Panellists discuss global economy and opportunities for Bermuda
Two highly-placed figures in Bermuda’s financial sector gave their views of the global economy at the Capital G Private Wealth Conference.
Peter Hughes, group managing director of APEX Fund Services, said he believed the US economy was improving. He also feels there are good investment opportunities in Latin America, including Brazil which will play host to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. The extensive infrastructure being built for those sporting events represent “a huge opportunity for Bermuda to show how it can help”, said Mr Hughes.
Looking to Europe, he said: “A lot of money is going into London and housing markets in other ‘landmark cities.’”
Mr Hughes also sees investment potential in sub-Sahara Africa and emerging economies in Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Mongolia.
“People are looking to invest. There’s a lot of potential for Bermuda to capitalise,” said Mr Hughes, who noted people are looking to put their money to work [through investments] after seeing very little return from holding funds in banks during the past four years.
Also on the four-person panel discussing the state of global economics and markets was James Gibbons, chairman of Capital G Bank.
He said the US had been able to increase its money supply to absorb bad asset losses, but he questioned how long other countries would tolerate the impact of extra dollars coursing through the US economy.
“The world, for the time being, is willing to take that [quantitative easing], but for how much longer?”
Mr Gibbons said the true strength of the US economy’s recovery would become clearer once the latest phase of quantitative easing was wound down.
He noted: “The amount of jobs being created is not a lot.” However, he felt the US was going to prove to be more resilient than many people think.
Turning to credit markets, Mr Gibbons said it was now time to be careful regarding long-term bonds.
The bank boss also spoke of the situation in Europe where some countries’ balance sheets were effectively bust. “I don’t see the euro collapsing, but for the time being Europe is going to be a drag on the rest of the world, and it does not have the ability to print money.”
Fellow panellists Finance Minister Bob Richards and Caroline Foulger, the independent chairperson of the Bermuda Business Development Corporation, also spoke during the discussion at the Fairmont Southampton last Thursday.
The session was moderated by Wall Street Journal senior editor Jonathan Dahl, who asked Mr Richards how Bermuda differed from other Islands that acted as finance centres, such as Cyprus and Iceland that had experienced significant problems in recent years.
In reply, Mr Richards said: “The essential difference is that we actually provide something that is valuable to the world economy.
“Our financial services are concentrated in insurance and reinsurance and we have been able to show the world that what we do here is real.”
Illustrating the point Mr Richards said that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, Bermuda-based insurers and reinsurers had “paid big cheques” to cover the losses. He contrasted this with counterpart companies elsewhere, such as Europe, that had teetered during that time. Mr Richards said the Island had done the same in 2005 after the devastating losses caused by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
The Finance Minister also said the Island was not a place where people could “park secret money”, and he went on to say: “We provide fund services that give value for multi-national companies in the global economy.”
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