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Bermuda's banking scenario

There are only four banks allowed by Island laws to operate in the local market

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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online

To refer by e-mail to this file use "bermuda-online.org/banking.htm" as your Subject.

While Bermuda is certainly an offshore international business and insurance center, it is not an international banking center. International banks, which in other offshore locations and also in many onshore jurisdictions, are allowed to register as banks and can operate in those countries, are not allowed in Bermuda to register or operate as banks.  

Banks are listed by size, not in alphabetical order.

HSBC Bank of Bermuda Ltd

HSBC Bank of Bermuda

HSBC, Bermuda, Royal Gazette photo

Harbourview Centre, Front and Reid Streets, Hamilton. Phone 295-4000. Fax 295-7093. Since 1889. Formerly the Bank of Bermuda Limited.  The largest by a considerable margin and most profitable Bermuda bank, especially since February 2004 under HSBC ownership when acquired for US$1.3 billion. At HSBC acquisition the bank employed 1,050 people but reduced this to about 730 in 2012. About 47% of the local banking market. The number of work permit holders employed at the bank was now about 57, down from more than 250 in 2004, meaning the proportion of Bermudians in the bank's workforce has risen substantially.

Bank of N. T. Butterfield & Son Limited

65 Front & Reid Streets, Hamilton HM 12. Phone 295-1111. About 40% of the local banking market. Main investors are the Canadian Carlyle Group (18.64%) and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), 18.64% (together they own nearly 40%), then Bermuda Government Pension Funds, Wellcome Trust, Julian Robertson and Goshen Investments LLC.  

Bank of Butterfield, Bermuda

Bank of Butterfield, Bermuda

Bermuda Commercial Bank Ltd (BCB) 

L P. Gutteridge Building, Hamilton, PO Box HM1748, Hamilton HM GX, Telephone: 441.295.5678 Fax: 441.295.4759. Owned by Somers Ltd, which recently sought to buy out London-based broker Westhouse Holdings PLC. Somers already owned a 46.1 percent stake in Westhouse. Somers, formerly known as Bermuda National Ltd, is offered one UK pence in cash per Westhouse share. As well as owning BCB, Somers owns a 62.5 percent holding in J O Hambro Investment Management Ltd, a UK wealth manager with $6 billion in assets under management and a 66 percent interest in Private & Commercial Finance Group PLC, a UK asset financing company, and a 58 percent interest in Bermuda real estate company West Hamilton Holdings.

Bermuda Commercial  Bank

Clarien Bank Limited

19 Reid Street, Hamilton HM 11. P. O. Box HM 1194, Hamilton HM EX. Phone (441) 296-6969. Fax (441) 296-7701. On January 7, 2014 it amalgamated with and on April 22, 2014 changed its name. Formerly Capital G Bank Ltd.  Part of Clarien Group Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bermuda exempted company CWH Ltd. The deal gave the newly formed Bermuda company a controlling interest in what was until April 22. 2014 the Capital G Bank Ltd. Edmund Gibbons Ltd, which had earlier wholly owned the institution, remains involved as a minority shareholder. Subsidiaries with their new names are Clarien Brokerage Ltd, formerly Capital G Brokerage Ltd; Clarien BSX Services Ltd, formerly Capital G BSX Services Ltd; Clarien Investments Ltd, formerly Capital G Investments Ltd; Clarien Nominees Ltd, formerly Capital G Nominees Ltd; and Clarien Trust Ltd, formerly Capital G Trust Ltd. 

Clarien Bank

Free courtesy hyperlinks (links) 

to their main websites, which include full details of their histories and operations, will be shown gladly, to give their full details as Bermuda resources, once they return the courtesy with a free reciprocal link to our main Bermuda Online website at http://www.bermuda-online.org. See our Links and Mentions policy at http://www.bermuda-online.org/links.htm. Until then, only basic contact information without email or website addresses can be shown, at our discretion. Updates to bank information. Banks are asked to let this author know of updated contact details, facts and figures. Please contact Keith Forbes at email admin@bermuda-online.org.

