British Virgin Islands: Offshore Business Sectors
When the BVI began their development as an IOFC, the authorities decided not to encourage offshore banks to establish themselves in large numbers, as a defence against money-laundering. Unlike Bermuda, however, which created local banks to the exclusion of external banks, the BVI authorities allowed in a small number of international banks. There are in fact a total of 15 banks in the BVI, including Barclays Bank and Chase Manhattan. Total assets for the banking industry stood at approximately US$2.45 billion in the third quarter of 2011.
Lately there has been pressure on the Government from the business community to allow in larger numbers of respectable offshore banks; professional firms in particular feel that the BVI's legislative and regulatory apparatus is well up to global standards and well able to defend the BVI and its good reputation against scams, criminals and drug money. By now it's likely that the Government would not refuse new applications from top banking institutions.
April 2012 saw the introduction of the International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN), unique codes assigned to bank accounts to standardise and simplify the international money transfer process.
The Ministry of Finance endorsed the application for a national country code to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) upon the initiative of the BVI Bank Association. SWIFT, the official registrar for the IBAN approved the application allowing the national IBAN format for the BVI available to banks worldwide effective from April 2012.
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE commented that: "Government recognises that this step has positioned the BVI as a world-class banking centre, by putting the BVI on the same level with more than 50 other countries, giving us presence on the global playing field and nurturing the BVI´s banking business overall."
Banks are regulated under the Banks and Trust Companies Act 1990, and supervised by the Banking and Fiduciary Division of the Financial Services Commission. See Offshore Legal and Tax Regimes for further details of the supervisory and taxation regimes.