Be innovative or facilitate innovation! In 2013 it was said that in order for Barbados to maintain an upward trajectory of economic development which is supported by foreign direct investment, this would be the approach it would have to consider. Forward to six years later, to a renaissance period of sorts, Financial Technology (fintech) has presented itself as the innovative opportunity by which Barbados could be a facilitator for both local and international investors. Having recently assisted in establishing the world’s first tokenised Blockchain stock exchange in Barbados, this belief is more than just a creative marketing soundbite.
In recent times, the understanding of fintech for most has been limited to the marketing hype of bitcoin and for others, it has received similar apprehension as did the introduction of debit and credit cards. However, a greater appreciation for fintech is understood where financial technologies such as blockchain are adapted to financial service sectors in a way that transform the daily lives of individuals, the way investors and businesses interact, the way that transactions become more secure and transparent and as a whole, ultimately improves the accessibility, efficiency and expediency of doing business.
Though other jurisdictions such as Switzerland, Singapore and Estonia have made concerted efforts to facilitate fintech start-ups, Barbados is doing it in a way which is reminiscent to the earlier days of Silicon Valley, USA. Barbados is becoming the hub that facilitates the facilitators. This is essentially the mantra by which Silicon Valley has posed to illustrate to startups and the big players in the tech industry.The point is that Barbados can, and in some ways, has already started to set itself apart by being the home for fintech companies, which act as the platforms of the industry as a whole or push the boundaries as pioneers.
Consider Bitt Inc. (Bitt), an inward and outward thinking Barbadian fintech company whose initial existence was merely as a fintech company with specific emphasis on BitCoin. Since then, following significant investment from global brand Overstock.com, Bitt has shut down its generic blockchain exchange and has partnered with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to pilot a project creating the world’s first Central Bank backed digital currency.
Another major achievement for the jurisdiction has been the recent licensing of the world’s first tokenised Blockchain digital asset stock exchange, DAXNET BB (Barbados) Ltd. Tokenise International Limited, a mature fintech company based in Gibraltar, set it sights to create an exchange which removed all inefficiencies of traditional exchanges. Through this platform, Tokenise aims to create a market and trading infrastructure that will provide wider access, unlock liquidity and deliver flexibility to investors keen to buy or sell tokenised assets - ultimately generating more investment opportunities and offering access to institutional and qualified investors around the world.
What we are witnessing here is essentially the birth of start-ups with the potential of becoming juggernauts such as the likes of Google, Apple, etc., within the fintech industry. This possibility becomes even more achievable where they have situated themselves in a jurisdiction which understands business facilitation. From the operational and investor perspective, Barbados positions itself as a one-stop shop. By being a major player in the international business and financial services sector for a number of years, Barbados is capable of providing the legal support, technical workforce and being a natural destination location. Further to this, Barbados under the leadership of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Q.C., M.P., has also projected itself as a jurisdiction willing to work with experts to improve their regulatory framework in an effort to offer an environment conducive to innovative sectors such as the fintech industry.
This article was published in the 2020 Barbados International Finance & Business Annual Publication.