Trust Companies

There are two types.

Bank charges and fees

Unlike UK banks, Bermuda banks charge (presently at least $6 a month) for current accounts. Their loan policies are ultra conservative, with loans constituting under 15% of total deposits, creating a low loan portfolio exposure. Mostly, they concentrate on fee driven business. The two main banks mentioned below have gone multi-national, with operations (branches, representative offices or wholly owned subsidiaries) in Barbados (Butterfield Barbados Ltd), Cayman Islands, Channel Isles, Dublin, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, London, Luxembourg, Mauritius, New York, Singapore, etc. In services, facilities and competence the local banks benefit the economy generally and enjoy many advantages, especially to visitors and newcomers who, in their own home countries will not find any of their High Street banks with the same national and international range of Foreign Exchange and other facilities and services. The Bermuda Government charges them the high banking fees, plus millions of dollars in Payroll Tax, so their interest rates are lower, interest bearing checking accounts do not exist and service fees to consumers are among the highest in the world. In the case of three of the four banks, their shares are traded on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. 

August 5, 2013. HSBC Bermuda, which recently unveiled plans to cut thousands of jobs worldwide, announced a new series of rises in banking fees and charges on the Island. They include a new cost of $8 a month for a chequing account maintenance fee. In other countries, there is no charge when using another bank’s ATM when withdrawing cash, but here there is now a significant charge.  Butterfield Bank has also been in the spotlight when it introduced new fees.

June 11, 2013. Capital G is raised fees from July 2013 to bring its pricing in line with the Island’s other banks. But the bank stressed that it still imposes fewer fees on its customers “most of which are lower” than competitors including HSBC Bermuda and Butterfield. They include a monthly $1 fee for quarterly paper statements, $2-a-month maintenance fee for chequing and savings accounts (the fee is waived for balances of $100 or more on retail savings accounts); $15 fee for cheque cashing for non Capital G customers; $1.50 cheque processing fee (cheques less than $15 will not be processed). There will also be a Credit Card overlimit fee of $35. Fees increasing include: The research fee goes up from $25 to $50; the wire request fee rises from $60 to $7⅝$80; stop payment fees go from $10 to $20; and dormant account fee increase from $5 to $6. The Dormant Account fee will be $6 after one year of inactivity. Some of the fees do not apply to seniors, registered charities and Iron Kids accounts. Capital G also stated that ATM Fees incurred from ATM usage conducted outside of Bermuda will no longer qualify for fee reimbursement. And it said USD cheques will be placed on a 14 business day hold.

May 28, 2013. HSBC Bermuda announced plans to hike banking fees and charges more than 50 percent in some cases. Personal chequing account monthly maintenance fees are set to increase 60 percent from $5 to $8 a month (but not for seniors, HSBC Advance and Premier customers). Only last May 2012 the bank had raised the chequing account fee from $3 to $5. Withdrawing cash from a non-HSBC ATM will also cost significantly more, with the fee set to go up to $3.50 from $2.50. By comparison Butterfield already charges $3.50 for withdrawals made at non-Butterfield Bank MasterCard/Cirrus ATMs, while Capital G charges $2.50. Debit and credit card annual fees are going to go up seven to 16 percent; BermudaCard/MasterCard from $30 to $35; MasterCard from $40 to $45, Visa Classic from $40 to $45 and Visa Gold from $70 to $75. The fee for cheque cashing for non-HSBC customers will increase 50 percent from $20 to $30; That fee in 2009 was increased from no charge to the current $20. And customers will pay a new one percent negotiation fee for a personal line of credit. The bank has advised customers its fees and charges go up as of July 1, 2013. Among other increases to take effect then are:

By comparison, Butterfield’s chequing account monthly maintenance fee is $5.

Bank Deposits made with all the Bermuda banks

2013. June 29. Bermuda bank deposits tumbled by $1.5 billion in 2012, according to Bermuda Monetary Authority figures. The BMA noted: "Consolidated assets of the Island’s banking sector fell by more than five percent to $24.2 billion, after growing 9.3 percent in 2011 (see graph). 

