The last stop of our 2018 BVI Asia Trade Mission was Shanghai. A teeming city, dubbed the Paris of the East in the 30s, and today the unrivalled financial capital of Asia with its thousands of skyscrapers, a population of 22 million and light shows that make Manhattan look like a sleepy town!
We spent our last day and a half crisscrossing the traditional Bund and the modern Pudong; a city that epitomises the importance of globalisation and cross border trade, but for me what stood out the most was the strength of the BVI brand across the region.
From the tiniest businesses at Shop A to the developers of the sleekest racing cars in the world, across numerous venture capitalists located in the region to the most challenging real estate development projects – they all had one thing in common: their use of the BVI Business Company.
Starting in Hong Kong in week one then crossing over to Singapore before taking a six hour flight to Beijing and then on to Hangzhou, the refrain was the same. BVI structures have been their ‘go to’ facility in the past and will continue to be in the future. What’s more, having the Bank of Asia as our newest ‘product’ did not hurt either!
Chairman Carson Wen was indeed the rock star of the fortnight. He was virtually mobbed at every event with questions and comments on how this new facility would hopefully break the logjam of bank account openings and result in new incorporations for the BVI as we continue on our growth pattern.
The five roadshows we held across the region were vital for sharing information on new developments within the industry and responding to concerns from clients. Equally important were our numerous meetings with key government officials, the Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs (GAZE) and the China Union Pay amongst others.
Each meeting presented new and exciting opportunities for the region, but particularly special was our meeting with GAZE where we were invited to attend their annual association meeting bringing together 120 top entrepreneurs with connections across China – and indeed across the world.
Again, the common denominator here was the BVI business company with our vehicles being used to facilitate many of their activities.
Truly, the BVI with a population of just thirty thousand which could easily fit into two of Shanghai’s skyscrapers alone continues to punch above its weight!
We met the President of the Chinese People Association of Friendship for Foreign Countries – a talented, perceptive and charming woman. The Association supports China’s goal of lasting peace and common prosperity and, as the title implies, the organisation works on a people to people basis.
We all know that these connections are vital to opening the right doors, not only within the financial services industry, but in other areas of the economy too. For instance, this can be seen through our invitation to a huge conference for tourism in Shanghai in December thanks to our connection with Madam Yu from the Chinese People Association.
I cannot end this blog post without speaking to the future of financial services which certainly lies in FinTech.
Towards the end of our first week we travelled to Singapore which is not only the State Garden of the East, but boasts a buzzing economy driven by FinTech. This growth is largely being propelled by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) which is sponsoring yet another FinTech festival this year.
We were also introduced to a number of businesses in this space and as a Board Member of the Forge in BVI, I was especially keen on one that supports new startups.
At the National University of Singapore (NUS) we had discussions with a range of professionals including one of the directors of ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Bank), a leading bank in the region, which made the transition from a ‘legacy’ bank to one that provides modern FinTech with the help of MIT.
From this session I learnt that our own banks must make a similar transition or risk being left behind. Of course NUS’ charismatic Professor Keith Carter blew us away with the range of possibilities in the space and while I cannot preempt the Government by discussing next steps, I will simply say ‘watch this space’.
As Head of BVI Finance I am extremely grateful to Elise Donovan, Head of BVI House Asia, for the herculean effort behind putting all these arrangements in place in a relatively short space of time. Over a two week period we held five mini conferences in five different cities and at least fourteen meetings, not to speak of the many lunches and dinners hosted by our Asian friends whose hospitality is second to none worldwide.
Equally, I congratulate friend to the BVI and my own personal comrade Carson Wen on the developments with the Bank of Asia and the tremendous enthusiasm he received for its advent to the BVI. I must also thank him for the many doors he opened during our visit which helped make it the great success that it was.
After two packed weeks in Asia I have returned to the BVI somewhat exhausted – four hours of sleep each night and largely going on adrenaline alone! But I rest confident that the bond between Asia and the BVI remains immutable now and for the foreseeable future.