Senate approves new fund to drive tech-related industry

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Senators have backed legislation to create a financial technology development fund.

Vance Campbell, a Progressive Labour Party senator, said that the Government was “determined to cultivate local and overseas investment” through the development of the fintech industry.

Mr Campbell added: “We promise to create an environment in which Bermudian businesses can thrive, opportunities for Bermudians can be created, and in which capable, qualified Bermudians can benefit from opportunities to train, work and succeed at every level.”

He said that at least ten companies had travelled to the island in the last two weeks with a view to setting up companies.

Mr Campbell added: “This fund will ensure that Bermudians benefit from the development of this industry in that Bermudians are trained and equipped to not only be employed in these new fintech firms, but also, ultimately, to start their own.”

Justin Mathias, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, said the fund as a “good idea”.

However, he added he had concerns, particularly related to Bermuda’s banking industry.

Mr Mathias explained: “We have heard concerns from the banking industry that they might not bank the proceeds of these cryptocurrency or fintech companies.

“I feel that the banking regulations should have been changed before this Bill had even come to the House.”

Independent senator James Jardine said he was “very much” in support of the fund.

He expressed concerns over where money would be allocated.

David Burt, the Premier, said last month that some of the cash from the fund would be used to support “community-based initiatives or organisations in the area of youth development, sporting clubs, healthcare or seniors care.”

Mr Jardine said: “I really don’t understand how healthcare and care of seniors gets itself involved in this fund.

“I think the fund should be solely devoted to fintech development and it shouldn’t be muddied with other areas such as youth and sport, care of seniors, and so on.”

He said that he would also like to see a committee established to take responsibility for the management of the fund.

Michelle Simmons, another Independent senator, said there was no point in the development of a fintech industry unless Bermudians could participate.

She added that there may not currently be enough qualified Bermudians to work in the field.

Ms Simmons said: “There is a need to ensure that Bermudians have the opportunity to become educated in this field.”

She also expressed concerns with cash from the fund being used for other purposes, including healthcare and youth development.

Ms Simmons added: “It seems to stray away from the intent of this fintech development fund.”

She said the legislation also provided no details on how applicants would apply for cash from the fund, or on what criteria would be required of applicants.

Ms Simmons added: “I’m not so sure there has been sufficient thought given to the details.”

Jason Hayward, a PLP senator, dismissed the concerns about the fund as “unwarranted”.

Mr Hayward said concerns over how the fund would be managed “should not be a concern at this level”.

He added: “It’s almost like saying we put funds aside in a pot for scholarships, but the concern is what the application for the scholarship will look like.”

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, said the Bill was modelled on the Confiscated Assets Fund.

She said the Confiscated Assets Fund listed sports clubs and community clubs as beneficiaries, without a requirement that the money be used for anti-gang strategies.

Ms Simmons added: “So I fail to see what the opposition is.”

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Published Jul 6, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 6, 2018 at 11:07 am)

Senate approves new fund to drive tech-related industry

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