Offshore Banking Latin America - 2009


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Crisis, technology & and a new political climate are all factors influencing how Businesses and Individuals find security for their monetary assets. Wealthy Latin Americans often make provisions for their savings outside their home countries but remain within the same region. Caribbean nations and Panama have been popular destinations, whose offshore banking facilities have attracted international clients for many years. Now offshore banks within the region are proving attractive to a new clientele.

“The crisis has been good for offshore banking and it’s been an impetus for growth in Latin America” Xavier Borja, Loyal Bank Ltd., Panama

Offshore Banking. Latin America 2009 combines interviews, analysis and expert opinions on all the most important factors shaping the industry in the region today.

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Offshore Banking Latin America - 2009

  1. 1. Offshore Banking:Latin America 20091
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTSPage 4.......................................................................................................................................................... INTRODUCTIONPage 6........................................................................ WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM / POST CRISIS MOVEMENTPage 6............................................................................................................................................................Overseas ClientsPage 6.................................................................................................................................................... Latin American clientsPage 7............................................................................................................................................................................. BrazilPage 7.................................................................................................................................Institutional vs Personal accountsPage 8................................................................................................................................................................REGULATIONPage 9..............................................................................................RECOMMENDED JURISDICTIONS: Focus on PanamaPage 11............................................................................................................................................Panama banking structurePage 11..............................................................................................................................................OECD Report & ListingsPage 12.....................................................................................................FIGURE 3 - OECD Progress Report, August 2009Page 13.............................Exclusive interview with Adolfo Linares, President of the Panamanian Chamber of CommercePage 16................................................................................................RECOMMENDED JURISDICTIONS: Other LocationsPage 16..................................................................................................................REASONS FOR LOCATING OFFSHOREPage 17............................................................................................................NEW TECHNOLOGY / ONLINE CAPABILITYPage 18...............................................................................................................................................Multi currency accountsPage 18...............................................................................................................................................Credit & Pre-paid cardsPage 19..........................................................................INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL CENTRE OF THE AMERICAS (IFCA)Page 21.......................................................Exclusive Alternative Latin Investor interview with IFCA founder Gaetan BoucherPage 25................................................................................................................................FDIC EQUIVALENT / RETIREESPage 26.............................................................................................................................................................CONCLUSIONPage 27........................................................................................................................................................................Appendix3
  4. 4. IntroductionIn 2007 Latin America had the fastest growing wealth pared to 19.0% in North America (see figure 1). In additionmarket worldwide in terms of assets under management Latin America has the highest ratio of ultra-high net worthin U.S. dollars, expanding by 20.4% against 9.4%. Now individuals in the world (see figure 2). Given these figures,during the current global economic downturn, Latin America global attention is turning to this region for investment,has lost only 0.7% of its high net worth individuals, com- diversification and profit.4
  5. 5. Recently there has been a great deal of political prior- es in offshore banking as technological advances, gen-ity, mainly through the G-20, given to the issue of the eral fears about the world economy and political shiftsuse of tax havens and the offshore banking industry are just some of the many factors that are shaping athroughout the world. At a recent G-20 summit in April it new landscape. Given the wealth that exists withinwas agreed that those countries that refuse to pass in- the region combined with a rapidly shifting scenario information to foreign tax authorities to help catch poten- the offshore banking world, Alternative Latin Investortial evaders would face sanctions in the future. World has compiled this supplement in order to assess someleaders have pledged to stop wealthy individuals from of the trends that are starting to emerge together withusing offshore tax havens to escape levies. A regulatory analysis from industry experts on how they feel it willclampdown isn’t the only issue by far producing chang- affect the Latin American region.5
  6. 6. WHERE THE MONEYCOMES FROM:POST-CRISIS MOVEMENTOVERSEAS CLIENTS more people moving funds offshore.... Whereas beforeT people thought the worst couldn’t happen, now a lot more here is a mixed picture coming from the people are planning for worst-case scenarios. And what I region with regards to clients moving capital see right now is a lot of Americans scared about the value from onshore to offshore and vice versa. of the dollar going down. Americans have only traditionally The crisis-induced uncertainty surrounding invested in North America basically. They haven’t looked banks in many European countries and the much outside US borders and now that seems to be chang-U.S. has made clients nervous, and diversifying locations ing.”for capital is a significant trend. Dr. Giovanni Caporaso,from the OPM Corporation based in Panama, provides tax LATIN AMERICAN CLIENTSplanning solutions for companies looking to locate offshore.Dr. Caporaso believes those new to offshore banking are Political instability within many Latin American nationsthinking twice about moving in that direction, but that those both historically and particularly at present makes stablefamiliar with its mechanisms feel it is a haven in the present destinations such as Panama an obvious centre for clientsclimate, “Americans are really worried about the situation from within the region. Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and theat the moment. If you see big banks collapsing you may ongoing situation in Honduras are just some examplesthink small ones are too—it’s not true. If you see crisis in of how various countries in the region appear to be slid-Europe and the U.S. you may think there is also a crisis in ing backwards in this regard. Latin America had arguablytax havens, but it’s really not like this. There is a decreased enjoyed its most stable political scenario for decades in thedemand from new clients, but an increase from people who early 2000s, certainly helped by the worldwide commodi-know the offshore system as they think the crisis didn’t af- ties boom. However, a June 2009 article featured by Lloydsfect tax havens.” predicts that Latin America could be facing increasing diffi- culties. “Expropriation was the dominant political risk of theAmericans have traditionally invested within their own 1970s, but has since become confined to a small numbercountry, but concerns about the value of the U.S. dollar are of developing countries. But the instability created by theprompting a rethink amongst U.S. citizens about where to financial crisis could spark the return of nationalism and ex-invest or save their money. Speaking with Alternative Latin propriation around the world. Not many governments theseInvestor, offshore banking expert and joint editor of the days would choose to be associated with outright expro-Q Wealth Report Peter Macfarlane says there is a huge priation. But in parts of Latin America resource nationalismchange in approach taking place. “What I’ve seen is a lot remains high on the agenda, and nowhere more so than in6
  7. 7. Venezuela. As well as Venezuela, other countries such as paper Valor Economico reports that there has been a surgeBolivia, Ecuador and possibly Argentina remain at risk of in U.S. dollar deposits by Brazilian companies that areconfiscation of foreign owned assets.” keeping their export revenue out of the country. Offshore subsidiaries of Banco do Brasil, the largest Brazilian stateWhilst it may only be foreign owned assets at risk in certain commercial lender, saw deposits by companies rise tenfoldLatin American countries, domestic citizens and compa- to U.S. $4 billion in the twelve months leading up to Junenies looking for an offshore location prefer to stay within this year, principally because companies are now permittedthe region. Xavier Borja is the Marketing Director of Loyal by the new law to keep all export revenue outside the coun-Bank Ltd., an international bank based in St Vincent and try indefinitely. The Brazilian Government introduced thethe Grenadines serving customers from 113 countries measure to prevent a flood of U.S. dollars into the countryaround the world. Borja says language and location are all that had pushed the Brazilian Real to a near nine-year high.important for Latin American clients. “ [Customers] would As the Real has strengthened and the dollar weakenedreally rather go with international [banks], but in Latin it has been more prudent to keep the revenue offshore.America there is a cultural factor of the language. People Corporate accounts at the New York and Nassau brancheswould really rather stay within the region. The furthest they of Itau Unibanco, Brazil’s largest bank in terms of assets,would go would be Miami and the Caribbean. They would have risen tenfold since the beginning of 2008, with therather have somewhere close like Panama and would not value of deposits up 150%. Brazilian banks reported theirreally be willing to go further than that. They would prefer total offshore deposits as being U.S. $13.2 billion in the firstthat than the local bank. Because of the political instabil- half of 2009, according to Central Bank data.ity in certain countries people would put their money in abig international bank, somewhere where they have easy INSTITUTIONAL vs. PERSONAL ACCOUNTSaccess to it.” Adolfo Linares, a Panamanian lawyer, is thecurrent President of the Panama Chambers of Commerce, Conducting business offshore is a tendency that has beenIndustries and Agriculture. (His exclusive interview with noted within the region, and the breakdown between Institution-Alternative Latin Investor is contained in this supplement.) al against Personal accounts are thought to be evenly split. It’sLinares confirms that Latin Americans provide the lion’s difficult to make an exact determination of the relative volumeshare of funds deposited in Panamanian banks from clients of accounts for personal against business use as there is a ten-located outside the country, “The majority of international dency for clients to keep their savings in commercial accounts.deposits held in Panama are usually from people in Latin Dr. Caporaso says this is done for a specific reason: “We do notAmerica. 60% or over of the funds held are from people in recommend a personal account to our clients because a per-Latin America for many reasons, basically security, political sonal account has a name. Even some banks offer numeratedrisk. They choose Panama as well as they choose Miami, accounts but this is not effective as when you ask for a transferwhich is the preferable destination for Latin America. I think the bank must put a name. It’s stupid to have an account thatwe will grow, the turmoil that Latin America is living right will immediately report the operation. We always say to a clientnow, with the political situations they have been suffering in the best way is to make a company and open an account forHonduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. I would think the company. Then divide every activity into different accountsPanama could become a safe haven for people who would with different companies and that way they are protected.”like some kind of safeguard for their savings.” Whilst a corporate account has certain uses for individuals, Peter Macfarlane believes they are becoming a very useful toolBRAZIL for the modern business environment, “There is a trend toward doing real business offshore—whether it be gambling or justIn Brazil a law introduced by the Government in March information, marketing, the buying and selling of products busi-2008 is having a noticeable effect in the use of offshore ness to business—because anything that can be done over thesubsidiaries by Brazilian companies. The Brazilian news- Internet can be done offshore”.7
  8. 8. REGULATIONR ecent clampdowns on the offshore bank- bows to pressure to adopt international information shar- ing sector and tax havens could ultimately ing treaties, other traditional European tax havens such as benefit the industry in Latin America. U.S. Andorra and Liechtenstein have followed suit. Sergi Lucas President Barack Obama has placed a Fernandez from the Banca Privada Andorra, which has clampdown on tax havens for U.S. com- a representative office in Panama, is in a position to seepanies in Europe and the Caribbean high on his political what is happening both in Europe and Latin America, andagenda, and recent G-20 meetings have put the industry he thinks changes in Europe will have an inevitable the media and political spotlight. Naturally opinions differ “People are relocating to Latin America for an obvious mo-greatly on the reasons, effectiveness and consequences tive, for example in a country like Andorra that is within thethis will ultimately have. However, the Swiss bank UBS’s European territory, the European Union have much moredecision to co-operate with the U.S. authorities and release authority to attack them as offshore centres. Switzerland,the names of 52,000 American account holders was a Monaco, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein—these placessignificant case mentioned by many experts that Alternative each year are going to have more problems continuing be-Latin Investor spoke with. ing offshore. As well Latin America is a very good oppor- tunity, because it is much closer to Europe culturally thanN.B. Since the writing of this supplement the U.S. and Swit- Asia with its centres such