Building on the strength of its financial services and legal framework, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has established itself over the years as a leading International Financial Centre (IFC) in the Caribbean with a vast network and variety of registered companies from across the globe. It possesses therefore a unique opportunity to become the beacon of Digital Economy characterized by business innovation and driven by financial technology (FinTech). Mr. Michael Leung, CEO of BOA Financial Group which provides middle and back-office support to the BVI-headquartered Bank of Asia, recently shared his views on the key drivers to succeed in digital economy, and how the Bank can play a pivotal role in this development.
Bank of Asia’s Unique Position in the BVI Financial Services Industry
Mr. Leung believed that the BVI is poised to expand its financial services 'ecosystem' through modern banking services enabled by FinTech. As an active member of this ecosystem, Bank of Asia is uniquely positioned to take advantage of its extensive industry acumen and rich FinTech expertise, in coming up with visionary strategies and innovative business models, and in offering to its domestic and international clientele a comprehensive range of products and services. These include comprehensive banking services, insurance and investment, global eCommerce and cross-border Payments, asset and fund management, digital assets and STOs, corporate advisory and structuring, among others.
Since its inauguration and despite the severe impact of the pandemic in the past year, Bank of Asia has by now onboarded hundreds of customers from over three dozen of countries, and is servicing their transactional banking, asset and funds management needs in a cost-effective and user-friendly manner, thanks to the adoptions of FinTech and automated processes.
More recently, the Bank has begun to offer its premium clients lifestyle and other value-added services, investments in alternative assets such as international real estate, fine wine and whiskey, as well as offshore insurance and private equity, overseas education and immigration, business visit and vocation planning, health and wellness programmes, and other types of personalised services.
Key Factors for the BVI to Become a Beacon of the Digital Economy
Mr. Leung pointed out that of particular importance for the BVI to succeed in the digital economy, are the availability of data and the supply of talent.
Home to over 400,000 business entities covering a wide spectrum of categories and demographies, the BVI possesses a vast amount of data resource in its Commercial Registry, Registry of Corporate Affairs and related data repositories. This is potentially one of the most valuable assets of the BVI, as such data can be analysed and utilised to derive insights, formulate strategies and support decisions for the benefits of the jurisdiction and its corporate community alike.
The supply of talent with techno-functional skillsets, on the other hand, is the most critical dependence and, on the upside, an ultimate reward of the BVI’s digital economy ambition. The BVI has already a wealth of expertise in professional and legal services, and it is high time to build up its FinTech talent pool. The jurisdiction has some of the best the world has to offer in this regard – a friendly community and a tranquil environment that are conducive to fostering creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, while achieving a wonderful work-life balance in its wake.
The Authority’s Role in Fostering an Ecosystem of Innovation
Mr. Leung also emphasized that government authorities and regulators can play an essential role in providing an innovation-friendly environment for new businesses.
Going over to Asia for reference cases, the Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore and the InvestHK, for example, actively introduce foreign investments to and facilitate business developments in their home cities. The Cyberport in Hong Kong, a government-funded FinTech hub, has incubated a large number of small businesses and startup companies over the years, through its seed-funding and talent-nurturing schemes. The Cyberport has established a vibrant FinTech ecosystem comprised of both local as well as international academia, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and a large pool of professional talents in finance and technology. Two of the eight virtual banks and two virtual insurance firms, for instance, were spurred by its incubation programme. Similar successes have also been witnessed by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP), where the BOA Financial Group itself is a preeminent member of a multi-disciplinary ecosystem on its campuses.
Lastly, Mr. Leung added that looking ahead, Bank of Asia is committed to delivering its “Changing the Way People Bank” promise and aspires to become the “Bank of Choice” for companies incorporated in the BVI and other jurisdictions. It will continue to invest heavily in people, processes and technologies, and in growing its ecosystem of customers, collaborators and partners in the years ahead.