Bermuda banks assets

But overall the Bermuda banking sector maintained high levels of capital during the year, relative to international minimum standards. Because of the prolonged economic downturn there has been some negative impact to Bermuda’s banking sector. In common with other markets, there have been some asset impairments and lending conditions have become a lot more stringent across the Bermuda market. The recessionary economic climate has had a depressed impact on the financial position of the banking sector. The BMA has conducted stress tests on all banks to assist in setting of minimum capital requirements as well as to ensure the banks were able to maintain regulatory capital ratios above international benchmarks and Tier 1 ratios in excess of six percent post scenarios. 

FDIC - type insurance not available in Bermuda

 In July 2011 Bermuda's House of Assembly parliament finally enacted an insurance scheme to partially protect individuals, charities and small businesses, with the Deposit Insurance Act. Membership of Bermuda's Deposit Insurance Scheme [DIS] - see Bermuda Deposit Insurance Corporation below - is mandatory for all four commercial banks, the one deposit company licensed under the Banks and Deposit Companies Act 1999 and the sole credit union. The maximum threshold for compensation is, compared to the USA's $250,000 a mere $25,000, although that amount “could grow over time.” The legislation put the Bermuda Deposit Insurance Corporation [BDIC] in place to administer the scheme. In Bermuda, which has no lender of the last resort and no central bank, the safety net relies heavily on prudential regulation and supervision by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) which overall administers and regulates the scheme. Deposit insurance is a guarantee to depositors in a bank that they will be compensated up to a maximum specified amount of their deposits upon failure of that institution.  This legislation came many rears after The USA, UK, Canada and elsewhere enacted the FDIC and equivalents, and for significantly larger amounts than Bermuda's $25,000 where the BMA is the only banking-relevant regulatory authority and the relevant pieces of legislation are The Banks & Deposit Companies Act 1999 and The Banking Appeal Tribunal Regulations 2001. The BMA is responsible for the licensing, supervision and regulation of all financial institutions in Bermuda (including those conducting deposit taking, insurance, investment and trust business). Since 2009, the BMA has required all Bermuda banks to ensure they have a "capital buffer" which would keep them on a solid footing even in the case of a dramatic worsening of economic conditions.

Investment vehicles and services of Bermuda banks have not been registered or licensed under any United States securities legislation and are not being offered, directly or indirectly, in the United States or in any of its territories or possessions or areas subject to its jurisdiction or to its citizens or persons thereof.

The Bermuda Government has not approved any local bank as the  depository of public funds. Instead, it awarded this to the Bank of New York.

Applicable Bermuda laws

Laws of Bermuda Acts, Regulations and Statutory Instruments

ATMs

The Bank of Bermuda/HSBC and Bank of Butterfield have Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) scattered throughout Bermuda, plus full service offices in and beyond the City of Hamilton. Most American, Canadian & other visitors will find that if they need cash in Bermuda, local ATMs from either of the two largest local banks will service them. But the dollar notes they dispense will be in non-exportable Bermuda dollars only (which cannot be cashed overseas).

Bermuda Banks and Foreign Exchange rates

Bermuda banks charge between 4 and 5 points more for foreign currency purchase transactions than US, Canadian, British, etc banks do. For example, on February 1, 2013, see the UK rate of 1.6266 at http://www.bm.butterfieldgroup.com/Business_Corporate/treasury/Foreign_Exchange_Rates/Pages/Home.aspx compared to http://www.hifx.co.uk/ . For a payment made from Bermuda on January 29, 2013 of BD$1486.14 the UK recipient received £897.04, compared to £940.11. 

