Designs for a more sustainable financial centre
Thanks to its expertise and longstanding experience in financial services, the Luxembourg financial centre doesn’t need to hide behind Singapore or London. This was the principal message of Ernst Wilhelm Contzen and Carlo Thill, re-elected President and Vice President of the Luxembourg Bankers’ Association (ABBL).
Over the last 30 years, the Luxembourg financial centre has constantly adapted to new regulatory measures and legislation, and it will continue to do so in the future. That applies not only for private banking, the sector Luxembourg is most known and respected for, but also for the fund industry. Despite the obstacles in the way to a sustainable financial centre, like Fatca for instance, Thill is confident that Luxembourg can benefit from its past experience. “I am sure that we can face the future optimistically”, he said at the press conference on the occasion of the ABBLs’ general meeting 2012.
Though the traditional fiscal secrecy is now history, the Luxembourg financial centre is well positioned. “Due to our history, we can benefit from know-how and resources other financial centres don’t have”, explains Thill. Numerous service providers, lawyers and consultants can help demanding clients structure their portfolio. “This diversity is unique. Luxembourg offers all services in one single place”, underlines Thill.
Transparent, compliant Luxembourg
It’s not only the glamorous private banking where Luxembourg is a front-runner in the Eurozone. It is also a renowned hub for depositary banks for the investment fund industry. Both sectors have one thing in common: all structuring vehicles offered are transparent and compliant with European law. This has already made the world’s biggest bank, ICBC, establish its European hub in Luxembourg. Other Swiss and German banks have opted for the same strategic move.
On the investment fund industry side, Luxembourg can claim to be the first jurisdiction to apply the Alternative Investment Fund Manager Directive (AIFMD) into national law. The first positive results can be seen in the private equity business, where business has increased significantly in the last years.
In terms of sustainable finance, “Luxembourg has been on the train since before it departed”, says Thill. There is no other European financial centre that can compete with Luxembourg in the field of Islamic finance, for instance.
Not only has the business environment changed since the financial crisis, but also its clientele: the majority of clients in the past came from neighbouring countries like Belgium, France and Germany with an average fortune of 250,000 Euros; the trend has changed to fortunes from 1 million to more than 5 million Euros, entrusted by clients from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
These clients are international entrepreneurs that are looking for structuring and pension vehicles, combined with professionalism and confidentiality. “These people prefer a stable place in terms of society, politics and taxes”, says Thill.
However, Luxembourg will not only stay attractive for clients, but also for future employees. A recent project by the ABBL has been the set-up of a charter for gender equality. Some banks already have implemented these mew measures.
One law for everybody
But sustainability has to be more than just ensuring that one’s own country does well. Ernst Wilhelm Contzen emphasizes that Luxembourg banks only borrowed about 1 billion Euros from the European central bank, which is not a vast amount. Also, they shouldered their responsibility during the recent debt crisis. According to Contzen, “the Luxembourg banks kept their amortization on Greek securities of about 1 billion Euros and didn’t sell them off”.
Contzen underlines: “Luxembourg clearly commits itself to a transparent money-strategy in accordance with the law. We do not want to have illegitimate money in Luxembourg and all banks have to respect this”. In this context, he appeals to the US to ensure a worldwide level playing field. “The US must disclose its own loopholes in Delaware and Florida. The Rubik agreement between Germany and Switzerland can be a blueprint for Luxembourg”. EK