In view of the fact that global wealth is growing and that more people besides just high net worth individuals are looking offshore for their banking needs, we managed to have an interview with Luigi Wewege. He is the SVP and Head of Private Banking at Caye International Bank in Belize.
Offshore accounts are on the rise, as is the funds kept in these accounts. How do you explain this, despite regulatory scrutiny by Europe and some OECD members?
“It is only normal that if global wealth grows at around $14 trillion per annum, that a portion of that will be kept offshore. But people don’t forget, and they saw what happened when European countries gave “haircuts” to bank account holders and applied capital controls during financial crises. They understand that the same decision-makers who supported capital controls conduct regulatory scrutiny. People want to hedge themselves against future repeats of what we’ve seen in recent years – and obviously against other threats such as the trends of costly litigation and divorce culture that can chip away at their wealth. Others simply want to hedge themselves and be prepared for a rainy day. It is quite normal for someone with liquidity of let’s say $2 million to keep $500K offshore. Why not?”.
Is there anything specific that has changed in recent years, with regards to offshore accounts?
Yes. Previously, in the days of “Swiss numbered accounts”, offshore accounts were largely used by the ultra-wealthy. We all know the story: Switzerland eventually rolled over, there was capital outflows to Belize, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Mauritius and just about every favorable offshore jurisdiction. Today, we have people from all walks of life, not just the ultra-wealthy, who keep a portion of their money offshore and rightly so.
What makes Belize a preferred choice for offshore banking and wealth management?
“We at Caye International Bank explain it as follows: Privacy, Stability, Trust and Ease. First, in terms of privacy, it is a zero-tax jurisdiction where you can enjoy strict privacy. As regards to stability, it is well known that Belize is politically stable with a currency that is pegged to the US Dollar, and with our bank exceeding the liquidity ratio requirements of those banks in North America by far. In terms of trust: Belize has a good name around the world and our bank has financial service professionals with strong links to Europe, the United States and globally – with relationships that have existed for decades. I suppose that in terms of ease, the fact that you can open a bank account without travelling to Belize and have 24/7 online access to it is something not many countries can offer”.
Where does Belize stand in terms of the OECD and harmful tax jurisdictions?
“As you may know, Belize is the 86th jurisdiction to have signed the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS, effectively joining the convention. The fact that Belize offers expats a zero percent tax rate is an internal matter – and it is only normal that the country competes with other countries to attract foreign investors”.
What is the attitude and profile of the typical foreign customer who banks in Belize?
Well first off, we enjoy strict banking privacy in Belize, so as you can imagine, that limits my commentary. What I can say, is that our customers are from all over the world – their attitude is simply that yes, they comply with laws in their own countries, yet in a way that limits their tax liability – some even use Belize as their domicile to benefit from zero tax. Their attitude is also that they wish to act smarter in order to preserve their wealth against various unpredictable elements in the world – and will go the extra mile to do this diligently. Most people who find us, are well-versed in personal finance, they do this through research or having received sound advice – which leads them to Belize.
Belize is touted as one of the best options for asset protection. Why?
“Good question. In Belize, our asset protection laws enable the bank to hold assets under certain structures. These include IBCs and trusts, which are protected from things like lawsuits, judgments and divorce settlements. You’ll be surprised to know just how many people use Belize for asset protection – although there are many other reasons for banking here”.
Some countries easily accept deposits but limits the outflow of capital. What is the case with Belize?
“In Belize we have no exchange controls so bank customers can withdraw or deposit money at any time, in the strictest confidentiality”.
To what extent is Belize a better choice than Hong Kong, Cyprus, Malta, Dubai, Bahamas and Switzerland?
“Besides the fact that we offer zero tax, there are various points of parity and points of difference with other regimes. Obviously, westerners fear Hong Kong because if you have a trade war, eventually the Chinese may retaliate against western interests: people should look at what happened when Russian interests got affected in Cyprus and learn from it. I mean the fact that Malta, Cyprus and Switzerland have to conform with EU regulations and corporations at large are subjected to VAT are enough to turn clients with a business structure away from these jurisdictions. As for Dubai and the Middle East – it sits right near the Persian Gulf at a time of rising tensions. All this explains why right now an increasing number of people turn to Belize for their offshore banking needs and to open new accounts.
So I want to open an account with Caye International Bank in Belize, what exactly does it offer and how does it work?
“First off, we comply with various regulations that require us to know our client and we have a compliance department that will review all applications swiftly for due diligence. No in-person visit is required at Caye, and our website clearly explains what documentation is required for opening a new offshore bank account. The bank offers a variety of accounts, known as demand deposits, savings accounts and term deposits. Some are multi-currency; others are in USD – depending on the client needs. The bank offers various other financial services such as our gold loan program, mortgages/financing, a card program and international wire transfers. Then of course we have tailored financial solutions that we as private bankers offer on a case-by-case basis”.
More about Luigi Wewege:
He is the SVP at Caye International Bank in Belize – and the author of “The Digital Banking Revolution”. To follow his financial commentary, see “the Caye International Bank website’s insights page” or find Luigi Wewege on LinkedIn.