Bermuda Local Currency, tied to the US Dollar

Bermuda money

The Bermuda Dollar, not an exportable or international currency, is not available from any bank in USA, Canada, UK, etc. and only usable within Bermuda. But for all non-Bermudian visitors the US Dollar - on which the Bermuda Dollar is based and in Bermuda is worth the same -  is accepted everywhere in Bermuda despite the fact that Bermuda is not part of the USA politically and is not a US Commonwealth country like Puerto Rico or the USVI, etc. Until 1970 but not thereafter, Bermuda had its own local pound sterling notes, based on UK sterling. All visitors from the UK, Canada, Europe and elsewhere should bring US dollars only. If visitors who purchase goods and services in Bermuda get their change offered in Bermuda dollars they should ask if it can be exchanged for US dollars.

Bermuda Association of Licensed Trustees (BALT)

Founded in 1994. The organization that in Bermuda represents the trust and related industry. BALT is a forum for the interests of its stakeholders and acts as a representative body for all 30 companies licensed by the Bermuda Monetary Authority to carry on trust and related business in Bermuda. BALT makes representations to Government and is often invited to deliver submissions and reports on trust legislation, fiduciary ethics, good practice and regulation of the industry. The Association is a key contributor to the Bermuda Business Development Agency's strategic plan to promote existing international business and actively develop new business in Bermuda.

Bermuda Bankers Association (BBA)

Since November 2007. Funded by its members. Created its own (voluntary) code of conduct for its member-banks. Serves as the main representative body for banks and deposit taking/lending firms on the Island. Similar to banker's associations in other financial jurisdictions, an industry think tank, lobby group and a forum for increased cooperation on non-competitive issues among the Island's banks. Stated mission is to be a leading contributor in the development of public policy on the financial services sector and ensure the legal and regulatory framework governing banks operates in an efficient, effective and fair manner. All the Island's chartered banks and lending/deposit taking institutions are eligible for membership and currently all banks doing business in Bermuda are members. The Bermuda Monetary Authority, responsible for the licensing, supervision and regulation of all financial institutions in Bermuda (including those conducting deposit taking, insurance, investment and trust business), is an ex officio observer of the BBA.

Bermuda Deposit Insurance Corporation

The 2011 Bermuda legislation to provide deposit insurance of $25,000 per depositor is the result of a collaborative effort between financial regulator the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA), the Ministry of Finance and the Bermuda Bankers Association (BBA). In addition, technical advice was provided by the International Monetary Fund. Deposit insurance is a guarantee to depositors in a bank that they will be compensated up to a maximum specified amount of their deposits upon failure of that institution. It has three main objectives, to protect small depositors; promote stability in Bermuda's financial system and economy by providing prompt reimbursement or access to insured depositors' funds; and promote competition between financial institutions in Bermuda. Under the legislation, membership of the scheme is compulsory for all relevant financial institutions. The premiums are paid by the banks as a fixed percentage of insurable deposits. The Bermuda Deposit Insurance Corporation has an appointed board of directors to run the scheme. The legislation also entails elements on protection from personal liability and preservation of confidentiality.

Bermuda's first bank and currency note came from Halifax, NS, Canada

Merchant Bank of Halifax overprinted Bermuda banknote 1883

First Bermuda Banknote, 1883. A Canadian $5 note printed for the Merchant Bank of Halifax and converted to a £1 1 shilling (one guinea) note for use in Bermuda. 

The Merchants' Bank of Halifax (later, the Royal Bank of Canada), established in Halifax in 1864, opened an agency in Bermuda in 1882 via the local Butterfield's Bank. On October 6, 1883, it issued its own money for use in Bermuda. It began circulating a $5 Canadian note printed by the American Bank Note Company in Ottawa for its bank in Halifax and converted to a one pound, one shilling (guinea) note for use in Bermuda. This Canadian/Bermudian note has considerable historical value as the first "Bermudian" paper money to arrive in Bermuda; some 31 years before Bermuda got its own official currency notes. Later, the Merchants' Bank of Halifax divorced itself from Butterfield's Bank in Bermuda and ran its own branch bank in Bermuda for four years. Thus it also became the first (and only) non-Bermudian bank in Bermuda. Later yet, the Merchants' Bank of Halifax's Bermuda operation was bought out by banking newcomers in Bermuda who established from it the present day Bank of Bermuda Ltd.

