Professional Development Seminar: The Financial Services Sector in the British Virgin Islands

© BVILO

Article by Paul Hewlett

On Saturday 23rd February 2008, the British Virgin Islands London Office(BVILO) headed by BVI Barrister Dawn Smith, who has been the Director since August 2006, successfully hosted a Professional Development Seminar for the UK based BVI students in the UK. The main objective of the seminar was to ensure that the students have an understanding and appreciation of the financial services sector particularly as it relates to helping them define and achieve their career goals. The seminar was also attended by a number of other locally based BVIslanders who took advantage of the opportunity to bring themselves up to date with the latest information on the financial services sector in the BVI.

The event featured a series of presentations by London-based professionals with BVI expertise and also included lunch and excellent networking opportunities. The day began with Director Dawn Smith welcoming some 25 keen delegates and gave a brief overview of what the professional development seminar was all about and how it would affect each person in the long run.

Political/Accounts Officer of the London office Sandra Besson B.Sc, MBA ACCA, who also spent a decade at Harneys Law Firm, opened the proceedings with a comprehensive overview of the facts and figures of the Financial Services Sector. This was followed by a presentation by Leonard A. Birmingham who is a partner at Harneys. Mr. Birmingham was exceptional in his explanation of the life of a lawyer in the BVI and made it categorically clear to the students that their lifestyle outside of work was as important as what they did in the office. In his words ‘Family came first then work’.

Mr. Nick Careless who is the Managing Director of AP Executive, a recruiting firm with offices in London, Guernsey, Jersey, Geneva, Cyprus and Dubai was the next speaker. The AP Group is the exclusive global recruitment partnership of STEP (Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners) and SII (Securities & Investment Institute). Mr Careless was extremely thorough in explaining that the presentation of your Curriculum Vitae along with the character displayed at an interview meant everything to someone like himself who does some 25 plus interviews on behalf of his various clients every week some of whom are in the BVI.

After a short tea break Robert Duggan who joined the Corporate and International Finance Department of Walkers in 2004 and is now a partner of the firm had the young budding lawyers in the group take what he called a reality check and ask of themselves ‘why a law career?’ He also looked at the difference between a solicitor and a barrister and the opportunities which lay ahead for a qualified lawyer.

After a sumptuous lunch which included coconut tart (flew in specifically from the BVI to make the delegates feel at home) local boy Dwayne Thomas took the stage and had the delegates bubbling with his enthusiasm. Thomas who holds a B.SC. in Accounting with two years experience with Deloitte and Touche, is a Research Analyst in the International Affairs Secretariat. He is presently completing a six months secondment in London which spans work experience with Edelman and Financial Dynamics, and BVILO. Thomas did a great job in explaining the vision and objectives of the IFC (International Financial Centre) and also highlighted the importance of hosted and sponsored Conferences which are key to ensuring continued business in the BVI.

Other speakers of the afternoon session included John Adie of AMS BVI and David Lord of 3 Stone Buildings. The majority of the delegates found the Seminar to be ‘valuable’ in terms of knowledge received and networking opportunities, with everyone expressing an interest in attending future BVILO events. Over one-third of attendees felt they were more likely to consider corporate law careers in the BVI as a result of the seminar.

I spoke with Dawn Smith, Director, BVI London Office, after the professional development seminar who commented: “The financial services sector in the British Virgin Islands provides unprecedented opportunities for all Virgin Islanders – directly and indirectly - and we need to understand this industry which contributes so much to our national income. The quality of today’s presentations was very high and I am pleased that the presenters were so keen to work with us in presenting this seminar. I am also very pleased with the students – the very high turnout, their maturity, infectious enthusiasm and easy interaction with the speakers and each other. I know that they have bright futures ahead of them and I wish them the very best.”