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Intl company adds jobs, credits Govt legislation

Equinoxe founder and chief executive officer Stephen Castree said the Incentives for Job Makers Act and Bermuda Immigration and Protection Ammendment legislation will bring “four or five global roles” to Bermuda.

Mr Castree admits to a deep affection for the Island, but had the legislation not passed: “It would have been a very different decision.”

“I want the people (I hire) next door to where I'm sitting,” he said, explaining that if the Equinoxe hires had been made with a view to locating them in a different country, he, too would have left Bermuda.

He said for global companies: “The challenge is, where do you put the jobs?”

Equinoxe was founded in 2007 and is an alternative investment fund administration company started by a team of hedge fund administrators. It is headquartered in Bermuda, and has offices on Bermudiana Road in Hamilton, as well as Dublin and Sligo in Ireland, Atlanta and Mauritius, and is adding Singapore this year.

“We have had experience in the set-up of over 200 funds, the servicing of over $50 billion in assets and the management of company growth from launch to integration into one of the world's largest banks,” Equinoxe says.

In an interview with The Royal Gazette last week, Mr Castree said: “We could have sat anywhere in the world, but we like it here. “So we put our global headquarters here.

“We started with zero people in 2007. Today, we have 70 people worldwide.”

Now, he says Equinoxe is ready to grow again.

“We have four or five new roles that I need to add, who sit near where I am. We are at 17 people here (one third of whom are Bermudian). We will take some more office space and grow into that.”

The critical pieces of legislation which brought the jobs to Bermuda were introduced by Minister of Home Affairs Sen. Michael Fahy.

They are designed to make it easier for non-Bermudian senior executives to be exempt from work permit requirements and to be granted permanent residency.

Minister Fahy said “the Government is taking the necessary steps to ensure that the critical contributions of key business executives are recognised via immigration reforms with a view to securing the executives and their companies in Bermuda, and in so doing, protecting and securing jobs for Bermudians”.

Mr Castree said he had met with Government officials and that they understood Equinoxe's desire to “put our senior people here”.

He has heard some resistance to the legislation from within the community and said he understands that.

“But we have to be allowed to build a stable management team — where ever they come from,” he said.

“If we can have an experienced Bermudian in the job that's great — but the stark reality is that since 2008, a lot of intellectual capital is no longer here, so finding people is not as easy as it would have been 10 to 15 years ago.”

He said that in Equinoxe's case they are primarily looking for people with accountancy designations.

“That skill set is hard for us to find,” he said.

“So, at the stage where the important thing is that people can create jobs — we have to be free to do that, understanding there are a lot of ancillary spin-offs, and more jobs — (will result) not necessarily in the industry — but in schools, restaurants, et cetera.”

Reflecting on Bermuda's business environment, he said today the primary reason international business people opt to set up and then stay in Bermuda “is emotional”.

“Giving people an emotional attachment to a place is the best thing you can do — because they are likely to put their business in Bermuda,” he said.

But to capitalise on that emotional attachment, he said: “You need to allow us to create jobs — if it is hard for us to bring in a qualified accountant to do a job, then we will stay sitting in Ireland or the US. So, we have to get behind job creation.

“The Government's approach for immigration is correct — it's a fair process. Their move last Friday absolutely had to come.”

Looking forward, Mr Castree added that the children of the international business person must be considered.

“When the children are past 18 they have no right to stay, and so everyone looks at what they are going to do when their children reach 14, 15 or 16,” Mr Castree said.

He said in many cases they choose to leave then, because they feel it is unfair to their children to raise them any further in a country where they have no rights.

“Anyone who is looking at this (scenerio) is saying — ‘I'm not going to do that to my child.'”

He warned: “Then, every senior level job goes with the person who makes that decision — the jobs move with the decision makers.”

Mr Castree also said that it was important to compare the immigration processes in Bermuda with those in other countries, such as Singapore and the US.

He said that in most countries where Equinoxe has offices, immigration is a process rather than an application, and it is a straight forward matter to relocate a person to Singapore, for example.

“Equinoxe has moved three people from Ireland to Malta. We have seven different locales with seven different scenarios — everything is different,” he said.

“And the big differences are: staffing issues, skill sets, immigration policies, time zones and staff expectations. So, when we look at where you are putting jobs, Bermuda has to compete with these locales.

“If people have a choice, you want them to pick Bermuda.”

Job makers: Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy (centre) with Equinoxe founder and CEO Stephen Castree (left) and regional CEO Rod White.

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Published September 23, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 22, 2013 at 6:39 pm)

Intl company adds jobs, credits Govt legislation

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