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Country Information - Bermuda and BVI

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Country Information – Bermuda and BVI

Posted by: Christian Reeves
Category: Bermuda, BVI, International Bank License, Offshore Bank License
Bermuda and BVI

The most popular international banking jurisdictions for 2024 (looking forward) are the Caribbean islands of Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. This page will give you some history, background, and demographic information on these islands.


Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory located in the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 665 miles (1,070 km) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, United States. Comprising of 181 islands, the archipelago is known for its unique history, thriving economy, and diverse population.


Bermuda was first discovered in 1503 by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez. However, the islands remained uninhabited until English settlers arrived in 1609. A ship called the Sea Venture, bound for the Virginia Colony, was wrecked on Bermuda’s reefs. The survivors of the shipwreck, led by Admiral Sir George Somers, established the first settlement on the island and claimed it for the English Crown. Bermuda was officially settled in 1612.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Bermuda became an important strategic outpost for the British Empire due to its location between British colonies in North America and the West Indies. The island’s economy initially relied on tobacco cultivation and salt production, but by the early 19th century, shipbuilding and maritime trade became the primary economic drivers.

Bermuda played a significant role during World War II as a base for both the British Royal Navy and the United States Navy. In 1941, the US and the UK signed the Lend-Lease Agreement, which allowed the US to establish bases on the island in exchange for providing the UK with military equipment.


Today, Bermuda’s economy is primarily driven by two sectors: international business and tourism. The island is a prominent global offshore financial center, known for its insurance and reinsurance industries, as well as being a hub for investment funds and trusts. Bermuda’s favorable tax policies, stable political climate, and highly developed legal system have contributed to its success as a financial center.

Tourism is another significant contributor to the economy, with visitors attracted by the island’s pink-sand beaches, subtropical climate, and unique cultural heritage. Bermuda’s tourism industry focuses on luxury and high-end experiences, with a strong emphasis on golf, sailing, and water sports.


Bermuda has a population of approximately 62,000 people. The majority of the population is of African or mixed African-European descent, with smaller populations of people of European, Asian, and other origins. The official language is English, but many locals also speak Bermudian English, a distinct dialect influenced by various English and African languages.

The island’s culture is a unique blend of British, American, and West Indian influences, resulting from its history and geographic location. Christianity is the predominant religion, with Anglicanism being the largest denomination.

In summary, Bermuda’s history is marked by its role as a strategic outpost for the British Empire and its development as an offshore financial center. The economy relies heavily on international business and tourism, while the population is diverse, with a unique blend of cultural influences.


The banking industry in Bermuda plays a crucial role in supporting the island’s economy and facilitating its growth as an international financial center. Bermuda’s banking system is known for its robust regulatory framework, transparency, and adherence to international standards. The sector caters to both the domestic market and international clients, offering a wide range of services, including retail banking, private banking, wealth management, and corporate banking.

Key features of the banking industry in Bermuda include:

  1. Regulatory Framework: The Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) is the primary regulatory body responsible for overseeing the island’s banking industry. The BMA ensures that financial institutions adhere to international standards and best practices in areas such as risk management, capital adequacy, and anti-money laundering (AML) measures. The strong regulatory environment has helped maintain Bermuda’s reputation as a well-regulated and reputable financial center.
  2. Domestic and International Banking Services: Bermuda’s banking industry offers a variety of services to both local residents and international clients. Domestic banks provide traditional banking services such as savings and checking accounts, mortgages, personal loans, and credit cards. For international clients, banks offer services such as private banking, wealth management, trust services, and corporate banking. The island’s sophisticated financial services infrastructure enables banks to cater to the needs of high-net-worth individuals and multinational corporations.
  3. Offshore Financial Center: Bermuda is a leading offshore financial center, with a strong focus on the insurance and reinsurance industries. The banking sector supports these industries by providing corporate banking services, including working capital financing, trade finance, and treasury management.
  4. Correspondent Banking Relationships: Similar to the BVI, Bermuda banks maintain correspondent banking relationships with major international banks, facilitating cross-border transactions and access to global financial services for their clients.
  5. Economic Substance Requirements: In response to global concerns regarding tax evasion and money laundering, Bermuda has implemented economic substance requirements for certain legal entities. These requirements ensure that companies conducting relevant activities in Bermuda maintain an adequate physical presence, employ local staff, and incur an appropriate amount of operating expenditure in the territory.
  6. Challenges: Despite its strengths, the banking industry in Bermuda faces some challenges. The small size of the domestic market and the island’s reliance on international business can make the banking sector vulnerable to external shocks and economic downturns. Additionally, the increasing global regulatory scrutiny of offshore financial centers can impact the banking industry, as financial institutions must constantly adapt to changing regulatory requirements.

