It has been nearly five months since Hurricane Irma made landfall on the British Virgin Islands and now, as a degree of calm has been restored, I am able to take stock. For months, I have been trying to find time to write a blog, titled 'Six people and a dog in a bathroom - Irma Survival' but there was always something that took priority. I am thankful now I have time to consider these last few months for the BVI.
Strangely enough, during the post-Irma period, the bathroom seemed to be the most essential room in the house for me. We lost our home, and six of us resorted to one room in a hotel and its bathroom became my sanctuary. It was a place where I could think and a place where I could speak to colleagues around the world without disturbing my family at 2 a.m. The bathroom was even a place where I was interviewed on multiple occasions by BBC Radio for the five o'clock morning show.
Of course, I did not spend all those early days after the hurricanes in the bathroom – there were many days spent with fellow Rotarians and with financial services colleagues identifying ways on how to keep the industry moving forward. At times it felt like riding a rollercoaster, going from the depths of despair as I looked around at the bombed out and devastated islands, to the pinnacles of hope as I thought of the many possibilities that lie ahead for us.
One source of inspiration to me through all this was a visit to Cayman Islands in November 2017 to meet with a number of financial services industry leaders. Following the pleasantries and confirmation that BVI was still on the map, so to speak, it was immediately down to business as usual. The conversation quickly turned to robust discussions on family offices, to the most effective vehicles for investment and the like. Lesson learnt? The show must go on – especially in financial services, which have become so critical to this economy.
In defiance of my friend and colleague Robert Mathavious, who always taught me: “don't pay attention to numbers”, I am paying attention to numbers! You see, despite the horrific experiences of the August flooding and September hurricanes, our incorporation numbers held steady. In fact, although there can be no room for complacency, we were able to post better figures than for the previous quarter - I credit the mental toughness of the industry and the agility of the Financial Services Commission for this success.
I must take time to pay tribute to two young professional women. Through all of this, Wilma Blyden and Binta Jallow braved the elements, forgot about their personal losses and, without missing a beat, jumped right in to do whatever was needed to keep our industry going. While unalike in temperament, both women are dedicated, tenacious and wedded to their work. BVI Finance would not have held it together without them - I am forever grateful to them, and so is our industry.
As we begin 2018 there will be challenges, no doubt some missteps and a degree of trepidation. But let us move forward with confidence that the BVI as a jurisdiction is second to none in terms of our creativity, our courage and our depth of talent. This powerful combination will see us through the future. Never doubt that!