british virgin islands claims improved regulation had helped it become a preferred choice over other offshore centres
Healthy competition between offshore jurisdictions has helped raise the bar on regulatory standards and improve the image of centres worldwide, has claimed the British Virgin Islands International Finance Centre (BVI).
Humphrey Leue, chief operations officer for the BVI, said the fact that offshore investments were coming back into vogue, was the result of flexible, lighter touch regulation that did not burden shareholders but still offered protection.
He added: "In terms of regulation we have managed to achieve a high level of standard but with a lighter touch. Competition is healthy among international centres and it was important that we develop our regulatory standards in line with this. As long as we have a level-playing field, the world is a big enough market so that everyone can have a slice of the pie and as business grows that slice will only get bigger."
Leue noted there have been challenges the BVI has had to overcome - most notably being known as a single product jurisdiction. He explained: "This is certainly not the case as the BVI has four very strong areas of focus: corporate domicile, investment business/mutual hedge funds, trusts and estate planning vehicles and reinsurance.
"The BVI's efforts to develop the jurisdiction, including our regulatory regime, have helped us become a preferred choice in some cases over other international offshore competitors.
"However, we are not going to let our guard down and rest on our laurels as we do face increasing competition."
Leue believed that with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism measures, offshore centres had become more focused on the quality of business, particularly in the new era of "exchange of information".
He said: "Particularly with the UK and the US, there has been much more discussion between governments in terms of how to model these agreements and service both countries. It is always being discussed and in some ways it is a very prudent thing to do. As long as everyone plays by the same rules there should be no problems."
Leue added that one of the greatest challenges for offshore centres was keeping abreast of legislative changes. "There are many new initiatives coming to the fore and it is difficult to anticipate what is next on the policy agenda," he said.
"The bar keeps changing but the government, private sector and regulator all work very closely together to help prepare for any change of policy.
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