Central bankers here to ‘learn from Bermuda’
Tiny Bermuda is teaching the world a thing or two about fintech.
Deputy secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Arjoon Suddhoo, said yesterday he was on the island to “learn from Bermuda”.
Dr Suddhoo was at the Elbow Beach Hotel this week thrashing out a framework for implementing robust fintech ecosystems, with the Bank of England, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and central bank representatives from ten countries, mostly in the Caribbean.
“We are looking for the pitfalls that Bermuda is going to tell us about,” Dr Suddhoo told The Royal Gazette. “This is a knowledge-sharing, experience-sharing exercise.”
He commended Bermuda for achieving a great deal in fintech in a short amount of time.
“From what we have heard, when the Premier David Burt went to Davos in 2018, he came back with the idea and was very keen, and has been pushing it ever since,” Dr Suddhoo said. “So hats off to him that in less than two years you are where you are. That is an incredible feat.”
Dr Suddhoo said one of the gems that he was taking away from the conference was Mr Burt's statement that to be successful, you need the buy-in of the people.
“There is no point in bringing in technology if the people do not accept it,” Dr Suddhoo said. “Bermuda has kept the population engaged right at the start. With every new innovation coming in, you have the people behind it.”
He compared Bermuda to his home country of Mauritius.
“There is beautiful seaside and there was lovely sunshine out there,” he said. “My first impression was that Bermuda is a great country with a very limited population, 65,000.”
But he said being small has its advantages.
“Being small, you can move quickly,” he said. “You are very agile. We have seen that in the presentations by fintech people here. The speed at which policies can be made and legal framework can be adjusted, and projects become implemented quickly. That is a wonderful thing that people should capitalise on.”
But he said the drawback to being small was sometimes a lack of human capacity in the right fields.
“That is why we are focusing a lot on capacity building in what we are trying to promote in fintech technology,” Dr Suddhoo said.
He said a lot of fintech experimentation had taken place in the last couple of years among the 53 Commonwealth member states.
“Some have been very successful, some not so much and other countries have yet to adopt fintech,” he said. “So this lesson sharing is extremely important. Part of the objective of the workshop is to capitalise on lessons learnt. Bermuda has a wonderful reputation as being a financial sector, particularly in the insurance sector.
“If we are talking about fintech or insurtech, there is no better place to start off than in a country that already has a wonderful reputation. You can use the model of Bermuda to try and replicate or adapt it in other places.”
Different models and means of implementation were highlighted at the meeting yesterday. Dr Suddhoo said Bermuda is moving quite fast compared to some countries which are still studying or looking at what is going to happen with fintech.
He is all for fintech, on a personal level.
“Mauritius has always been at the forefront of technology,” he said. “It was introduced three years or so ago. It is amazing how people go home with it. There are lots of incentives. If you fill in your tax forms online within the first two or three weeks you get a ten or 20 per cent discount. That goes down well with people.”
He said to really use fintech in this way, for tax purposes, it is important to establish a digital identity for a country's people. He thought paying close attention to cybersecurity, and making sure there were people trained to enforce legal regulations surrounding fintech, was also vital.
He took on his current role in the Commonwealth 11 months ago.
“It is a very responsible position,” he said. “It is an opportunity to serve 53 different states with different needs. That is where the challenge is, and that is what makes it exciting. No two days are similar.”