Turks and Caicos offers investors tax neutrality and quality of life

The islands' population of ultra-high-net-worth residents and visitors is a huge opportunity for financial services investors

April 16, 2019

The Turks and Caicos Islands has committed to revitalising its financial services sector. It’s been one year since the islands’ updated National Investment Policy was approved, outlining key development priorities to maintain a dynamic, growing economy. James Bursey, CEO of Invest Turks & Caicos, and David Stewart, President of the islands’ Finance Industry Association, discuss the opportunities for investment on the islands, what makes Turks and Caicos an attractive jurisdiction for establishing a business, and their ambitions for financial services.

World Finance: The Turks and Caicos Islands has committed to revitalising its financial services sector. It’s been one year since the islands’ updated National Investment Policy was approved, outlining key development priorities to maintain a dynamic, growing economy. James Bursey is CEO of Invest Turks & Caicos, and David Stewart is the President of the Finance Industry Association.

David – what opportunities are there for financial services investors on the islands?

David Stewart: Turks and Caicos is a five-star jurisdiction and resort. We have a substantial population of ultra-high-net-worth visitors and residents; so there is a lot of opportunity in relation to trust, fiduciary, asset management, international wealth management and financial services for individuals.

We also have a strong reputation for our mid-market captive insurance industry, which mostly faces the US market. And I would say we’ve got an experienced regulatory environment – accounting, banking environment – that’s used to working with captive insurers. So that is another major opportunity.

But more broadly, we’re a wonderful place to live and work. And we want to attract a broad church of financial services businesses to consider the Turks and Caicos as the place to locate for their next opening.

James Bursey: The third pillar of the financial service industry of course is – banking. We have three Canadian banks already there. And we’re discussing with European, US and Asian banks. And I hope by the end of the next 12 months we’re going to have three more resident on the islands. So it’s a great place from which to locate a bank.

World Finance: What are the benefits of establishing a business on the Turks and Caicos?

James Bursey: First and foremost it’s a beautiful place to be. I get up with the sun, I can go for a walk on the beach – try doing that in London or New York.

So if that’s the kind of lifestyle you want, that’s a start.

Second thing is of course, we’re very closely located, and very easily accessible, to the whole of North America. But most importantly it is a great place to work. We have an environment where people know each other; but we also have a lot of people who pass through on vacation, or to monitor their investments – which is an opportunity to meet people that you often in larger financial centres don’t get.

David Stewart: And I think it’s a wonderful place to live if you’re internationally mobile, which lots of families are. You can be in New York in two hours and 50 minutes daily, and Florida eight times a day. Quality of life is very good – schools, shops, restaurants, the beaches – commuting time never more than 20 minutes, no matter where you are; and there’s no traffic jams. All of these things are tremendously attractive if, like me, you’ve lived and worked in big cities for most of your career.

World Finance: Sounds idyllic; what’s the path to incorporation for businesses?

James Bursey: It’s actually very simple. Primarily you could do it yourself, but I would frankly recommend: get a local lawyer whom you like, and let them do the paperwork. It’s about $2,000-2,500 depending on who you work with. Incorporation’s straightforward and simple. And you get your paperwork in less than two weeks. Not quite as fast as you are online, but: sit back and enjoy the beach, or just start building your next business.

David Stewart: But we are in the midst of digitising our company registry. So within a year we will have online incorporation, online certificates of incumbency and all of the other corporate paperwork. And I think that the other opportunity – particularly in preferred sectors like financial services – is that there are concessions and development incentives which are available on a case-by-case basis, which offer significant value to investors, in terms of a guaranteed immigration, guaranteed concessions on expenditure, and other concessions which people would find valuable.

World Finance: How else does Invest Turks and Caicos work with investors to match them up with opportunities on the islands?

James Bursey: Well for instance, I’ll be very specific on a case we have right now. We had a developer who came in, wanted to get into the islands – hadn’t been there before. And had a project that we liked a lot, and they were short of total capital.

So our organisation, we went with them off-island, to primarily North America. We arranged for the subsequent capitalisation that they required. And now they are able to proceed – we’re now at the point where we will be writing that development agreement – and they will be able to proceed fully funded. So that’s the kind of help that our organisation gives.

Conversely, we do a match-making service where we keep a list of organisations or individuals who want to invest in projects, but don’t have the time to go and suss them out themselves. So we do that match-making service.

So again: financial assistance, match-making, working through government regulation. That’s what we do.

World Finance: Finally David – you seem to have incredible ambitions for financial services on the islands – where do you want to see the industry in the next five to 10 years?

David Stewart: So right now the Turks and Caicos is a minnow – it’s a tiny, tiny market.

I would like to see the Turks and Caicos grow in a sensible, proportionate way. Focusing on its key, distinguishing factors which are: ultra-high-net-worth families, multi-family offices, trustees and fiduciaries on the one hand; and captive insurance on the other.

It doesn’t mean I’m not going to be hugely encouraging of fund management or any other clean, compliant, transparent, international financial services business.

The international financial services environment at the moment is a very challenged, very interesting one. But I believe that tax neutral jurisdictions – the aggregation of capital for international investment – is something that in a proper, compliant, and transparent way – properly regulated – is going to go from strength to strength. And I believe that the Turks and Caicos has a real role to play in that industry. And I look forward to seeing it grow.

World Finance: We’ll look forward to that as well. James, David: thank you very much.

James Bursey, David Stewart: Thank you.

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