Choosing the best offshore banking location these days is quite a task, largely because the internet is full of contradicting information from various online contributors. We sought to gain insight on private banking in Belize by speaking to a leading expert in the field: Luigi Wewege, SVP and Head of Private banking at Caye International Bank in Belize.
Have you dealt with many offshore jurisdictions before deciding that Belize was the best option?
“Yes indeed. When I used to spend most of my time in New Zealand, some very prominent investors used to choose Hong Kong. Our associates in Europe chose Switzerland and Cyprus at the time, whereas our associates in South Africa chose Mauritius and the Seychelles. So, in those days, people looked at the map and said: This bank is offshore and it is near to where I live geographically, so it has to be safe and easy to get to if you ever need to travel there. So before saying that Belize was the best, I have consulted with clients who banked around the world and were very familiar with the key differences between jurisdictions”.
Are you saying that offshore banking has changed today, and people have different criteria when choosing where to bank?
“Let’s consider what happened in recent years and how the world is today: The Euro came under severe strain during the EU crisis and Europeans had very little confidence that their wealth would be safe in banks complying with wealth confiscation that took place in Europe. I am referring to bank “haircuts” and capital controls that were introduced in some EU member states, simultaneously with the harshest austerity measures and quantitative easing that the region has ever seen. We all know that the Middle East is practically a warzone and that countries like Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and due to its location, Israel – and, the UAE / Dubai, face prolonged uncertainty and risk. Then came president Donald Trump – we saw some civil unrest prior and during his election, the Mexican Peso dropped like we’ve never seen, Americans showed big divisions and things are even more challenging now with international trade with China as we hear of impeachment and many uncomfortable political issues. I could also talk about Japan moving closer to Australia and China and it’s challenges with Hong Kong – but the point is this: the whole world has challenges and in many cases, the biggest challenge of all is that people don’t want all their money in local banks at home. They are starting to understand that diversification applies not only to the portfolio you keep with one bank, but in the number of banks and locations of those banks. Russian and Middle Eastern clients who kept a portion of their wealth in Belize and another portion in Cyprus, were less affected by those who kept it all in Cyprus when there were bank consolidations and deposits had to be levied”.
What is the main enabler of change with regards to Belize?
“People abandoned the idea of geographical closeness. Caye International Bank in Belize made it possible to open a bank account without visiting Belize in person. This is not to say that we don’t comply well with the international obligations to know our clients, but that we’re more pragmatic and better connected to the global banking system so that people can operate from their existing locations without the need to travel abroad so as to open their offshore bank account. If you consider the ongoing management of finances – this has also been made easier with 24/7 online access. Off course Belize itself and the banks operating here, are also good reasons that inspired change”.
For people who wonder about the safety of their capital in Belize, what would you say?
“Let’s start with liquidity. As global GDP and wealth rises in tandem, along with the perception of instability in the world – you see so much more capital going offshore. This comes even from countries facing upheaval and institutional investors. Plus, you have banks in Belize like Caye International Bank who have reserve requirements almost four times those in North America for their local banks”.
Are you seeing clients move funds from other tax haven countries to Belize?
“Yes, first, they moved money from Switzerland, years ago when it signed a string of exchange treaties – and more recently Hong Kong and the UAE is starting. This will always be an ongoing matter as certain jurisdictions face changing political landscapes”.
In a recent interview with FilmDaily you discussed banking privacy. Is that a key consideration?
Indeed yes. It goes hand in hand with asset protection. People value their privacy and that is why they love to do their offshore banking in Belize”.
Can you tell us where Belize stands on capital control?
This is another major positive for Belize: It does not apply any capital controls. Obviously, this has become a major problem in certain countries – and a reason for more people than before to bank offshore. Make no mistake: Belize complies with all relevant international legislation and compliance measures but there are no exchange controls in Belize, which means that you can take out or deposit money at any time.
More about Luigi Wewege:
Luigi Wewege is the Senior Vice President, and Head of Private Banking at Caye International Bank. Besides he’s key role at the bank he also serves as an Instructor at the FinTech School, providing online training courses on the latest technological and innovation developments within the financial services industry. Luigi is also the published author of: The Digital Banking Revolution, which is available in audio, kindle plus paperback formats throughout all major international online bookstores and is now in its third edition.