Business and Relocation in Bermuda
Bermuda is a leading international business centre wrapped in a cloak of pink sandy beaches, British civility and semitropical climate.
Courtesy of Government of Bermuda, Department of Communication and Information
It’s easy to be deceived by this picturesque, postcard-perfect island. But it’s far more than just another pretty face. With all of its natural beauty, it would be easy to assume that Bermudians make their living exclusively from tourism. But in the first half of the 20th century, Bermuda pioneered the concept of the offshore financial centre; and what now has become its core business is truly state-of-the-art.
Bermuda Means Business
Business principals know the island as one of the world’s leading corporate insurance and reinsurance markets — mobile, global capital covering large risks and supporting key business enterprises in the global economy. So when the earth shakes or the wind blows — earthquakes, hurricanes or industrial accidents — Bermuda is a key jurisdiction
of the companies to pay the claims.
These companies provide insurance to the Fortune 1000, to global brands, the biggest box stores, utilities, energy companies and a host of other types of businesses. Bermuda companies also provide reinsurance for many of the world’s leading insurance companies.
The island is also home to a range of trust companies, mutual funds and the companies that administer them. It is home to shipping companies and other multinational businesses. Today, nearly every Fortune 500 company has a link to the island.
Businesses are in Bermuda for a number of reasons. When Bacardí established its international headquarters on the island in the 1960s, it sought political stability, which had deteriorated in Cuba. Twenty years later, many Hong Kong companies established domiciles in Bermuda, in anticipation of Britain handing back its colony to China. International companies and trusts are attracted to Bermuda’s legal system, which is based on English Common Law with final appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. Its law firms, Big Four accounting firms, IT businesses and other service providers help ensure that businesses in Bermuda are in tune with global standards.
Bermuda’s long-standing tradition as a tax-neutral jurisdiction is attractive to many global companies, whilst its location between New York and London makes it the perfect base for traders buying and selling European and North American financial instruments.
Bermuda is “the world’s risk capital.” It is a concentration of facilities designed to finance risk, offering high-quality risk-management solutions to the world’s leading companies. With a robust infrastructure and highly regarded regulatory environment, Bermuda is recognised internationally as a one-stop-shop jurisdiction with extensive expertise and experience from leading risk-management professionals.
But this insurance market didn’t happen overnight. It was a series of events in which the island created solutions to regional or global risk-management dilemmas. On each occasion, it was a shortfall in market-provided insurance or reinsurance, which Bermuda markets would fill. It began with captive insurance in the 1960s, which was refined even further in the 1970s.
Today, there are captive insurance domiciles in about 100 jurisdictions — including some 30 U.S. states. Bermuda remains the largest domicile by the number of captives, the amount of premium or business, and the amount of captive insurance professional expertise and experience. It simply has the largest market.
Bermuda is also a dominant provider in the Insurance Linked Securities (ILS) market, and the Bermuda Stock Exchange is the leading exchange for listing the securities. Bermuda-based businesses provide an estimated 600,000 jobs in the world economy, according to a recent study, and direct investment into the U.S. in 2012 of $55 billion.
More Than Insurance
Although an insurance powerhouse, Bermuda is home to other forms of financial and international services, including asset management, Islamic finance, and life sciences, together with aviation and shipping registries.
Many of the world’s ships and aircraft are registered in Bermuda, as owners are attracted by the island’s efficiency and high safety standards. Some leading shipping companies are also domiciled in Bermuda.
Mutual funds and hedge funds have been managed and administered in Bermuda for decades. These range from money market funds operated conservatively by banks to private hedge funds in the alternative investment sector operated by leading investment managers specialising in reinsurance risk.
At the start of 2016, the European Commission officially recognised Bermuda’s prudential framework for (re)insurance and group supervision as being fully equivalent to regulatory standards applied to European reinsurance companies and insurance groups, in accordance with the requirements of the Solvency II Directive.
Under Solvency II, outside firms operating in EU countries must be supervised by an “equivalent” domestic regulator to receive equitable treatment. There has long been little doubt as to the calibre of commercial (re)insurers operating from Bermuda or the quality of their regulatory environment. But acknowledgement has its privileges.
Meanwhile in the U.S., Bermuda has been approved as a “qualified jurisdiction” by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Executive. The NAIC is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organisation created and governed by the country’s chief insurance regulators from the 50 U.S. states, District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
Low Taxes, Not No Taxes
Bermuda has a consumption-based tax system, which has been in place since the 1800s. Customs duties, stamp duties, payroll tax, passenger taxes and land tax, together with annual fees for international companies, generated three-quarters of the government’s collected revenue. The scale of taxes is broadly in line with those prevailing in the countries with which it conducts the bulk of its foreign trade. The estimated ratio of total government receipts was about 17 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2011/2012. By contrast, for the federal government of the United States, the same ratio was approximately 20 percent of GDP in 2012.
About one-fifth of Bermuda’s workforce is imported, since the economy creates more jobs than there are working locals to fill them. Work permits are issued to guest workers for various terms, allowing them and their families the opportunity to live in Bermuda. New incentives have also been introduced to encourage more non-Bermudians to form companies in Bermuda and to bring their key decision makers to live and work on the island. Job creators already working on the island can also earn the right to own property, depending on how many people they employ and how long they have been living in Bermuda. There is also consideration for giving a range of rights to high-net-worth people who make their homes in Bermuda.
Banking in Bermuda
Visitors and residents are able to open accounts with all banks, provided they complete the standard documentation. There are four licenced banks on the island:
• HSBC Bank Bermuda Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the international HSBC Bank. (6 Front St., 295-4000, hsbc.bm )
• The Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Limited
is the oldest banking institution. (65 Front St., 295-1111, www.bm.butterfieldgroup.com )
• Clarien Bank Limited is the youngest.
(21–25 Reid St., 296-6969, clarienbank.com )
• Bermuda Commercial Bank Limited is the fourth bank. (19 Par-la-Ville Rd., 295-5678, bcb.bm )
Visitors can buy SIM cards and pre-paid telephone minutes or rent mobile phones. Many overseas GSM phones work here. Check with your service provider.
Hamilton is a very modern business venue. Wi-Fi hot spots are abundant within the city and are also available at many cafés, restaurants and other areas across the island, especially popular areas such as St. George’s and Royal Naval Dockyard.
The government is also moving forwards with telecommunications reform to ensure a competitive marketplace. To that end, a Regulatory Authority is overseeing the implementation of the Electronic Communications Act 2011 (ECA) and single licences to suppliers who can offer a range of telecommunications services under one company and from a single or multiple platforms. The reforms that are under way are designed to bring bundled services at competitive prices to Bermuda, as well as spur new investment and job creation.
Open for Business
The Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA), a public and private partnership, is the driving force behind a targeted and proactive outreach to businesses. In collaboration with the Government of Bermuda, the BMA and the business community, the BDA is focused on expediting legislative reform and enhancing Bermuda’s value proposition, which is aimed at attracting new companies to the jurisdiction and supporting global enterprises already based here. When it comes to business, Bermuda really is so much more.