The “Business Solutions Forum” on financial services last week was closed to the media, but BVI Finance said in a subsequent press release that the approximately 80 attendees discussed “infrastructure, ease of doing business, the BVI’s business centre, economic substance and industry consultation on developing legislation.”

BVIF CEO Elise Donovan said in the release that the agency was “delighted”with the attendance.

“The presence of the premier, deputy governor, ministers of government and other senior government officials demonstrates the government’s continued commitment to the financial services sector alongside the energy of the private sector, giving us real confidence as we embark on the next decade together,” she added.

Media absence

Reached by phone on Friday and asked why journalists were excluded from the session and another like it in December, Ms. Donovan credited the premier with directing the Jan. 28 forum, saying he intended it as an opportunity for financial industry professionals to “speak to him directly about comments and concerns.”

Asked how attendees are invited to participate in the forums, she responded, “We sent an open invitation to the financial services industry, and our board members led the discussion on the various topics. We selected the topics based on a survey [about] economic substance.”

Ms. Donovan said she was in the process of boarding a plane at the time and was forced to cut the conversation short, and further enquiries to her and to BVI Finance were not immediately returned.

Topics discussed

This isn’t the first time policymakers have discussed steps designed to address the financial services industry’s recent challenges. In 2015, they commissioned a $1.15 million study from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company to assess the industry.

The firm subsequently recommended 40 reforms, and the then-National Democratic Party government said 10 would be prioritised, including stream-lining the territory’s immigration and labour policies, investing in infrastructure, enhancing customer service at the Financial Services Commission, and educating the population on the importance of financial services.

According to the press release, some of these same topics were again covered at last week’s forum.

A session on industry consultation on developing legislation, hosted by Richard May, managing partner at Maples Group, covered legislation roll-out. Claire Abrehart, managing director at Harneys, focused her session on infrastructure, including the aesthetics of the Road Town business centre, Grade One commercial properties, telecommunications and education. Vanessa King, managing partner at O’Neal Webster, led a session on ease of doing business in the VI, centred on trade licences and work permits, as well as covering Special Economic Zones. Peter Tarn, a partner at Harneys, spoke about the Commercial Court, while Ryan Geluk, deputy managing director at BDO, discussed tax residency and identification with respect to economic substance.