as Hong Kong for example. Wezerland have signed an agreement designed to end the tax have a branch here in Panama for two motives, Latin Amer-evasion dispute surrounding UBS’s U.S. customers. The ica is a continent where there is a lot of money and we alsoSwiss banking giant will now give the U.S. tax authorities offer a refuge for our European clients if one day our clientsthe details of 4,450 accounts. want to locate their capital in Latin America.” With some amount of uncertainty with regards to banking privacy inDr. Giovanni Caporaso advises clients on the workings of the present climate, Xavier Borja, the Marketing Director attax havens in both Europe and Latin America and is finding Loyal Bank Ltd., outlined for Alternative Latin Investor how,difficulty in advocating European destinations for his clients. for example, the European tax directive would affect inter-“Switzerland, I don’t recommend because it has become national banks within offshore operations in Latin America.too co-operative. The problem is in Europe, when they are “If it’s an international bank the local rules of jurisdiction willinvestigating tax evasion they also try to put money laun- apply, but if they are registered in another jurisdiction with adering on the investigation in order to get the authorization Class A license that bank would be obliged to the terms andfrom the Judges to check the accounts.” As Switzerland jurisdictions of that location.”8
  9. 9. RECOMMENDEDJURISDICTIONSFOCUS ON PANAMA Canal generates much income. It’s not so artificial, it hasP a solid economy”. anama was the preferred Latin American destination for the majority of the experts Xavier Borja of Loyal Bank Ltd. firmly believes Panama interviewed by Alternative Latin Investor is the regional centre for Latin America and will maintain for this supplement. Uruguay was men- its position despite greater international pressure. “The tioned for certain services and Chile, with relations and strategies they have been following slowlyits large, stable banks and economy, is also an attraction. through the years have been transferring themselves intoSergi Lucas Fernandez from the Banca Privada Andorra this financial centre in the region. You have all the bigbelieves Panama has significant advantages over its banks there; real estate had a big boom some years ago.neighbouring competitors. “Panama uses U.S. dollars, this All these small factors show that they are reliable to revi-gives stability. It’s used [the U.S. dollar] in the country and sion with high levels of privacy and security. They havethe financial system. Panama has a very strict supervisor been building on that throughout the years. I think it’s aof banks—the Superintendents of Banks (Superinten- very well planned strategy that they have. Their task nowdencia de Bancos de Panama) is an organ that regulates is to keep up those levels.” As we will discuss in the follow-the banks here in Panama and that protects much of the ing section, Panama is currently trying to reach a compro-financial system. Panama is an offshore centre and it’s mise with the Organization for Economic Cooperation andthe only country in Latin America that in 2009 is going Development (OECD) and maintain some level of secrecyto grow, predicted at 3.5%. It has political and economic at the same time, something which Xavier Borja thinks theyand legal security and the client is looking for all these.” will succeed in pulling off but with some costs. “They willAnd Sr. Fernandez added that some Caribbean locations have to compromise as you have to be extremely compli-lack the solid foundations that Panama has. “These small ant to make the due diligence it requires. I think they will beCaribbean countries for size and outside influence, they complying more and they will find a balance. I don’t thinkcan’t offer what Panama does as it’s independent with 3.5 they will give in like Switzerland did or Liechtenstein. I thinkmillion inhabitants and a stable government. There was they will try to find a balance to satisfy both parties. TheAmerican occupation but they gave Panama a stability, requirement for the Patriot Act is that they should do theira pause to allow it to stabilize and grow. The administra- KYC (know your customer) with their clients and as long astions are organized. There is a very important real estate they do that I’m quite sure they can still keep up their levelssector, we have tourism, fishing interest and the Panama of privacy.”9
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  11. 11. PANAMA BANKING STRUCTURE and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been classified as hav- ing “jurisdictions that have substantially implemented theAdolfo Linares, President of the Panama Chambers of internationally agreed tax standard.” Latin America domi-Commerce, Industries and Agriculture explained to Alterna- nates the second tier list, those being “jurisdictions thattive Latin Investor that Panama is not offshore per se as have committed to the internationally agreed tax standard,any bank located there has to have a real operation as op- but have not yet substantially implemented [the standard].”posed to existing on paper alone, which happens in some The progress report concludes by saying, “All jurisdictionsother offshore locations. There are three kinds of licenses surveyed by the Global Forum have now committed to therequired for banks located in Panama. internationally agreed tax standard.” It should be noted that Panama is a “stand out” jurisdiction in the second tier of the 1. A General Business license, which authorizes a list as, though they committed to the internationally agreed bank to operate bank accounts and savings accounts tax standard in 2002, they have yet to conclude a single in Panama. agreement. In our interview with Adolfo Linares, President 2. An International license, which means the bank is of the Panama Chambers of Commerce, Industries and established in Panama, but is not authorized to provide Agriculture, he addresses this issue and elaborates on a services to Panamanians. These are bank services for counter proposal the Panamanians are currently offering to foreign the OECD. There remains the possibility of sanctions being 3. A Representative Office Bank license imposed on Panama by the OECD if an accord cannot be reached in the coming months.According to the Superintendencia de Bancos de Panama,banking activity is listed as follows: 43 – Banks with Licencia General 30 - Banks with Licencia Internacional 2 - Banks with Licencia Official (Banco Nacional de Panama & Caja de Ahorros)OECD REPORT & LISTINGSThe group of G-20 nations has recently agreed that theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Develop-ment (OECD) will have a three tier grading system for taxhavens. The first will be for those nations that have alreadyconcluded their tax information sharing agreements, thesecond tier will include countries which have committed tobetter information exchange but have not yet met all therequirements of the agreements, and the third will be usedto name and shame authorities that have not even commit-ted to the information sharing agreements. As you will seefrom the progress report published by the OECD on the9th of July 2009, Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Mexico11