In summary, the banking industry in Bermuda is an integral part of the island’s economy and its status as a reputable international financial center. The sector offers a wide range of services to both local and international clients, supported by a strong regulatory environment that adheres to international standards. While the industry faces some challenges, its resilience and adaptability have contributed to Bermuda’s ongoing success as a global financial hub.

The British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a group of over 60 islands and cays located in the Caribbean, to the east of Puerto Rico. The archipelago is a British Overseas Territory and has a rich history that has been influenced by various European powers, as well as its indigenous populations. The economy of the BVI is primarily driven by tourism and financial services, with a population that has grown over time due to immigration.


The history of the British Virgin Islands dates back to around 100 BC when the Ciboney people first inhabited the region. Later, the Arawak and Carib Indians also settled in the area. The first European to sight the islands was Christopher Columbus in 1493, during his second voyage to the New World. He named the islands “Las Virgenes” in honor of Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgin followers.

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, various European powers laid claim to the islands, including the Dutch, English, French, and Spanish. In 1666, the British gained control of the islands and officially annexed them in 1672. The BVI became part of the British-administered Leeward Islands Federation in 1872, which lasted until 1956.

The British Virgin Islands gained greater autonomy in 1960 when they were granted a new constitution, followed by another revised constitution in 1971. The BVI became an internally self-governing British Overseas Territory in 1967, with a locally elected government responsible for most of the territory’s affairs.


The economy of the British Virgin Islands is mainly driven by two sectors: tourism and financial services.

Tourism is the backbone of the BVI economy, accounting for a significant portion of the territory’s GDP. The islands’ beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and clear waters make them popular destinations for tourists, particularly for sailing, yachting, snorkeling, and diving. Luxury resorts and vacation villas also contribute to the territory’s thriving tourism industry.

Financial services, particularly offshore banking and incorporation of companies, form the other major economic sector in the BVI. The islands have established themselves as leading offshore financial centers, attracting international businesses and investors due to their favorable tax laws, strong regulatory framework, and stable political climate.


The population of the British Virgin Islands is estimated to be around 30,000-35,000 people, as of 2023. The majority of the population resides on the largest island, Tortola, which is also home to the capital city, Road Town. The population is predominantly of African descent, but there are also significant populations of people of European, Indian, and mixed-race heritage.

Immigration has contributed to the growth of the BVI population, particularly from other Caribbean countries, such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Jamaica. English is the official language, and the majority of the population identifies as Christian.

In summary, the British Virgin Islands have a diverse history influenced by various European powers and indigenous populations. The economy relies heavily on tourism and financial services, and the population has grown due to immigration from other Caribbean countries.


The banking industry in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) plays a significant role in the territory’s economy, particularly in the context of the financial services sector. As a leading offshore financial center, the BVI has developed a robust banking system that offers various services to local and international clients, including corporate banking, private banking, wealth management, and investment services. The territory’s favorable tax policies, strong regulatory framework, and stable political environment have made it an attractive destination for businesses and high-net-worth individuals seeking banking services.

Key features of the banking industry in the BVI include:

  1. Offshore Banking: The BVI banking industry is primarily known for its offshore banking services. Offshore banks cater to non-residents and provide a range of financial services, including multi-currency accounts, international wire transfers, wealth management, and investment services. Offshore banking is attractive to international clients because of the jurisdiction’s tax neutrality, confidentiality, and asset protection advantages.
  2. Legal Framework: The banking industry in the BVI operates under a comprehensive legal framework that ensures a high level of regulatory compliance, transparency, and anti-money laundering measures. The BVI Financial Services Commission (FSC) is the primary regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the banking sector. The FSC ensures that banks adhere to international standards and best practices, which has helped maintain the BVI’s reputation as a well-regulated offshore financial center.
  3. Correspondent Banking Relationships: Due to the territory’s offshore banking focus, many BVI banks maintain correspondent banking relationships with major international banks. These relationships facilitate cross-border transactions and provide access to a wide range of global financial services for BVI bank customers.
  4. Limited Retail Banking: While the BVI banking industry primarily caters to international clients, there are a few retail banks that serve the local population. These banks offer traditional banking services, such as savings and checking accounts, loans, and credit cards. However, the scope of retail banking in the BVI is relatively limited compared to more developed banking systems.
  5. Economic Substance Requirements: To address concerns related to tax evasion and money laundering, the BVI government introduced the Economic Substance legislation in 2018. The legislation requires certain legal entities conducting relevant activities in the BVI to demonstrate economic substance within the territory. This includes having an adequate physical presence, employing local staff, and incurring an appropriate amount of operating expenditure.

In conclusion, the banking industry in the British Virgin Islands is an important component of the territory’s financial services sector. The BVI has developed a well-regulated banking system that offers a range of services to both international and local clients. The industry has maintained its reputation as a reputable offshore financial center by adhering to international standards and implementing measures to prevent financial crimes.