Many trust industry professionals believe that the Island’s trust industry is over-regulated, in comparison to other offshore centres, and that excessive regulation is detrimental to growth.
That was the general sentiment expressed during a town-hall meeting, moderated by Kim White of State House Trust Company Ltd, at the Bermuda Association of Licensed Trustees (BALT) 20th anniversary symposium.
The discussion was part of the 2014 Conversation of Bermuda Licensed Trustees which took place earlier this month at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, bringing together more than 50 industry leaders.
Discussion centred on stimulating growth through legislative reform, outpacing offshore competition by creating innovative trust products, managing the swell of contentious trust litigation, responding to the administrative burden of tax information agreements and coherently restructuring governmental regulation of the industry.
As president of BALT, Michelle Wolfe of Meritus Trust Company Ltd opened the 2014 Conversation. She spotlighted that growth could only be achieved by collective action. Government and industry must work together, she stated. This became the overarching theme of the day’s conversations.
The First Conversation reviewed recent trust law reform proposals. Alec Anderson of Conyers Dill & Pearman and chair of the Trust Law Reform Committee (TLRC) addressed this topic by summarising current initiatives.
Kiernan Bell of Appleby and chair of the BDA’s Law Reform Committee introduced the law reform process and emphasised that success depends on the collaboration of industry and Government. Mr Anderson, Vanessa Schrum of Appleby and Randall Krebs of Meritus Trust Company reviewed individual reform proposals. In conclusion, Mr Anderson stated that the thrust of the reform process is the generation of new business through innovation.
The Second Conversation was introduced by Anthony Poulton of Baker & McKenzie, London. Mr Poulton has extensive Bermuda litigation experience and is well regarded by the local legal community. Joined by Michael McAuley of Trott & Duncan and Keith Robinson of Appleby, Mr Poulton presented an overview of today’s litigation environment much of which, in his view, arises from the generational transfer of wealth.
Finance Minister Bob Richards underscored the Government’s approach to business, echoing remarks made earlier that real growth will take place only where there is a tight and concerted working relationship between Cabinet Ministers and the public service, on the one hand, and the business community, on the other.
He stated that the vocation of Bermuda’s public service must be to foster growth which, in turn, would stimulate overall employment.
The Third Conversation was devoted to a discussion of Bermuda’s interaction with UK and US tax reporting authorities (IRS and HMRC) especially in connection with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and similar UK initiatives to combat evasion by tax residents using foreign accounts.
Leah Scott, MP and legal counsel of the Harbour Group of Companies, led the conversation with Roy Baldwin of Smith & Williamson, London, and Richard LeVine of Withers Bergman, New Haven, to promote a spirited discussion. Attendees expressed concern that tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) and, in general, the ever-broadening regime of international agreements to promote tax compliance (IGAs) are crushing profits and making Bermuda’s trust services more expensive and less competitive than services elsewhere offshore.
David Cash, CEO and Derek Stapley, director of the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BBDA), stressed the importance of fast-tracking new product creation in the mutual funds, re/insurance and trust sectors. They confirmed that the BBDA were committed to assisting the trust industry in improving its competitive position.
The BALT board intends to make the Conversation an annual event.
View Original Article on The Royal Gazette