  12. 12. FIGURE 3 - OECD PROGRESS REPORT 18TH AUGUST 2009 A PROGRESS REPORT ON THE JURISDICTIONS SURVEYED BY THE OECD GLOBAL FORUM IN IMPLEMENTING THE INTERNATIONALLY AGREED TAX STANDARD 1 Progress made as at 15th September 2009 (Original Progress Report 2nd April) Jurisdictions that have substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard Argentina Estonia Jersey Slovak Republic Aruba Finland Korea Slovenia Australia France Luxembourg South Africa Bahrain Germany Malta Spain Barbados Greece Mauritius Sweden Belgium Guernsey Mexico Turkey Bermuda Hungary Netherlands United Arab Emirates British Virgin Islands Iceland Netherlands Antilles United Kingdom Canada India New Zealand United States 2 Cayman Islands Ireland Norway US Virgin Islands 3 China Isle of Man Poland Cyprus Israel Portugal Czech Republic Italy Russian Federation Denmark Japan Seychelles Jurisdictions that have committed to the internationally agreed tax standard, but have not yet substantially implemented Jurisdiction Year of Number of Jurisdiction Year of Number of Commitment Agreements Commitment Agreements Tax Havens4 Andorra 2009 (0) Montserrat 2002 (0) Anguilla 2002 (4) Nauru 2003 (0) Antigua and 2002 (9) Niue 2002 (0) Barbuda Panama 2002 (0) Bahamas 2002 (1) St Kitts and 2002 (4) Belize 2002 (0) Nevis Cook Islands 2002 (1) St Lucia 2002 (0) Dominica 2002 (1) St Vincent and 2002 (4) Gibraltar 2002 (7) the Grenadines Grenada 2002 (1) Samoa 2002 (0) Liberia 2007 (0) San Marino 2000 (4) Liechtenstein 2009 (4) Turks and 2002 (4) Marshall Islands 2007 (1) Caicos Islands Monaco 2009 (6) Vanuatu 2003 (0) Other Financial Centres 5 Austria 2009 (7) Malaysia 2009 (1) Brunei 2009 (6) Philippines 2009 (0) Chile 2009 (0) Singapore 2009 (6) 5 Costa Rica 2009 (0) Switzerland 2009 (7) Guatemala 2009 (0) Uruguay 2009 (1) Jurisdictions that have not committed to the internationally agreed tax standard Jurisdiction Number of Jurisdiction Number of Agreements Agreements All jurisdictions surveyed by the Global Forum have now committed to the internationally agreed tax standard1. The internationally agreed tax standard, which was developed by the OECD in co-operation with non-OECD countries and which was endorsed by G20 Finance Ministers at their Berlin Meeting in 2004 and by the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters at its October 2008 Meeting, requires exchange of information on request in all tax matters for the administration and enforcement of domestic tax law without regard to a domestic tax interest requirement or bank secrecy for tax purposes. It also provides for extensive safeguards to protect the confidentiality of the information exchanged.2. The Cayman Islands have enacted legislation that allows them to exchange information unilaterally and have identified 12 countries with which they are prepared to do so. This approach is being reviewed by the OECD.3. Excluding the Special Administrative Regions, which have committed to implement the internationally agreed tax standard.4. These jurisdictions were identified in 2000 as meeting the tax haven criteria as described in the 1998 OECD report.5. Austria and Switzerland withdrew their reservations to Article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention and announced that they have started to write to their treaty partners to indicate that they are now willing to enter into renegotiations of their treaties to include the new Article 26.
  13. 13. EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ADOLFO LINARES,PRESIDENT OF THE PANAMANIAN CHAMBER OFCOMMERCE tions that are established in Panama, they can perform their banking businesses under three kinds of license and the license is not restricted to Panamanian capital banks or international/foreign capital banks. The first license is what we call a general business license: Banks which have this license are authorized to perform all kinds of banking busi- ness in Panama, meaning receiving monies from citizens in Panama, offering bank accounts, loans, mortgages, etc. Then we have what is called an international license: This license is for those banks established in Panama but are not authorized to perform banking business in Panama [itself]. This means, for example, they can establish an of- fice here but then they will provide loans to companies in their countries of origin, or they will hold bank accounts in Panama for citizens of their country. Last we have what is called the representative office bank license: Obviously, this license only authorizes you to have a representative office. I just wanted to explain exactly how our banking system is regulated, as there is no such thing as ‘off-shore’ bankingA activity. lternative Latin Investor spoke with Adolfo Linares, President of the Has the current global economic situation had an effect on Panamanian Chamber of Commerce. foreign deposits within Panama? The largest and the oldest private sector association in the country, in I don’t have specific data but from what I can see deposits haveorder to better understand the offshore banking struc- remained steady, increasing at a normal level. There really hasture of Panama. not been any effect yet, from the economy in that sense. The majority of international deposits, that I would callCan you briefly explain the offshore banking structure in them, rather than ‘off-shore,’ are usually from people inPanama? Latin America; I would say over 60%. There are very, very few from the U.S. and other countries. There are manyIn Panama, we do not have an ‘off-shore’ banking indus- reasons the majority of international funds held in Panamatry per-se. We do have the banks that are established in are from Latin Americans. Basically for reasons of secu-Panama, they have to be established in Panama: That is to rity, political risk – they choose Panama, as well as theysay they have to have an office, real operations and they choose Miami, which I think is the preferred destinationmust have employees of course. And they are all regulated for Latin America, but they also have Panama as anotherby the Superintendency of Banks. Then the banking institu- option.13
  14. 14. Do have any reason to believe that percentage of deposits benefit will be realized by the implementation of double(by region) will change? taxation treaties. This way, countries like the United States will have a real tool to obtain any information that theyI would think, actually, that we will grow. The turmoil which will require for tax or criminal purposes. However we asLatin America is feeling right now with political situations in a country can use this kind of agreement to promote theHonduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia – I think Panama country as a safeguarded place for investment.could become a safe haven for people who like some kindof safeguards for their savings. Where does the implementation of a double taxation policy stand?Have you seen an increase in establishment in foreignbanks in Panama? The private sector is recommending that the government take that path, and the government has the same agenda.Actually, there are about five new banks which are being So I think the government will, very soon, announce to theestablished right now, with non-Panamanian capital. The U.S. and to other countries that we are willing to start nego-Panamanian banking system has always had representa- tiations [for] the execution of double taxation treaties.tion from banks of many countries over the last 25 years.There is no real new trend towards banking in Panama, Industry insiders have coined Panama, the ‘center’ of Latinthings got started in 1970. American banking (in regards to foreign deposits), would you agree?How does Panama deal with foreign (U.S.) pressure forgreater transparency? I would say Panama is the center of Latin American bank- ing, but we cannot compare the Panama banking systemThe private sector and the government are aware that with other banking systems, in say the Bahamas or Cay-there are some concerns from the U.S. and other countries man Islands, where actually the banks do not exist. If youthat we need to address as friendly countries. We have go to there, the banks are only located on paper and that’sno problem with that and I believe the best way to deal not the system in Panama. Here over 16,000 people arewith those kind of issues is by promoting the execution of employed by the banking system, so it’s a real economydouble