Offshore Banking Centers
In comparison to international offshore banking centers like New York, Tokyo and the City of London, Hong Kong is not considered as a major offshore banking center regardless of how important banking is to economy of Hong Kong. The banking industry in Hong Kong is however one of the largest in Asia in terms of offshore banking and rapid growth. With this background, Hong Kong is very soon on its way to being transformed into one of the world’s largest offshore banking centers. Currently, offshore banking in Hong Kong is dominated by Chinese banks. An increased presence of foreign banks is just what is needed to give Hong Kong the extra push that it needs to be reckoned as one of the world’s major offshore banking centers in the near future.
The Islands of the Bahamas has one of the leading offshore banking centers in the Caribbean. The offshore banking center of the Bahamas has assets valued at over US $200 billion, ranking the Bahamas at number 10 internationally. The Bahamas offshore banking center thus stands very close in line with the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Japan. The total number of banks operating in and from within the Islands stands at in excess of 400, which justifies the classification of the Bahamas as one of the world’s most important offshore banking centers.
Put together, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Panama, the Netherland Antilles and the Cayman Islands have an asset base of over US $2 trillion. In 2005, the Cayman Islands offshore banking center totaled 305 banking institutions. Offshore banks accounted for an asset base of US $1.2 trillion in the offshore banking center as opposed to US $10 billion held at domestic banks. Though statistics for banking institutions in 2005 were relatively high, the figure represented a decrease from a total of 427 banks in the Cayman Islands offshore banking center; the main cause being a series of mergers and acquisitions that were undertaken over the period 2001-2005 as a result of consolidation in the financial industry on a global scale.
In Latin America, Panama offshore banking center is considered the most advanced and prosperous. In excess of 100 banks make up Panama’s offshore banking center, representing over 32 countries throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. Besides its aggressive trading activity concentrated around the Canal Zone and other parts of the country, the use of the US dollar as legal tender, investor friendly banking laws, free capital flow, relatively low inflation rates, free trade and a developed service industry are major advantages that Panama offshore banking center has benefited from.
In Europe, Cyprus has made significant strides as an offshore banking center. The tax regime is friendly, with a corporation tax of 10%, zero foreign exchange controls and zero tax on revenue earned from the sale of securities and dividends, among other. Switzerland offshore banking centers are widely recognised as pioneers of offshore banking and its nature with regard to banking secrecy and asset protection. Switzerland is also referred to as the banking center of Europe, with hundreds of branches of Swiss banks operating in nearly every corner of the Earth.