahamas wished to continue offering its institutions and their clients unrestricted, confidential and seamless access to the United States market; consequently it negotiated terms that provide the United States the greatest confidence in the self-regulation of the financial services sector.”*
This agreement provides for the provision of specific information available in The Bahamas only upon request, when the United States Government has exhausted all measures within the United States, and the Ministry of Finance in The Bahamas is of the opinion that sufficient evidence exists to support criminal tax evasion of United States federal tax. It is noteworthy that any information obtained through this agreement cannot be shared with other countries. Additionally, strong anti-fishing provisions are an integral part of the information exchange agreement, and the inclusion of a most favored nation clause ensures that the financial sector remains competitive.