BY CONNOR STEENS
The Cook Islands Financial Services Development Authority (FSDA) is an independent body that is responsible for the supervision of financial entities and financial services here in the Cook Islands.
The FSDA is tasked with encouraging, promoting and developing the Cook Island’s Financial Services Industry (FSI) and recently released a 5 year strategy to do this. The FSI consists of licensed banks, insurance providers, trustee companies and money remittance businesses. It has been an essential part of the Cook Islands economy for several decades, returning consistent revenues to Government and providing employment for many Cook Islanders.
In these unprecedented times where many businesses have closed, jobs have disappeared and the tourism industry has ceased to operate, the FSI remains open for business with no reduction in productivity or employment or the need for the Government subsidies which have provided crucial support for many Cook Islanders.
The industry currently employs 260 people and the goal is for 75 new jobs to be created over the next five years.
In order to achieve this growth the 5 year strategic plan has highlighted several notable points have that aim to promote the FSI throughout the Cook Islands and internationally. It seeks to coordinate the overall vision for the industry with targeted investments towards specialist knowledge and insight along with supporting ongoing marketing and administration services.
Exploring the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of the Cook Islands FSI. Attention is to be focused on the following weaknesses:
Diversification: By growing the local industry into a wider geographic range and diversifying business lines and services.
Innovation & Technology: With goals to promote new entrants and creativity while improving technological opportunities available for the financial sector.
With a robust history of asset protection in the Cook Islands, the FSI hopes to continue the long standing heritage of integrity by further reinforcing the following strengths:
Asset Protection Trust Laws and Timeliness: The offshore industry has been supported by asset protection trust laws enacted in 1989. The quality of those laws and the ability to have laws passed in a timely manner have been favorable feature to the offshore industry.
Maturity: The Cook Islands FSI has shown resilience over the past 40 years it has been in existence. Developing into a significant contributor to the Cook Islands economy. In that time a high degree of professional experience and expertise has emerged. Giving confidence to both clients and advisors.
Independent Judiciary & Political Stability: The Cook Islands High Court and Court of Appeal are adjudicated by experienced New Zealand judges that apply Cook Islands law. The Cook Islands is a politically stable country and there is no threat of military coup or social revolution.
High Quality Services and Compliance Standards: The Cook Islands FSI has adhered to the highest quality of administrative services. It is a well regulated, internationally compliant FSI. With outstanding evaluation reports in regard to its AML/CFT regime and compliance with FATF standards.
By spending the necessary time and resources, opportunities arise for the Cook Islands to further embrace products such as asset management, fund administration, cryptocurrency/DLT and FX trading. Develop more complex and higher value service offerings and create a more competitive and efficient financial jurisdiction for international clients.
The vision for the FSI is one of an industry that is economically beneficial, socially responsible and which enhances the Cook Islands reputation as a relevant, compliant and progressive international financial centre. The FSI must be a financial services industry that can respond to the needs of a global client base whilst at the same time support the position, capabilities and strategy of a developing country.
With the strong legal and economical foundations that the Cook Islands FSDA aims to build upon, a Cook Islands Trust is set to become a more valuable and secure asset protection strategy than ever before.