- Written by Conor King Devitt
- Published: 24 October 2017
Hurricane Irma created a miniature diaspora of Virgin Islands financial services professionals, with residents travelling to other Caribbean islands, the United States, the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe to help execute their companies’ continuity plans.
Industry stakeholders are now crediting those plans with preventing a wholesale collapse of the sector.
Gary Hales, BVI Finance’s head of business development and marketing, travelled to London three weeks ago and has been having meetings around the city with professionals invested in the territory’s breadwinning industry.
“The bottom line is we are winning the battle [of convincing people] that BVI financial services are robust and operating effectively,” Mr. Hales said over the phone from London during a BVIF meeting last Thursday at the Ritter House on Wickhams Cay II. “So there is no real concern that I’m picking up with people.”
Mr. Hales added that people in London have been curious about whether regulations on the industry would loosen now in the wake of the storms, a comment that generated laughs from stakeholders around the room during the Oct. 12 meeting.
Robert Briant, partner and head of corporate development at Conyers, Dill and Pearman’s VI office, was part of a large cohort of VI professionals who travelled to Cayman after Irma to carry out business continuity plans. He echoed Mr. Hales’s sentiment regarding the industry.
“Particularly, the [High Court] Registry and the Financial Services Commission, you guys are and were fantastic to allow it to continue virtually seamlessly, particularly from the clients’ perspective,” Mr. Briant said over the phone.
Additionally, Elise Donovan, the director of BVI House Asia, indicated over the phone that people in Hong Kong were appreciative of the industry’s continued accessibility.
Mr. Hales noted, however, that the lack of concern about the financial services industry is a double-edged sword: Though it indicates the sector is strong and will continue to be marketable, it also means some of the UK private sector’s humanitarian interest in the VI could be waning.
“The whole issue about the BVI’s hurricane really is last month’s news [in London],” he said. “It’s moved out of people’s consciousness quite quickly.”
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 19, 2017 print edition.