Apr 2021 Interview with Roland Andy Burrows, CEO, Bermuda Business Development Agency, Bermuda
Prisma Reports (PR): In 2020, the BDA helped 20 companies to set up in Bermuda. What were some of the challenges of doing this in the middle of a global pandemic?
Andy Burrows (AB): Last year Bermuda saw a total of 733 new international companies and partnerships register, representing a 7,5% increase over 2019 which is significant considering the impact of COVID-19. This steadiness demonstrated that we were still operating at a high level. We prioritised communication and engagement with clients and markets, providing assistance and guidance. Perhaps most significant was that, throughout the pandemic, Bermuda remained open for business. The government and the international business sector all responded quickly and robustly to the challenges that were presented and had the necessary infrastructure and IT solutions available to support this. The Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) and the Bermuda Register of Companies remained fully functional to support business continuity and help people remain in the loop with minimal disruption.
(PR): How important are outreach programs such as the Bermuda Central campaign to underline Bermuda’s competitiveness in the global arena?
(AB): The BDA has been strategically focused on driving digital initiatives to connect, engage, and inform our clients locally and internationally, as well as making sure that we stay connected to markets worldwide. For example, we partnered with many organizations such as RIMS, the Risk Management Society, to host webinars and a series of other virtual events. This has given us the ability to reach more countries and connect with more people, wherever they may work from. We put on a virtual Bermuda Tech Summit last year and saw over 700 registrants in 36 countries. We have been able to reach a total audience of more than 2 million people across our social channels and have increased international visits to our website by 22%. Consequently, we have been able to adapt to get our message out and be relevant to the international market.
Bermuda Central complements all of our efforts and guarantees that Bermuda remains front-of-mind for global decision makers, so that they understand we are still available to connect with. It allows us to put the spotlight on many aspects of Bermuda under a simple unifying theme, and it can be expanded anytime across all other areas where the jurisdiction is a major global player. The big benefit for us is that it showcases and highlights our strengths as a top jurisdiction in a creative and targeted way. It has proven to be a success.
(PR): What are the main developing areas of Fintech in Bermuda and what role is the BDA playing within those?
(AB): Bermuda and the BDA remain fully committed to being at the forefront of global commercial trends, particularly in the financial services industry. We have helped both established organizations and start-ups take advantage of the many opportunities that innovation presents here in Bermuda. The Premier and the government have a strong drive to diversify the economy, which is backed up by a world-class and historic track-record of innovation in the reinsurance industry. Bermuda is now clearly and rapidly emerging as a global Fintech leader in the digital assets world. The island has pioneered a robust regulatory and legislative framework governing digital asset businesses, and that is incredibly attractive to companies looking for a quality environment and ecosystem. However, that is not the only sort of technology space that we are looking at.
We are also working with the BMA on some initiatives in the tech space. They have a regulatory sandbox and an innovation hub that allows tech developers to come to Bermuda to test and evolve new methods and technologies before they venture into the marketplace.
Bermuda is also looking at integrating sustainability into its regulatory framework. The country is committed to playing its part in accelerating action to address climate change, both on the island and in our international markets. An energy sandbox will support innovative technology in the sector and contribute to planned risk management, an area where Bermuda plays a leadership role in the global reinsurance sector. Bermuda has a history of being involved in climate and is now building on this to be at the forefront of new initiatives in the climate space. For example, Bermuda implemented its first conservation measure to preserve marine resources in 1620 with the protection of marine turtles. Our background allows us to be one of the leading jurisdictions to come to the table in today’s climate discussion.
(PR): In March of 2021, the Economic Investment Certificate and Residential Certificate policy came into effect. What can you tell us about these initiatives?
(AB): In August 2020, to assist the millions of people transitioning to a remote work environment, we launched the Work from Bermuda one-year residential certificate with the Government and the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA). It was remarkably timely, given the opportunity for us to take advantage of our optimal results in handling COVID-19.
