Several benefits come with having an offshore bank account. One is the protection of a person’s assets against litigation by individuals or the government in the country of residence. The other is access to investment opportunities not available through local banks or brokerage firms. However, with so many options available, it is not very easy to choose a jurisdiction that one can trust with their finances. Based on the latest geopolitical risk analysis and other important factors, we discuss the best locations to choose from.
Focusing on the top offshore banking choice, we sought some input from a leading authority on the matter. Luigi Wewege, Senior Vice President and the Head of Private Banking at Caye International Bank in Belize who said the following: “Belize is an obvious choice because unlike the death of banking secrecy in Switzerland or the unrest facing Hong Kong presently, Belize is in a unique situation, attracting the interest of investors globally due to its stability. For people who still value banking privacy in a location that is peaceful during the geopolitical tensions we face today – putting at least a portion of their money in Belize is the answer”.
Caye International Bank honored with the Best Private Bank in Belize Award for 2020. Image of Luigi Wewege, SVP and Head of Private Banking at the Harvard Club in New York City.
Top 10 Offshore Banking Locations
The financial services industry in Belize has been growing rapidly since the 1990s. Foreign investors enjoy a variety of products, services and benefits such as a stable economy and government, a great banking system, favorable banking laws (e.g. minimum liquidity ratio of 24%), privacy plus great investment opportunities. Many North Americans choose this jurisdiction for these benefits, as well as Belize’s proximity, wide use of the English language and familiarity with common law. Off course offshore asset protection and currency diversification is a major drawing card too.
2. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the main international financial centers of the world. Depositors can have savings in gold or a wide variety of currencies which are convertible at the click of a button. The interest rates are attractive. Money can flow in and out of the country without restriction. The majority of people from Europe and North America choose to move their accounts to Hong Kong due to the privacy crackdown in their own countries. Yet Hong Kong is also currently somewhat unstable due to protests that erupted in 2019, making it riskier – putting Belize at the top of the list.
Panama is an important player in the international banking sector. It has secured a top financial position due to its rapid economic growth. Stringent privacy policies, favorable tax laws and minimized double taxation making it a favorable offshore banking country. One can do business freely and invest in the country’s growing tourism and real estate industries with ease. These factors and Panama’s proximity to the U.S. make it an attractive jurisdiction to set up an offshore bank account.
Switzerland is synonymous with offshore banking since it has been an attractive jurisdiction for more than a century, although it is slipping down the rankings. Its attraction was traditionally in the banking laws that are written into national laws, with strict codes of confidentiality and the risk of criminal charges for the offending bank and its employees used to be in place. Although recently Switzerland has agreed to share tax information as part of a program by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to clamp down on banking secrecy.
This is another important player in the offshore banking industry that holds approximately in deposits about 12% of the European market. It’s politically stable, and its financial sector strongly influences the political sentiments of the day. It draws most of its banking clientele from Europe and other nearby countries.
Lebanon is another attractive jurisdiction due to its stringent banking secrecy laws that lead to criminal prosecution when infringed. Foreigners do not pay any tax on income earned in Lebanese banks, inheritance, corporate income, and dividends. The banking system in Lebanon is fairly stable, and there are measures to prevent money laundering. The country is however located in a rather unstable part of the world and is practically at war with Israel.
7. United Arab Emirates
The UAE’s Dubai is an important international banking center that focuses on the massive amounts of money circulating among the oil-rich countries and beyond. The country is both politically and financially stable and is strategically located along a trade route from East to West. Low taxes, several tax-free regions, and a high level of privacy are other factors that make UAE attractive as an offshore banking country. Yet being in the Persian Gulf near Iran does call into question the stability of the region.
8. Cayman Islands
Cayman Islands is a British territory that benefits from its British status. However, it is financially and economically independent from the U.K. which assures safety even for those who are skeptical about international banking. International banking clients do not pay tax, and there are minimal financial restrictions. In terms of financial services centers, this country currently holds position eight although likely to move up the rankings in 2021 and beyond.
Singapore is a top financial center and one of the best offshore banking centers in the world for several reasons. Banking clients enjoy low taxes and access to a wide range of currencies. The banking system is in line with international banking regulations and is very strict on the privacy of depositors. Due to its size, the banking industry greatly influences government so there is little political opposition to any banking privacy measures.
Seychelles is one of the world’s best offshore jurisdictions, its political stability being one of its major attractions. It offers a high level of secrecy in the banking system, with banking laws anchored in national law. The economy is growing fast and the banking system keeps improving in efficiency. Seychelles encourages foreign investment by offering low government fees, non-resident tax-free structures and a number of tax treaties with other countries.
Comparing the pros and cons of offshore banking jurisdictions used to be a daunting task particularly if one had to figure out how to travel to these locations. Yet now that some banks like Caye International Bank in Belize do not require a physical presence to open an account – it makes it easier to choose, as it comes down to the stability of the jurisdiction, tax savings, privacy and off course the stability of the regime where the offshore bank is located. Naturally access to funds is important – so easy 24/7 online banking facilities plays a key role.
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