Legal Market Overview
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has a balanced economy underpinned by a thriving tourism sector and a dynamic international business and finance centre, the latter of which employs 2,200 people directly and supports a further 3,000 jobs in the territory. In addition, approximately 500,000 foreign businesses are incorporated in the BVI and approximately 40% of all offshore companies in the world are BVI registered.
As a leading offshore financial centre, the territory maintains innovative and modern statutes dealing primarily with company, banking, trust, insolvency and insurance laws. A large number of firms in the region have seen an uptick in insolvency proceedings (even before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis) as well as instructions relating to natural resources and mining issues, and strands of work involving digital assets and cryptocurrencies.
Aside from the much-reported economic substance requirements, which have kept firms busy throughout 2020, the BVI has introduced its first regulatory regime to regulate closed-ended funds. Elsewhere, designed to foster the growth of fintech-related businesses, The Financial Services (Regulatory Sandbox) Regulations 2020 (the Sandbox Regulations) came into force in August 2020; under the new regulations, BVI companies and other entities will be able to test financial services products on a trial basis within a ‘light touch’ regulatory environment.
Conyers, Harneys, Maples Group and Walkers BVI still stand out in the region due to their wide-ranging practices. However, Ogier’s recent hires and relative stability has allowed it to close the gap. In the wider legal market, Sheila George, Paul Mellor and Johann Henry all departed Harneys’ real estate department to set up their own firm, George Henry Partners LP.