It is the perfect initiative in these times because it allows non-residents to come to work, study and live remotely from Bermuda for a year. There are already individuals who have the certificate that are thinking about moving on to setting up companies or branches of their companies in Bermuda. This is a result of people who have come here and have seen how great this place is. The agile COVID-19 experience along with the pleasant and safe lifestyle in Bermuda has allowed some of them to think about staying for a longer period. There have been nearly 700 applications, some 600 have been approved, and approximately 250 are with us already.
Through its designated concierge service, the BDA provides businesses and individuals with a single point of contact to streamline the process of setting up in Bermuda. Through Work from Bermuda, we have supported over 150 direct inquiries, all from C-suite executives, business owners, and remote working professionals.
The BDA worked with the immigration department to launch the new Economic Investment Certificate on the 1st of March. It requires recipients to invest a minimum of $2.5 million in certain Bermuda industry sectors, charities and/or government programs, and in return they receive residency rights for 5 years. After 5 years, certificate holders can apply for the residential certificate. The policy has been designed not only to attract new investors to the island but also to provide a simple option for those who are here and have already made significant contributions. Despite it being a brand-new initiative, there has already been a positive response, and we expect to exceed the government’s forecast for 100 EIC holders in the next 10 years.
(PR): Recent figures put Bermuda’s two-way trade with the US at $34bn. Do you expect this will increase, post-pandemic? Which areas of the Bermudan economy would reward increased investment?
(AB): Bermuda has been intertwined with the United States’ economy for centuries, and we consider ourselves to be a natural partner across a range of verticals. Bermuda is critical to the US, particularly in the insurance, reinsurance, and catastrophe space. It tends to be overlooked that more than 8000 Americans live and work in Bermuda and, before COVID-19 hit, we had approximately 650,000 people visit us from the US every year. Bermuda supports over 315,000 jobs in the US, particularly through the insurance and reinsurance industries, while the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers employ over 43,500 people alone. The BMA and the Government have extraordinarily solid relationships with their partners in the US. Those relationships continue to inform each other of the importance of that alliance and how it continues to flourish. A key opportunity for us is our role as a significant stakeholder in the climate risk finance space. As natural catastrophes occur with greater frequency and severity, our relationship with the US, the strength of the insurance sector in Bermuda, and our ability to mobilize quickly to support some of these unfortunate events will present new opportunities. In the meantime, we continue to support consumers, businesses, and public entities with more than $200 billion in insurance claims paid out in the US over the last two decades.
(PR): What are BDA’s strategic priorities for the medium term?
(AB): Well, believe it or not, there is genuine cause to be excited. We have a strong optimistic outlook on Bermuda’s international business prospects in 2021 and beyond. At the BDA we stay focused on our key aim which is to stimulate economic growth in a post-pandemic world in a way that is sustainable and that is going to keep evolving. As we progress, we want to continue to strengthen and promote Bermuda as a top-tier International Financial Centre. We want to help create new viable industries working with local partners on the island and with our partners internationally to continue assisting new companies to make Bermuda their jurisdiction of choice. Everything we do in terms of marketing, communication, and our world-wide engagement is meant to highlight that Bermuda is here to help. We want to help in terms of sustainability and expansion, and we want global companies to think of Bermuda when they are considering where is best for their business. There is a great story to tell here. It is one of a demonstrated commitment to being supportive, innovative, and nimble. We have a fantastic regulatory platform, and we have a core base of insurance, risk, and financial expertise on the island that can facilitate people, companies and start-ups establishing themselves in Bermuda with ease.
(PR): Is there anything else you would like to add?
(AB): I would wholeheartedly encourage your readers to come to Bermuda – whether they are looking at it for business, a new way of life or both. We are safe and open. Bermuda has one of the best COVID-19 management records anywhere, ranking in the world’s top 10 for testing and vaccinations per capita. We are ready to welcome you! You can find out more by visiting www.bda.bm