Gibraltar's burgeoning financial services sector dates back to the enactment of the Companies (Taxation and Concessions) Ordinance in 1967, which made provision for a special tax regime for international business. The industry has made great strides since those early days, and now includes a broad spectrum of professional services, ranging from private banking to captive insurance management.
Gibraltar is a unique jurisdiction for the promotion and development of financial services. It has a common law legal system, highly-developed professional infrastructure, first-class regulation and access to the EU single market in financial services.
In order to facilitate the development of the sector, and launch it into the top flight of jurisdictions, the Gibraltar Finance Centre (GFC) Division was established within the Department of Trade and Industry in 1997. GFC is essentially the centre for all activities involving the promotion and strategic planning of the financial services sector on the Rock. It should be noted, however, that GFC is not responsible for regulation. This is the remit of the Financial Services Commission, established in 1989 as an independent statutory body.
The GFC facilities in the prime development of Europort, which include a spacious conference room, are used as a meeting place for all the various industry associations as well as their umbrella body, the Finance Centre Council.
GFC acts as the first point of contact for new financial services businesses wishing to establish a presence on the Rock. One important development to further the concept of a 'one-stop shop' was the move to GFC in 1999 of the Licensing Unit, which is responsible for issuing certificates to exempt and qualifying companies, and qualifying individuals.
Gibraltar's financial services industry is constantly evolving. Recent trends include the establishment on the Rock of a number of Swiss portfolio managers, the commencement of direct trading on Eurex, the German/Swiss financial futures exchange, and the promotion of Gibraltar as a domicile for securitisation.
In the important sphere of regulation, investors can rest assured that the Rock's financial services are regulated to the highest standards. A Deposit Protection Scheme came into effect in 1999 and an Investor Protection Scheme will follow. As part of the European Union, Gibraltar implements all relevant EU directives, but the Financial Services Commission goes further by regulating the industry to UK standards.
Such is the reputation that Gibraltar has acquired in recent years that it is increasingly being referred to as a regulatory benchmark for other jurisdictions. In fact, the Edwards report (commissioned by the UK in 1998 to review regulatory practices in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) used Gibraltar as a point of comparison when making recommendations for other centres.