taxation treaties with the U.S. and any other coun- not a shadow economy.try that would like to have that kind of situation. I prefer– suggest double taxation treaties instead of exchange of How does Panama provide security for deposits?information treaties and the reason is very simple: With adouble taxation treaty we obviously have a process which The funds here are not insured by the State, but Panamani-will regulate the exchange of information within the country. an bankers have been very conservative in the way they doPanama can have some assurance or benefit that will help their business. We’ve had hardly any bankruptcies withinus get more investors from abroad and will help the devel- the banking system here. Look at us right now comparedopment of the country. Whereas signing an exchange of to the crumbling systems in the U.S. and Europe, Panamainformation act, the topic those kinds of treaties address is has excess liquidity.only the exchange of information. Panama being a coun-try which does not need to receive any information fromabroad, as we do not tax the income of our citizens norresidents which is generated outside of Panama. Reallywhen you get to the point, there is no benefit for Panamawith these kinds of treaties. On the other hand, a mutual14
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  16. 16. Other LocationsA mongst those working within the offshore or wrong, based on where you are. One thing is to be in sector interviewed by Alternative Latin the Cayman Islands, another to be in Nevis, the Caymans Investor, Brazil and Colombia are consid- being much cleaner, having gone through a process of the ered to have a lot of bank regulation and Americans forcing them to clean up their act, which they’ve controls. Ironically this is something that is tried in various places, some successful. There have beenbeing championed in many Western countries at present, some cosmetic changes and some real changes depend-but by its nature is not always a desired characteristic when ing on how serious the governments take them.” However,a customer is looking for a tax haven. As mentioned previ- whilst some centres carry better reputations than others,ously, the Brazilian offshore industry is significant for Brazil- Ken Proulx believes the region is improving its reputation.ian Companies and individuals but generally less attractive “In Latin America the level of legitimacy and competence isfor foreign entities. Agreements between the U.S. and U.K. growing—the British Virgin Islands and the Caymans areGovernments and some Caribbean banking centres will fairly respected. In some of the smaller places the ruleshave an impact on their future attractiveness as offshore are one thing but what happens is different—it’s an “I’mlocations. The Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands have required to tell you this” situation. Other than tourism it’s asigned several agreements that are likely to provoke Ameri- great way for income, so they are not going to scare youcan and British banking clients seeking greater secrecy to away! They get a lot of business for lawyers and banks.look to for alternative locations. At the same time there has The U.S. Government have twisted their arms, so theybeen an increase in banks applying for licenses to operate introduce legislation, but there is a varying degree of truein Panama. Ken Proulx is Principal at Advanced Offshore commitment to those legislations.”Solutions, a firm providing accounting for a variety of inter-national business needs and helping companies interested REASONS FOR LOCATING OFFSHOREin offshore structures. Proulx gave Alternative Latin Inves-tor an outline of what may not always be in the brochure Latin American offshore centres, particularly in the Carib-for some offshore territories. “We look at what image do bean, facilitate business activities not always permitted inyou want to project when people do due diligence on you, other countries and offer some degree of legal protection.because different jurisdictions say different things—there Ken Proulx told Alternative Latin Investor that two of theare some jurisdictions that scream Russian Mob, narco- main reasons companies look to go offshore is to reducetrafficking or terrorism, whether it’s true or not. When you taxes, which can be problematic, and perhaps the biggestmake these decisions you have to recognize that people reason concerns liability. Online gambling companies serv-doing due diligence on you are going to size you up, right ing the U.S. market have favored Latin America, and Proulx16
  17. 17. shed some light on how this could be done. “Doing certain ent is clean and they just didn’t pay taxes, that is a crime inactivities in the U.S. is problematic for a number of reasons. their country but not [in Panama and/or other tax havens].[Online gambling companies] like to incorporate overseas, [The bank] can protect the client if there is an investigationsetting up servers in another country that may not have the or a court order.”same anti-gambling legislation or maybe favourable gam-bling legislation. They either want to go offshore to set up NEW TECHNOLOGY/ ONLINE CAPABILITYa company whose sole purpose is to set up the servers sothey are physically offshore or there can be a combination, The very nature of offshore banking has ensured that theso they set up their company in another location for tax introduction of the latest banking technology is seen asreasons. People are very strategic about what they choose fundamental by many operators within the industry, how-and they have a combination of companies to do that.” As ever non high-tech banking can be assuring for somewell as enabling activities that would be difficult to under- clients. If your clients are located in a variety of locationstake in the U.S., Ken says that offshore centres offer some around the world it makes sense to make full use of thedegree of protection from the litigious culture that exists in convenience that digital and Internet technology provides.the United States. “It’s a sue happy country like no other. Sergi Lucas Fernandez from Banca Privada Andorra knowsIn the Caribbean you have to place a $50,000 dollar bond, it is what his account holders are looking for. “We haveso what that does is keep spurious lawsuits from occurring. American, English and German clients and that has obligedIf you want to sue someone in the States it doesn’t cost us to invest much in technology, communication and onlineyou anything but you can go bankrupt defending yourself. services. I would say that what we have is better than theOverseas, in some of these jurisdictions you cant even file onshore banks. We use a system called Token, which isa case until you put a bond down for $50,000, so it protects the latest in security. We offer an instrument to the clientpeople from that.” that produces a different code each time. If a client wants to make a transaction, the client has to put in a card andDr. Giovanni Caporaso, who has published a guide to off- they will get a new code in twenty seconds. If the clientshore banking, written in Italian, titled I Segreti della Banca doesn’t put in the code the operation stops. The majority ofOffshore (Offshore Banking Secrets), advocates Panama our clients demand it because they are not in our location.and Uruguay in Latin America, but says the ultimate deci- You have to invest in everything virtual.” New technologysion is highly influenced by the needs of the clients. “Ev- doesn’t just provide a more convenient way to maintain anerything depends on the client. Sometimes we use several offshore bank account; it has also proved to be a valuabledifferent banking centres, accounts in one country, credit tool for making contact with a variety of new clients andlines in another and a company in a third one.” Dr Capo- exposing them to some of the products