At the International Bar Association 19th Annual International Wealth Transfer Practice Conference in London last week, Mrs Hélène Anne Lewis appeared on a panel charged with discussing The Past Present and Future relationship of onshore and offshore jurisdictions”.

Mrs Lewis Managing Partner of BVI law firm SimonetteLewis and currently the Worldwide Chair of STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) told an audience of more than 100 delegates from around the world that the BVI has long been a well regulated jurisdiction and that with its raft of legislation and its deep pool of highly qualified professionals, it is well placed to face the current challenging demands of the G8, G20 OECD FATF and EU for greater transparency and more efficient management of information for the purpose of identifying clients and beneficial owners of the companies and structures established in the BVI.

The panel was co-chaired by Texas lawyer Mark Osborne and Richard Hay of London law firm Stikeman Elliot – a long-time adviser to international finance centres such as the BVI. The panel’s deliberations also considered the impact of current legislation in such onshore jurisdictions as Italy, Mexico and India, on relationships with offshore jurisdictions and concluded that while relationships were certainly being challenged by international and local developments, the value of international financial centres such as the BVI to the global economy could not be overstated. Mrs Lewis called for a more collaborative response to international developments by the Caribbean IFCs and urged greater dialogue between STEP and the IBA which she said should exploit the synergies between their organisations for the benefit of members engaged in Wealth Management Practice and Estate Planning.

For his part Mr Hay noted that IFCs were not making the most of the argument that they were an important and vital cog in the wheel of the global economy. The Panel also heard submissions form a former Minister of Finance of Liechtenstein Dr Ernst Walch who noted that with prudent management and skilful handling of a reputational crisis, his country had rebounded strongly and still considered that it was holding its own as a successful onshore/offshore centre. Steve Meiklejohn of Jersey (and BVI) law firm Ogier, was also a member of the panel and pointed out that all IFCs that have been under attack have been at pains to introduce strong legislative measures to meet the new global standards and have also introduced new products in order to underpin and diversify their offerings.

Mrs Lewis pointed out the BVI was mindful that new markets remained to be explored and had positioned itself to take on that challenge by the recent establishment of BVI House Asia which is intended to facilitate not only BVI services in Asia but also to be the fulcrum for new business relationships in that region for the jurisdiction. The two day conference was held at Claridge’s Hotel in Central London on March 3rd and 4th.