Look out London - Bermuda is trying to lure fintech startups with a new tech hub

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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Bermuda's Premier is also the chair of the UK Overseas Territories Association (Source: Getty)

On the sunny shores of Bermuda, a new tech industry is just waiting to come to life.

David Burt, the leader of Bermuda’s Progressive Labour Party, was sworn in as Premier of the island nation - Britain’s oldest overseas territory - over the summer.

Burt is the youngest ever Bermudian Premier, and with the experience of having started up his own IT consulting company, the new leader is hoping to spark life in the islands’ robust insurance sector by luring in fresh fintech and insuretech startups.

Read more: Another stock exchange tie-up? Bermuda and Channel Islands explore options

Bermuda is an international business and offshore financial centre with no corporate income tax, and it describes itself as a world capital for insurance and reinsurance.

Burt’s Progressive Labour Party ran on a platform including a commitment to develop a technology hub on Bermuda’s shores. He hopes this will reel in tech startups that “require little more than a computer and an internet connection to use our regulatory environment while developing their new products and services in Bermuda”.

Burt’s new government plans to funnel investment domestically, particularly into education, to boost locals’ skills so they can fill the jobs of the future.

“We have to compete in the new global economy,” Burt told City A.M. “We want to expand industries like insurance to be on the leading edge of new products.”

Bermuda’s status as an offshore financial centre comes with a reputation for tax avoidance, but Burt defended the territory’s stance on tax and transparency.

“We certainly feel we’ve been unfairly targeted in these ongoing campaigns. Our best response is to demonstrate that we’re a leader in international compliance.”

In August, the Global Forum, a leading international body enforcing the internationally agreed standards of transparency and tax information exchange, rated Bermuda’s tax practices as “largely compliant” with international standards. It also adheres to the Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting Inclusive Framework, which refers to tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations where there is little or no economic activity.

“We can’t control what others say, but we can put across facts of Bermuda’s importance to the global economy and leadership on issues of tax compliance to make sure there is transparency in these issues.”

Burt is also chair of the UK Overseas Territories Association and, in the wake of “catastrophic” destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, he wants to ensure the UK government meets its obligations not only with immediate assistance, but also to “examine and develop the long-term economic self-sustainability of the overseas territories”.

While Bermuda escaped the worst of the damage, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Turks and Caicos Islands were badly hit.

Burt said the immediate assistance in the aftermath of the storm was recognised as “inadequate”, but he added: “Once the British government came to grips with the catastrophic scale [of destruction], they were able to marshal resources and assist in the short-term.”

“We want to ensure that the partnership with the UK government continues.”

Read more: PMQs: Theresa May defends the UK's response on Hurricane Irma

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