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Premier says Bermuda on the right fintech track

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Jeff Baron, chief compliance officer of Coinbase Bermuda, speaking with David Burt, the Premier, at the Bermuda Tech Summit conference (Photograph supplied)

David Burt took a swipe at Bermuda’s media on Wednesday, accusing them of finding any way to make the government look bad.

During the opening presentation at the 5th Annual International Tech Summit, the Premier said: “What the media does not highlight are the successes which are taking place [in the fintech business]; the Bermudians who are working in the industry.”

He drew a parallel to the early days of Bermuda’s insurance market: “Yes, there are going to be failures. There were failures in insurance. Some of the companies from the 1980s aren’t here now.”

Mr Burt referenced a newspaper article, which included a 2018 Cabinet Office press conference file photograph of him and former Binance chief executive Zhao Changpeng, printed in Wednesday’s edition of The Royal Gazette.

The firm’s founder was sentenced this week by a US District Judge in Seattle to four months in prison after pleading guilty to violating US money-laundering laws at the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

The article’s photograph showed the pair in happier times as they signed a memorandum of understanding that was hoped to be to the benefit of the company and Bermuda.

He noted how around that time, there was a change, as Bermudian authorities concentrated more on legislation, compliance and regulations to protect and enhance Bermuda’s name.

He said: “In 2019, we changed our approach. We would not be doing these types of things with companies until they got regulated, until they passed the regulatory muster with the [Bermuda Monetary Authority].”

He said Bermuda was interested in the highly capitalised companies in the sector that were themselves focused on compliance.

He said: “The one thing we must do is jealously guard our international reputation.”

Speaking during a keynote session with Jeff Baron, chief compliance officer of Coinbase Bermuda, Mr Burt said that after seven years he had no major regrets about the legislative and regulatory agenda he led to prepare Bermuda for the fintech industry.

He said there were now about 30 companies licensed under the Digital Asset Business Act.

Mr Burt stated: “The journey, though it has been bumpy, I think that people cannot question the results of this journey; because this journey has seen us establish a sector here, make sure that we are providing opportunities for Bermudian employment...”

However, he complained that Bermuda suffered from “international geographic red line syndrome”.

“Whether or not we have the highest compliance rating in the world and whether or not our BMA is recognised, we are always lumped in with a group of countries without strong financial controls,” he said.

Mr Burt said that in 2018 many people were doubtful about whether Bermuda should even touch fintech.

“Now, some of the largest companies in the world have digital asset strategies,” he said. “Our digital finance mandate is to continue to push and continue to make sure that everyone knows that we have a role to play. We want to invite innovators who want to do things in a well-regulated environment that they may not be able to do in the United States.”

He said the Government also wanted to help Bermudian innovators scale up their ideas.

“This is the ideal place for persons to innovate in digital assets,” he said. “They can go ahead and test in our local market.”

He urged tech innovators to bring their ideas to the Bermuda Government, the BMA or the Bermuda Business Development Agency.

“We will either say, ‘no that is not for us’, or we will say that is an interesting problem that we have not thought about,” the Premier said. “Let us see if we can address it in a way that manages risk, but allows the delivery of innovative solutions.”

But Mr Burt later continued his attack on the media, as he discussed Bermuda’s role in drafting regulations.

He said: “I think that it is clearly not understood because our local media have their own slant. The local media will find any way, shape or form to try to, in my opinion, make the Government look bad.

“But one of the things they do not highlight, in my view, is the successes that are taking place, the Bermudians that are working in this industry.”

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Published May 02, 2024 at 8:15 am (Updated May 02, 2024 at 8:49 am)

Premier says Bermuda on the right fintech track

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