Offshore Banking in Belize
The Safe Choice
March 28, 2014
Nestled in the northeast corner of Central America and facing its magnificent barrier reef, Belize offers undeniable advantages for offshore banking.
Belize has long been an attractive offshore banking destination for U.S. and Canadian customers lured in by a robust British common law system and no-tax, no-currency-control offering, but the country is experiencing a surge in interest from the traditional non-US investors.
Filippo Alario, Executive Director of Belize Bank International (BBIL), explains that the expansion of Latin American corporations has translated into more Latin business for the Bank over the last couple of years. “Naturally, Mexico is a two hour’s drive north, so we are seeing increased interest from that market. To the south, we are strengthening relationships with our Panamanian counterparts, which in turn service the ever-growing wealth-producing South American Continent.”
In terms of sectors, the biggest growth in companies banking in Belize has been in E-commerce – a 15-20% yearly increase at BBIL over the past three years.
Mr. Alario believes that with the impending advent of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA), US related business would be affected, and force Offshore Banks to adapt to a new regulatory paradigm.
“We believe that the increase in non-US business will outweigh any shrinkage in US clients” he says. “The offshore business in the Caribbean is going through significant changes, so unless an offshore bank is nimble and has the ability to adapt and comply, I think some institutions will have a difficult time surviving. The ones that can adapt to the new rules and regulations and capitalize on new markets and opportunities are the ones that will succeed.”
Adapting to an onslaught of new rules is not easy; but for the larger, well-established banks like Belize Bank International, compliance is key. “The smaller the bank, the more difficult it is, because the costs involved in establishing a compliance architecture are probably the same. [At Belize Bank International] we already have a strong risk and compliance culture and will abide by all regulations. In fact, that is the bedrock of banking and one of our key appeals.”
Stability, privacy and a strict regulatory environment are definitely selling points for Belize, as the country operates under British common law and its BZ$2 to US$1 exchange rate hasn’t changed in 37 years. Moreover, the offshore banking system is protected from the ups and downs of the national economy, which makes it even safer for international businesses.
“The country as a whole recently went through a restructuring of its debt, but the international financial sector was largely unaffected which highlights a marked separation from the domestic economy. In fact, the whole International Financial sector in Belize is extremely liquid,” adds Mr. Alario.
With its convenient location in mainland Central America, Belize enjoys a Caribbean feel and legacy, a largely bilingual population, and the added security of British common law traditions, making it an increasingly attractive destination for companies looking to set up international accounts in the Americas.
About Belize Bank International
Started as a financial holding group (British Caribbean Holdings Ltd), the Bank has had roots in Belize for over 100 years, and as the country’s oldest financial institution, it benefits from a reputation of safety and continuity. Belize Bank International does business with clients in over 70 countries and employs 40 people in its international department. British Caribbean Holdings Ltd includes Belize Bank International, the domestic Belize Bank, and Belize Corporate Services (BCS), which does business with over 10,000 companies including trusts and corporations. The international bank offers loans and financing, as well as card services, online merchant accounts and through BCS, it offers clients, the convenience of a one stop solution providing international banking and financial services such as the formation of International Business Companies, Trusts, Foundations, LLCs.
Mr. Alario explains that the Bank’s success and appeal are in part attributed to its risk-averse policies and procedures that make it a safe choice. Security is an important element that influences the way we manage our operations, and we are constantly looking at evolving systems of technologies to stay competitive and ensuring the privacy and protection of our clients’ data.
“In international banking, a bank’s reputation is particularly fragile. We are highly cognizant of this and cannot afford for our name to be misrepresented or associated with anything negative. So for us it’s all about profitable, risk-weighted growth.”