First Bermuda Government £ sterling note, 1914

First Bermuda Government £ sterling note of 1914, also printed by the American Bank Note Company in Ottawa.

Bermuda Monetary Authority Fees 2013

See http://www.bma.bm/FEES%20AND%20PENALTY/Bermuda%20Monetary%20Authority%202013%20Fees.pdf

Bermuda's USA Patriot Act involvement

As a result of the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law No. 107-56 - October 26, 2001), the U.S. Department of the Treasury has issued regulations requiring U.S. financial institutions to obtain certain information relating to foreign banks that maintain relationships at U.S. financial institutions using a certification form. This certification is needed to comply with provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Bermuda banks are involved when they, as foreign banks, maintain relationships at US financial institutions, using a certification form. This certification is needed to comply with provisions of the USA Patriot Act, and a relevant Patriot Act Certificate is available for inspection at the Bermuda banks concerned.

Euro currency

 Incoming visitors from Europe should note that the Euro is not accepted anywhere in Bermuda as a trading currency. They should use US dollars. But all Bermuda's banks offer the Euro - € - to all visitors and business executives or representatives heading for Ireland and EU countries of  Europe. Avoid using Euro traveler's checks, instead use credit or debit card cards at ATMs of banks in Euro countries.

Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of the USA and how it affects Americans, Bermudians and those with US connections.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Account_Tax_Compliance_Act

Those likely to be affected by FATCA include US citizens and green card holders resident in the US and living abroad such as Bermuda who have foreign financial bank accounts, financial interests and other holdings; US residents for income tax purposes (those who do not have a US passport or citizenship but have resided in the US long enough to meet the substantial presence test), and others with US connections such US owned foreign entities. Also liable are US-classified foreign financial institutions and non-financial foreign entities including all those with US proprietary investments, US account holders, or other US financial dealings. FATCA cooperation is both encouraged and enforceable in Bermuda because Bermuda has signed Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) in the last few years with the United States and other countries. TIEAs, tax treaties, and Intergovernmental Agreements all aid in mutual information exchange cooperation. In cases where tax evasion, etc, is suspected or determined, the US Internal Revenue Service has profound regulatory powers (agreed on by the TIEAs and tax treaties) to request detailed significant confidential information on specified US individuals and related parties.

May 22, 2013. More than 250 local industry professionals were told “now is the time to take action in preparation for FATCA”, during KPMG’s second FATCA forum, held earlier this week at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. Building on the topics raised during the 2012 FATCA forum, the interactive session again asked the question “Are you ready for FATCA?” and delivered the message that as we approach the looming FATCA threshold dates, it is clear that FATCA is not going away. Discussion covered a wide range of topics, including FATCA from a global perspective; Bermuda’s response to FATCA; the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) models; FATCA’s potential impacts on business in Bermuda; and the cost of compliance and impact on customers, investors and counterparties. Describing why KPMG in Bermuda felt it was important to run a second FACTA forum for Bermuda professionals, KPMG managing director Charles Thresh, said; “This US legislation will have far-reaching consequences for the financial industry worldwide and Bermuda is no exception. If companies haven’t yet started planning for FATCA, it is not too late to become compliant, but the window is closing and the time to do so is now.” A key component of the panel portion was discussions around the IGA models, with particular interest on the differences between Models 1 & 2, the potential benefits and impacts of a Model 2 IGA, and the potential impact of FATCA on Bermuda’s insurance, funds, trust and banking industries. Additional analysis was also sought around the final FATCA regulations, as issued January 17, 2013, and a high degree of interest was shown around the compliance timeline, strongly echoing last year’s forum. In the wake of the timeline discussion, consensus again reflected that the time for Bermuda companies to act on FATCA is now. Describing the global implications of planning and preparation, David Neuenhaus, KPMG global FATCA lead partner said; “How companies transition to FATCA compliance will have a significant impact on their relationships with their customers, investors, counterparties and services providers. Companies who are early adopters of a robust compliance programme will have the competitive advantage — so a timely response is key.” This year’s forum was led by Charles Thresh, Managing Director of KPMG Advisory, Bermuda with keynote address provided by KPMG Global’s David Neuenhaus and Daniel Dzenkowski, and additional local market insights from KPMG FATCA team members including Catherine Sheridan Moore, James Berry and Will McCallum. In addition, valuable industry insights were provided by Kiernan Bell, managing partner, Appleby; Alison Morrison managing director, Oyster Consulting; Peter Pearman, partner CD&P; and Lyndon Quinn of HSBC.