available, accordingraso prefers to deal with international banks as he says to Xavier Borja from Loyal Bank Ltd. “We are seeing muchlocal banks, which are often more conservative, deal more more HNWI’s now. Because of the Internet people arewith Latin American clients and 90% of his clients are from discovering the use of trusts as foundations of IBC’s. Tenoutside the region and looking to invest abroad. In deal- years ago people didn’t know much about this. Now be-ing with those looking to locate offshore, Dr. Caporaso cause of the Internet it’s becoming more mainstream. Evenand the law office he represents undertake pre-checking if you are not a big company or a HNWI you can still haveon clients so they know where the money comes from. He access to open an IBC (International Business Company)comments that in the current climate many institutions take right now through the Internet.” Whilst online technology isgreat care with their reputations. “At the moment all banks undoubtedly predominant and an absolute necessity for theare concerned about their image, they undertake a very majority of both clients and the banks providing services,thorough compliance on new clients.” However, even amid Dr. Giovanni Caporaso of OPM Corporation feels there isthe current clampdown climate Dr. Caporaso says clients still a place for more traditional methods. “Myself, I maintainstill enjoy certain protections. “If the bank knows that the cli- the bigger part of my capital in a bank that doesn’t allow17
  18. 18. you to do operations on the Internet. I feel more secure like ments in real time on your cell phone, meaning as soonthis. Any operation must be confirmed by functionaries that as you get a transfer into your account you’ll get a notifiedknow your voice, account number and where you are locat- SMS anywhere in the world.”ed.” However, Dr. Caporaso concedes that it really dependson what you need from your account. “If it’s for investment CREDIT & PRE-PAID CARDSor paying invoices, etc., you really need a faster system.” The provision of debit cards and pre-paid credit cards byMULTI-CURRENCY ACCOUNTS offshore banks is thought of as being a market with huge potential in a continent such as Latin America, whereMulti-currency accounts and real-time transfers are a very access to credit and credit histories are frequently non-significant trend and a growth market being developed by existent. The majority of offshore banks don’t give credit asoffshore banks. Those within the industry that Alternative such, so to obtain a credit card it would have to be securedLatin Investor spoke with told us that the financial crisis by a formal deposit account unless you are a HNWI withcombined with technological developments have created a millions deposited in the bank. Most banks have their owngreat demand for products that for example offer accounts card programs, some of which work with regional cardwithin which up to thirty different types of currency can be issuers who offer back-office card services for a numberheld and sums transferred easily between those nominated of banks. Debit cards don’t usually require any securitycurrencies. Peter Macfarlane of the Q Wealth Report says deposits and there is a wide range of pre-paid credit cardsInternational offshore banks are providing something not on offer from offshore banks. Three products mentionedavailable in the U.S. and moving money is slowly becom- to Alternative Latin Investor are of particular interest; oneing easier in Latin America. “Americans that moved abroad is offshore banks offering a facility for immigrants to sendwere keeping their money at home in the States, but now their remittances through a card. Xavier Borja from Loyalmore of them are looking to international offshore banks. Bank Ltd. thinks it’s an indicator of what is to come. “If theyThey are feeling safe because it’s the opportunity to hold are targeting immigrants with cards that means there is adifferent currencies. There are very few banks in the U.S. lot of potential.” And Borja went on tell us of other uses heoffering accounts in anything other than dollars. In the past has noticed recently. “There is a big demand in bank cards,you had to deal with time differences, international cor- especially debit cards because it’s more secured, especial-respondence and faxes. Now, an account can be logged ly for payroll programs. It’s increasing and there is a lot ofinto online and it’s the same as having an account in the demand in the market.” Another interesting product devel-U.S. Currency restriction and regulation in Latin America is opment was picked up on by Peter Macfarlane. “I’ve seeneasing. The crisis has been good for offshore and it’s been Caribbean banks offering pre-paid cards domestically in thean impetus for growth in Latin America. People looking U.S. They compete on equal terms with onshore banks.”for offshore are smaller to medium investors facilitated by One of the most frequent needs for a credit or debit cardonline Internet…convenience. Before you had to be a multi- is for traveling internationally as it’s not very convenient tomillionaire to make it worthwhile. Now there are people with fly with a wads of cash in you suitcase. Ken Proulx feelsU.S. $100,000 looking to diversify into foreign currency or that the Latin Americans’ habit of not keeping their moneyinvest in another country and that has been made easier by in local banks is a huge opportunity for the industry. “TheInternet banking.” Naturally as technology advances so do advantage of a pre-paid credit or debit card is that you don’tthe products on offer, as Xavier Borja from Loyal Bank Ltd. need a credit history. If you are traveling to the U.S. yououtlined. “What is big right now is real-time transfers. Banks don’t want to take a lot of cash with you. The pre-paid creditare trying to tap the mobile market. You can receive state- card is a humongous underserved market.”18
  19. 19. INDEPENDENT FINANCIALCENTRE OF THE AMERICAS(IFCA)F ounded by banker Gaetan Bucher, the Inde- Amid worldwide concerns about transparency in banking, pendent Financial Centre of the Americas is the center say they will embrace positive regulation through designed to serve as a capital markets hub independence, responsiveness, efficiency and transparen- for the Americas, similar to the Dubai Inter- cy. The centers regulatory arrangements are being drawn national Financial Centre in the Middle East. up by Patton Boggs, a Washington law firm and DeloitteConstruction of an U.S. 850 million dollar purpose built consulting in London. The proposal is for regulations to befacility is due to start by the end of the year in the Domini- separate from those that already apply to the Dominicancan Republic city of Guayacanes. The ambitious project Republic’s domestic financial system. Located centrally be-will house private and commercial banks and an electronic tween North and South America, the IFCA aims to provideexchange, called LAIFEX, to clear and settle emerging consolidation to the fragmented markets that are currentlymarket debt and other tradable products. The IT platform prevalent in Latin America in particular. The joint venturehas been designed to underpin all banking transactions to between Swiss-Dominican banker Gaetan Bucher and aincrease the speed and cost efficiency for institutions and local investment group called Grupo Vicini project they willtheir clients. complete the project by the year 2012.19
  20. 20. Join our FREE online community today! Reach & Engage Baby Boomers that have a specialBoomersAbroad.Com is the place to connect with interest in Latin America & The Caribbean.those that want to live abroad and those that Let Baby Boomers know about youralready live abroad. Connect with people who Real Estate Developments or your services.have already been there and done that. Advertise with Boomers Abroad!
