The information below provides details about the Netherlands Antilles banking system, and details on opening an offshore bank account. You will find details on the laws and regulations that govern the banking system, as well as a list of local and international banks that operate in Netherlands Antilles.
Banks and other financial institutions in the Netherlands Antilles are licensed under the National Ordinance on the Supervision of Banking and Credit Institutions of 1994. Licenses are issued by the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles (the central bank). The central bank distinguishes between ‘Consolidated International Banks’ – international credit institutions, which are established in the Netherlands Antilles and through their parent company, are subject to adequate consolidated supervision by a foreign supervisory authority (i.e. supervisory authority of the parent company), and ‘Non-Consolidated International Banks’ – international credit institutions established in the Netherlands Antilles and for which the central bank acts as the primary supervisory authority.
The central bank further distinguishes between onshore banks – local general banks which are credit institutions operating in the Netherlands Antilles as universal banks in the legal form of a limited liability company and which are subject to the supervision of the Central Bank and which are licensed to do business with both local and foreign parties, and offshore banks, which are licensed for external business only. Offshore banks are known as International Credit Institutions and are exempt from foreign exchange controls. An offshore bank can operate either as a Netherlands Antilles limited company (NV) or as a branch.
Bank van de Nederlandse Antillen (Central Bank of Netherlands Antilles)
The Bank’s most important objectives are to maintain the external stability of the Netherlands Antillean guilder (NAG) and to promote the efficient functioning of the financial system in the Netherlands Antilles.
To realize these objectives, the Bank, as supervisory authority, has frequently recurred to credit control measures and/or to changing the discount rate.
The functions of the Bank, explicitly summed up in the Bank Charter, are:
To strengthen the Central Bank’s independent position vis-à-vis the government, the Bank Charter limits the monetary financing of budget deficits to 10% of the central government’s revenues in the previous year. This limitation must be seen in the context of an overdraft facility to meet liquidity deficits of the public sector that result from seasonal variations in government revenues.
Monetary and banking supervision
Two of the Bank’s basic tasks are to control the amount of liquid assets in circulation (monetary supervision), and to act as the supervisory body for credit and banking institutions operating in the Netherlands Antilles (prudential supervision). Furthermore, the Bank is one of the government’s main advisors on financial and economic affairs.
The monetary policy of the “Bank van de Nederlandse Antillen” during the last two decades has been geared toward promoting a stable value of the NAG with respect to the US dollar. Since 1971 the official NAG/$ rate of 1.79 has been firmly supported by the monetary authorities. The Bank’s main reason for pegging the NAG to the US dollar is that over the years, more than 60% of its international trade relations have been conducted with the United States or in US dollars. To maintain the dollar standard, the Bank must ensure a sufficient supply of foreign exchange. To manage the foreign exchange reserves of the Netherlands Antilles, the Bank in the past has exerted control over the credit extended by commercial banks.
The prudential supervision of banking and credit institutions is aimed at controlling the soundness of the financial system in the Netherlands Antilles and at safeguarding the deposits of creditors at commercial banks. This supervision is pursued mainly through the Bank’s analysis of the solvency and liquidity development of banking and credit institutions.
At end-2004, 42 offshore banks were active in the Netherlands Antilles. End-2003, their balance sheet total was about US$ 41 billion. The banks are primarily of Venezuelan and Netherlands origin. Supervision of offshore banks is identical to that exercised over onshore banks. Activities of these banks seem to focus on non- bank offshore companies. They are not permitted to have any dealings with residents.
The difference in the nature of onshore versus offshore banking lies primarily in the clientele of the institutions, and the absence of cash-based transactions in the offshore sector. Offshore banking services nonresident customers and focuses on international banking operations, consisting of services to companies (“trust” business), mutual funds, and (re)insurance companies. Nonresident legal entities, with ultimate ownership outside the Antilles, are free to perform international capital transactions with nonresidents. Since the introduction of the New Fiscal Framework with the Netherlands, differentiation in tax treatment between offshore and onshore entities no longer occurs.
Offshore banks have diverse types of business. Most are subsidiaries or branches of large financial institutions in Europe, the United States, or South America. Some banks are primarily involved in private banking and asset management, whereas others are merely loan booking offices. Some banks act as a treasurer for a larger conglomerate or have a role as a regional credit office. Funding can reflect this diversity from within the group, or from other financial institutions. All clients need to be nonresidents.
Financial Institutions Operating
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