On October 11, 2012 it was announced in the Royal Gazette daily newspaper of Bermuda that Bermuda’s four banks are facing a 2013 deadline to supply a list of all accounts held by US citizens to the US tax authorities. Failure to do so would mean the local banks would face a 30 percent withholding tax on all the many transactions they do with the USA. The obligations have been placed onto all non-US financial institutions by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), enacted by the US Congress in 2010. For Bermuda banks, compliance may entail a lot of work. As well as the thousands of US guest workers on the Island, there are many dual-nationality Bermudian-Americans, and spouses of Americans, people with an American parent and green card holders, who fall into the category of “US persons” whether or not they possess a US passport. The USA is one of few countries in the world that taxes its citizens living overseas on the income they earn outside the US. With the US Government’s national debt up around the $16 trillion mark, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is seeking to maximize tax revenue — and a growing focus is Americans overseas that may be slipping through its net. A recent visitor to Bermuda was Anne Hornung-Soukup, finance director of American Citizens Abroad (ACA), an advocacy group which has long fought for taxation based on residency rather than citizenship, as practised by most countries. In an interview she outlined her concerns about FATCA. "What FATCA means is that every financial institution in the world outside the US will effectively be an instrument of the IRS. How it will work in practice is posing a lot of problems. They’re struggling to put the system in place. There are a couple of models being discussed. The first is that the information from the bank goes straight to the IRS. For them to give this type of information directly to a foreign government is against the law in many countries. In the second model the information would go to the domestic authorities, for example the Bermuda Government, who would then pass it onto the US Government.” Some European governments, including the UK, have agreed to provide account holders’ information to the IRS on the condition of reciprocity. Germany, for example, has reportedly been particularly vocal about the need for US banks to supply information about German account holders in return for their Fatca compliance. Some have suggested that the clampdown could backfire, if institutions or countries choose not to comply with FATCA, and their clients and residents pull their money out of US investments. US citizens resident overseas have been required to report their US bank accounts and file tax returns for decades, but only in recent years has the IRS been really clamping down on compliance.  For more information on FATCA, visit http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Corporations/Summary-of-Key-FATCA-Provisions

Foreign Currency Purchase Tax

All who work in or have business dealings in Bermuda or who visit there on vacation should note that Bermuda, uniquely in the economies of the international business centers, has a Foreign Currency Purchase Tax (FCPT). It applies to the purchase of all non-local currencies including the US Dollar. In theory the Bermuda Dollar is on a par with the US Dollar but in in fact it is worth less. Why? Mostly on account of the FCPT, also because of Bermuda bank currency processing charges, in addition to the FCPT applied on every transaction. On February 26, 2010 the Bermuda Government doubled this tax, from one half of 1% to a full 1% per transaction.  

This includes all purchases of foreign currencies for travel and business purposes and all telegraphic (wire) transfers of monies from Bermuda to individuals and businesses abroad. This means that in addition to bank charges built into the cost of wire transfers, government alone will now charge consumers $1,000 for every $100,000 taken or wired abroad. There is no Government Receipt given for this FCPT charge. The local-only Bermuda Dollar is not exportable. It is not used by traders world-wide. It is not cashable or exchangeable by any foreign banks. It is used only by local citizens and residents - not by international companies based in Bermuda (all of which use US dollars). 

Foreign Exchange brokers in Bermuda

Currently, none independent of the Bermuda banks above.

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Last Updated: August 18, 2014.
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