  21. 21. EXCLUSIVE ALTERNATIVE LATIN INVESTORINTERVIEW WITH IFCA FOUNDER GAETANBOUCHERHow would you most succinctly define this project?We have been working on this for six years now and havealready done a substantial amount of investment, overU.S.50 million dollars, in the research and developmentphase. Precisely avoiding the ‘copy & paste model’ or ‘letsjust go out and there and be one more financial center.’So the point we are at right now and what this project isall about is creating a true financial center, if you will. Astandardizing financial platform for the Latin Americanregion; from the region to the world and from the world tothe region. We’ve taken a long time to look at all the weak-nesses, on a financial basis, that the region has. We’vetaken a long time to talk with all the major global financialinstitutions about this region, about the challenges theyface, etc. And we have an almost purpose designed solu-tion for them in this financial center. We’ve taken our time;again, we’ve wanted to do it right. One of the corner stonesof the project is the legislation, which was passed and we undertake] happily, gladly and effectively. This law thatapproved in December of 2008. This is specific legisla- was approved in December of 2008, which we lobbied intion for these financial centers or these financial zones in Washington for, it completely aligns with the latest G-20the Dominican Republic and they are the result of a very guidelines and the OECD guidelines — against tax havens.lengthy period of research and development between our- This is not a tax haven, this is a true financial center: So Iselves, Lloyds of London and Patton Boggs in Washington think that is one of the main differentiating points, from whatDC: To look at the best practices the world over and weed is actually out there and us. So happily, in a certain sensethe not so good practices out. And look at the current 21st we are just beginning construction towards the end of thiscentury challenges and create a ‘best of class’ financial year and will be up and running by 2012. We are a longcenter. Which turns out into a global financial center, which way from have the financial center ready, but we have all ofhappens to be in the middle of the American continent and the basics ready and we are negotiating with global finan-therefore services more the Latin American region [which cial institutions right now who will be our anchor tenants.21
  22. 22. Those conversations are very advanced and before the our own legal framework and this law was obviously passedend of the year we will make announcements on who has through the Dominican Republic congress. It went through allalready signed up. These are the usual ten large banking the normal channels, and was then approved and enacted bysuspects in the Latin American region, as I call them. The the President in December of 2008.major global banks from the U.S., Europe and Asia that areactive in the Latin American region. Do you see the Financial Center working for Latin American companies to reach the rest of the world or more for theYou said you received 50 million dollars in investments for rest of the world to reach Latin America?R&D, where did that come from? Both actually, very much so.The two main partners are a local group, called Grupo Vi-cini and myself. We are partners in this. We already have Is one more prevalent?the actual land for, which is about 7000 acres: a Greenfieldsite which is about 10 minutes drive due east from the main Its been pretty equal so far, though we have been talking aairport. What started as a financial center ‘exercise’ six lot more with the global banks which actually reach bet-years back has turned into a new financial city for the 21st ter into the Latin American region. When you look at whatCentury. Very carefully thought out in a 25 year business the economy is doing right now, and how these banks areplan and developed to create an ideal environment for living through it, obviously we have – apparently we havefinancial services in the 21st Century. reached the bottom of the trough…or at least we’re all pray- ing we have. As things start looking up and these yieldWhat was the spark that gave you the idea for this project? curves start going up, all these banks are already looking within their own frameworks to see how they can createWell, I am from the Dominican Republic. Actually, I’m half efficiencies and savings in all regions, not only for the LatinSwiss half Dominican and grew up in the Dominican Republic American region. Now, no major global bank has everbetween the ages of 5 and 20. My family has been here for a done a consolidation of Latin American business or opera-long time and we were, sort of, in the influential spheres here. tions. So what we bring to these banks right now is, onMy father, although he died a long time ago, very young at the the one hand efficiencies and economies of scale and onage of 59, was one of the country’s leading economists and the other, a risk management platform and a risk manage-sugar experts. And so I had lived in Switzerland myself and ment tool through the clearing and settlement system forwas in banking for 15 years. I decided to move back to the the Latin American system, which nobody has now. SoDominican Republic in the first quarter of 2003, realizing there economies, efficiencies, and risk management: Three verywas a need for a true financial center in the Latin American important things now going forward, particularly for theseregion, to help consolidate all of the financial power and all of banks. You look at most global banks that are active inthe transactional requirement the Latin American region has in the Latin American region and you’ll see they replicate theorder to give it more strength for the 21st century. At the same same model through each country. They’ll have a front,time, you see things like, within this first phase for the project, middle and back office in Mexico and they’ll replicate thewe have a clearing and settlement house for Latin America, same thing in Chile, Buenos Aires, Venezuela and every-which as you know the region lacks. We bring a lot of things where else. Here they have an actual chance to come intolike that within the first phase, which makes us ideal – the an absolutely optimal infrastructure that’ll be much cheaperDominican Republic is an ideal place for this. We created for them to consolidate their back office, their middle office22
  23. 23. and even part of their front office for the Latin American The standards with which this project has been made areregion. So it is very effective right now within the current very high and they really apply to and attract investors, andmarkets. Actually, our sales have improved thanks to the not just the usual suspects.current economy. Has the current crisis increased interest in Latin America?In terms of banking, will the IFCA participate in exchange ofinformation Acts, double taxation, etc? I think Latin America has fared very well throughout this and has actually done better than most of the world. I thinkIf you look at our law that’s all contained within it. It’s very that puts the Latin American region in an advantageoustough, very tight and very strict on it. What this law does, position and this financial center is going to help consoli-in these financial zones – it creates a Chinese wall around date the regulatory basis, the legal basis and the financialthese financial zones, as none of the local banking laws basis in order for the region to take off stronger now whenapply within it. Instead a brand new regulator is created the whole economy takes off over the next several years.specifically for this financial zone. Some of the candidates So I think it is fair to say ‘yes’ that