Anguilla legislates for growth

Shrewd legislation has made Anguilla much more attractive to financial services professionals, writes Richard Carpenter. Since the enactment of a comprehensive package of financial services legislation in 1995, Anguilla has experienced steady growth. Government revenue from the sector has increased by more than 250 per cent since 1994 and the number of companies incorporated continues to grow.

The government and the private sector appreciate, however, that the island's success requires more than increased revenue and company numbers. As a still relatively new jurisdiction, there is room for significant expansion in the professional infrastructure. As a result of the government's deliberate policy of attracting professionals to Anguilla, the island has, over the last few years, seen the ranks of its professional service providers grow and announcements that other established financial services operators will be opening for business in Anguilla are expected later this year.

The government is confident that factors such as availability of multi-year work permits, the country's status as a secure and well-regulated British Dependent Territory, a tax-free environment onshore as well as offshore and the introduction next year of an online companies registry will ensure that this process continues.

At the time of writing, a heavy legislative agenda is planned for late 1997 and early 1998. Over the period since the coming into force of entirely new legislation covering International Business Companies (IBCs), companies, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, partnerships and trusts, professionals in Anguilla and overseas have had the opportunity to work with the legislation and consider how it can be improved. Following a period of consultation with the private sector in Anguilla, Bills for the amendment of the corporate legislation are expected to be tabled in December and Bills for the amendment of the remaining pieces of legislation are expected in the New Year. Amendments to the IBC legislation will almost certainly include provisions for the registration of charges and mortgages.

In common with other reputable jurisdictions, the Anguilla legislature is expected to have enacted Proceeds of Criminal Conduct legislation, similar to that in force in the Cayman Islands, by the year end.

Also expected early next year is an External Insurance Ordinance which, it is anticipated, will make Anguilla attractive as a location for captives and for companies providing other offshore insurance products. Central to the legislation will be a licensing regime for insurance managers. It is accepted that it will be necessary for the government to attract a number of good quality insurance managers to the island if the legislation is to be successful. As a member territory of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Anguilla is participating in the bank's project to harmonise the jurisdiction's domestic insurance law. Harmonised law will assist in eliminating differences in regulatory standards, and thus regulatory arbitrage, and will also simplify the process for insurers wishing to write business in the region. A model Insurance Act is also expected to be approved next year.

Earlier this year, following a long period of planning, the Anguilla government appointed computer company Fujitsu-ICL to develop a fully Internet-based companies registry.

The development is in its final stages and it is expected that the system will be completed and fully tested by the end of the first quarter of 1998. The system will permit approved overseas agents of the locally licensed company managers to register IBCs, companies and limited liability companies to file documents and to carry out most registry functions electronically over the Internet on a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year basis. As the system will be based on the Internet, the overseas agents will be able to access it from anywhere in the world. The Anguilla government has worked closely with the supplier to ensure that security, reliability and regulatory issues have all been fully addressed.

The system, which will be able to handle foreign character company names, is set to revolutionise the way in which companies are incorporated and is expected to provide a further attraction for company managers to locate in Anguilla.

This year also saw the first of the government's international financial services conferences to be held overseas. One-day seminars held in London and Geneva were aimed at professionals within the industry and enabled government and the private sector to explain the advantages of establishing in Anguilla and using the jurisdiction for their clients' financial services needs. Further seminars are planned for Canada next year. In addition, it is expected that at least one major conference will be held in Anguilla.

Following a period of steady growth, both the government and the private sector are looking forward to what promises to be an exciting year ahead.