Column: Working To Build A Digital Economy

October 13, 2019 | 3 Comments

Chris Garrod Bermuda October 2019[Opinion column written by Chris Garrod]

How easy is it to build a digital economy?

Bermuda has worked to be a major player in a Fintech revolution. Is it?

Fintech and Bermuda. I’m sure you have all read many articles over the last few years and seen much press regarding the rise of Fintech vehicles forming on the Island. They haven’t formed at a rampant rate, but growth has been slow and steady.

As digital assets have become more widespread and the word “crypto” more widely understood [or at least, less feared], it comes as no surprise to see more countries regulating companies carrying out offerings of digital assets [coins and tokens] and/or those who are just digital asset businesses. The main focus for most regulators: anti-money laundering, know your customer, and counter-terrorist financing measures. Regulatory authorities are concentrating on the correct thing, which is consumer protection.

Bermuda’s Fintech trail

A lot happened in Bermuda in 2018 such as a bundle of new Fintech legislation which, at the end of the year was passed to lay the foundation for a new pillar to the Island’s economy.

The Island created an ecosystem for new companies to incorporate and develop their digital asset businesses under the Digital Business Digital Act, legislation created so that those businesses would be regulated by the Bermuda Monetary Authority [BMA] within one of the world’s premier offshore financial centers. Consumer protection is at the top of the BMA’s list when it comes to licensing these businesses.

Digital asset token legislation was introduced to allow companies to incorporate digital asset issuers to conduct their offerings to the public using a relatively straightforward approval process which requires the offering documentation vetted and approved by the Bermuda Ministry of Finance.

Shifting to Insurtech, Bermuda’s Insurance Act was also amended to allow the formation of innovative insurers, which can be one of the two types: [a] those entering a sandbox to experiment with their new technologies before leaving it and [b] those who don’t require that period of experimentation.

Finally, provisions were made to amend the Island’s banking legislation to allow digital asset companies to operate within the jurisdiction. While fairly common in the Far East, crypto banking is still a problematic proposition in the West. As things stand, most banks remain wary and appear not to be interested. But Bermuda is ready when the tides shift.

Progress?

The Bermuda Government has always acknowledged that the creation of this new economy wouldn’t happen overnight. You hear it all the time.

Much formative work has been created, an example being Circle, a major crypto payment firm which has been granted a full digital asset business license [Class F] by the BMA.

A dedicated Bermuda Tech Week has been planned for this week and a TechBeach Bermuda within it. Anyone who is interested in this space or is interested in what Bermuda is doing in the Fintech space must attend.

The foundation for a Fintech economy has undoubtedly been laid in Bermuda. But has it been laid successfully?

Expectations. In November 2017, the Government announced that the Island was launching itself into the Blockchain arena. Two working groups — a blockchain legal and regulatory working group and a business development working group were formed to assist in developing the ecosystem. I know all too well as I was in both of these groups.

The token offering legislation was drafted swiftly and passed in July 2018. The first Insurtech changes were passed in the same month. The banking legislative changes were pushed through in August. During this process, the Digital Asset Business Act was drafted primarily between the Government and the BMA, so that as soon as the summer break was over, it was passed in September 2018.

The legislation —much of which has now already been updated or is in the process of being amended -wasn’t perfect, but it certainly was a fantastic effort to push the Island into this competitive arena. The process for registering either as a token issuer or as a digital asset business remains a work in progress. Mistakes along the way have occurred.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and Quo Fata Ferunt?

In late 2017, the Bermuda Government dived headfirst into the world of digital transformation and committed itself both to looking at the use of Blockchain technology with a view to improving as many sectors of the Island as possible, and also to embracing Fintech generally to bring new business to the Island.

Bermuda’s motto is “Quo Fata Ferunt” — Wherever the fates lead us. One interpretation is that Bermudians can face life as it is, no matter where it takes us. The other, perhaps, is that whatever obstacles we have to confront, we will confront them with endurance and determination. The way Fintech has been introduced, one thing is for sure: Bermuda isn’t merely waiting to see where we may end up, and there is no stopping Bermuda and its determination to become a leading Fintech jurisdiction.

- Chris Garrod. Opinions on Digital Transformation including AI, Legaltech, Insurtech, IoT, Blockchain, Crypto and Fintech.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Toadinthehole says:

    No, rome was not built in a day, the question is how many days will it take and how many days has bermuda got?

  2. Retro says:

    Not the propaganda machine again ! Particularly, after it’s been exposed that government will consider any old company as a fintech company if they get a political win out of it and don’t get me started on the “ Gold” company. Enough with the hype .

  3. 2 Bermudas says:

    Boring, just show us the jobs!

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