the economy has at-that are being considered for the oversight board for this tracted, in relative terms, more investors to Latin Americanregulator have been Chairman of the SEC, Chairman of the regions because it has fared better. In fact, the DominicanExecutive Committee of Price Waterhouse Coopers, etc. Republic has done very well throughout it, and its tourismIts that level of expertise on a regulatory basis that is going has exceeded the tourism sectors of other regions withinto be brought to this new regulator and will then regulate the Latin American region.this zone and all the banks that are in it. So on a cleanslate we’ll be able to set a completely new standard for the The Latin American region has to be able to seize this op-Latin American region, in complete compliance with the portunity, and in order to do that we have to become struc-London summit of the G20, the OECD, the Financial Action tured and we have to be disciplined about the way we doTask Force and so on. business. Several countries in the region have done this; some have become investment grade over the past years.How do the IFCA laws act towards hedge funds? I think the trend will be for some of the other countries in the region to go in that same direction.It contemplates the issuing of regulations by the regulatorfor that sector also. What this law does – it is a framework Will there be an opportunity in the financial center for par-law, and it very specifically lists the minimal amount of ticipation on a national level?regulations the regulators must actually issue. When theseexperts come in they will actually write what the regulations No, absolutely not. Actually the law is very tough on this –will be, which have to be, naturally, aligned with this law, it’s very tight. It actually enacts it as a crime, punishable byand then they will be published. Hedge funds are contem- imprisonment if a bank or banker does that.plated in those.Has there been interest from non-traditional Latin Americanplayers, i.e. the Middle East or Asia?I think it’s a fair statement to answer that in a positive way.23
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  25. 25. DEPOSIT SECURITYT here is no Federal Deposit Insurance Cor- pears to have had some effect in that it has led banks to be poration (FDIC) equivalent being employed particularly careful to assure customers their money is safe to insure deposits within the Latin American and consequently some Latin American offshore centres offshore banking industry, and though some are now putting insurance systems into place to provide territories will offer some kinds of deposit confidence in their banking services and dissuade custom-insurance, it really depends upon the country you are deal- ers from emptying their accounts. So whilst the merits ofing with. Peter Macfarlane of the Q Wealth Report says that the FDIC were questioned by many of those interviewed forwhilst an FDIC equivalent does not exist in the region there this Alternative Latin Investor supplement, Sergi Lucas Fer-are other safeguards that have proved beneficial. “A few nandez from the Banca Privada Andorra feels that nothingcountries may have an insurance scheme, but they are not beats doing your own homework on an offshore destina-really significant in terms of offshore investors as they are tion before you finally select. “I think the problems that wemore designed to protect local investors with small depos- have suffered in the last year show that the size of the bankits. Certainly investors putting their money offshore need to doesn’t matter. We have shown that the smaller banks aredo their own due diligence on the banks they are dealing more orderly that the bigger banks. There isn’t an insur-with, as it’s obviously a significant concern. On the other ance certificate like there is in Europe. In Spain for examplehand a lot of offshore banks have not taken risks whereas it’s 50,000 Euros for a current account. In Latin AmericaFDIC insurance encouraged U.S. banks to take enormous this doesn’t exist, so I recommend you look for a historicrisks knowing they basically had a guarantee from the bank that has worked well for many years, that has a strongU.S. government. The regulatory regime in many offshore balance and that doesn’t do strange things. We are a bankcentres has prohibited banks from dealing with derivatives that has a liquidity balance double or triple than a Europeanand taking huge risks.” The international financial crisis ap- or American bank. These are things to take into account.”RETIREESA lternative Latin Investor found that Euro- For example there is a lot of retired people from the U.S. pean and U.S. citizens retiring to locations going to Panama just to buy a flat or a condo there, but such as Panama did not have a significant they would be opening a local bank account and transfer- need for offshore accounts. Sergi Lucas ring their retirement funds over there. Their profile is a Fernandez commented that whilst they may little bit different; it’s not like expats who would be workingtransfer funds to their retirement locations they have little and need an international bank account. These are retireduse for the benefits of a tax haven. “Retired people use people who are planning to stay in that country so thereforelocal banks; they would not be using an offshore account. open a local bank account”.25
  26. 26. CONCLUSIONT here are many positive factors indicating that possibilities that Internet banking and new technology can offshore banking services in Latin America bring to their attractiveness to clients. Multiple currency will have sustained growth in the coming bank accounts and debit card services are two product years. At present there is great political mo- areas identified as having excellent potential for growth mentum for greater regulation of tax havens, as clients look to spread their savings in different curren-though the ability to enforce agreements worldwide looks cies and move money more easily across national borders.complicated. Pressure being placed on European offshore Latin American locations are well placed to benefit fromcentres, particularly by the U.S. Government, could see the constant increase in services and business activitiesLatin American locations benefit as customers look for that can be wholly undertaken on the Internet. Offshorealternative jurisdictions for their savings. The geographic locations enable activities such as online gambling, whichlocation and cultural similarities of Latin America to Europe can often be problematic in countries such as the Unitedand the United States make the region a natural choice for States. Locating a company in another jurisdiction can alsocustomers looking to relocate. Historically, there has been a be attractive from a legal perspective. Finally, the lack oftendency for Latin Americans to keep at least some of their an FDIC type insurance for customers is not a significantassets outside of their home country. The present instabil- factor. If anything banks in offshore locations appear to beity in some Latin American States indicates that this will more conservative than onshore banks who have enduredcontinue and possibly increase into the future. a very difficult period during the Credit Crisis. Jurisdictions such as Panama are going to great lengths to highlight theirOffshore centres within the region realize the necessity and stability and sound levels of self regulation.26
  27. 27. APPENDIXPage 2Figure 1 HNWI Population, 2005 – 2008 [by Region, In Million]Figure 2 Geographic Distribution of HNWI’s and Ultra-HNWI’s, 2008 [by Region]Page 12Figure 3 OECD Progress Report, 18th August 2009REFERENCESPage 4 Latin American Clients 5 Brazil 10 Panama Banking Structure 17 Reasons for Locating Offshore