Increasing numbers of chartered accountants are moving to this income tax-free, sub-tropical paradise. We find out what awaits them there…
You won’t need to worry about shovelling snow, getting stuck in traffic or the wrong sort of leaves being on the railway line here,” jokes Pamela, an ACA from England. “My total commuting time is only 10 minutes!”
Pamela, 26, is an Audit Senior with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Bermuda. Her department is staffed by ACAs from Britain, Ireland, Canada, the US and a host of other countries. She is one of an increasing number of qualified accountants heading to this Caribbean-style jurisdiction after qualifying.
Everybody has a mental picture of life in Bermuda – but what’s it really like?
Escape the bad weather and drudgery
Pamela describes life on the Island as being the dream mix of “a great job, no income tax, beaches and sunshine. You get to escape the drudgery!”
Many also enjoy the Caribbean-style corporate working culture found in Bermuda.
There are other, far more significant advantages, however: such as adding an international dimension to a progressive career plan – undeniably a major asset in today’s global workplace.
Future earnings potential
A newly-qualified chartered accountant in Bermuda will earn US$72-80,000 in audit while an ACA/CA starting directly in the financial services industry might command $80-90,000 plus bonus. A number of employers also offer the inducement of share options. Work permit sponsorship, relocation flights and free accommodation for the first few weeks on arrival are standard in all employment packages.
For those considering a career in the City afterwards, such a move provides excellent scope for training and working in financial services, particularly in the areas of insurance and investment funds. This is a major plus if you can’t presently include such experience on your CV and you’d like to make the transition to financial services.
More about Bermuda
Bermuda offers a cosmopolitan, income tax-free environment in which to progress both personally and financially. The Island boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world with the largely affluent, educated resident population generally mixing easily with the influx of ‘guest workers’ as expats are known.
It is located approximately 600 miles off the east coast of the United States, level with North & South Carolina. Bermuda has a population of 60,000 and enjoys a sub-tropical, frost-free climate with mild winters thanks to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, making it an ideal destination for those who enjoy an outdoor, sporting lifestyle.
Bermuda is one of the world’s premier offshore financial centres: the Island is an innovative global leader in insurance and the undisputed #1 in the world captive insurance market. In fact, in knowledgeable circles, it’s often referred to as “the world’s risk capital”.
The insurance sector in Bermuda is extremely successful: its insurance industry is expected to hit US$167 billion in 2019, up from $102 billion five years before. The Island has grown from a captive hub to the second largest reinsurance market in the world, driven by achieving full equivalence with Solvency II by the EU in 2016, expansion to new global markets, and by being an innovative incubator for the development of alternative capital (Insurance Linked Securities, for example).
Bermuda is a world-class centre for hedge funds (with funds showing more than US$107 billion in net assets), as well as for private equity funds, for asset finance, and for incorporations of global companies seeking to list on an established and internationally-recognised stock exchange.
Additionally, Bermuda is home to hundreds of other companies, including many of the largest financial services institutions in the world. Move there and you’ll recognise lots of corporate name plates outside offices!
Career opportunities in Bermuda are a good match for ambitious and talented finance professionals who want to develop their financial services experience in a superior living environment; accordingly opportunities for advancement are considerable.
Bermuda is well-served by airlines. There are daily flights to and from major North American business centres including New York, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington. There is also service to and from Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Halifax in the summer. Flights from London take eight hours and are direct from Gatwick airport.
Reassuringly, for those seeking signs of home, Bermuda has retained many of its British characteristics – including red telephone boxes, distinctive police uniforms and a decent selection of pubs.
Aside from the wide range of social and sporting activities you’d expect from a tourist destination, there’s the World Rugby Classic, golf events like the Bermuda Open, cricket fixtures such as Cup Match, and the annual sailing regatta.
The high-profile America’s Cup is coming to the Island in 2017 and Bermuda has also enthusiastically adopted newer twists on favourite sports, such as frisbee football and beach tennis.
If you enjoy going out after work, there are mots of pubs in and around Hamilton, as well as an array of on-trend nightclubs. Bars offer a good opportunity to meet people from a similar background (lots of single people who are professionals and in their mid-20s move to the Island) and you can be assured of a very active social life, as well as being able to enjoy the tourist nature of the Island.
Basic requirements to go
Provided you are exam-qualified with circa 3 years’ external audit experience, the Big Four firms (Deloitte, EY, KPMG & PwC) are usually happy to consider you for interview, even if you have no financial services experience (financial services training is available for all new starters, though you do need to demonstrate you are keen to learn). Like anywhere, hours are longer in audit busy season but it’s noticeably quieter at other times, and the lifestyle and remuneration more than compensate.
Making an informed decision
For ACAs considering a move overseas, the most popular option is to sign up with a ‘one-stop shop’ recruitment agency.
Whoever you choose to help you, we do highly recommend using a specialist agency rather than trying your luck by applying direct or using a generalist agency – the quality of career advice, insights into Island life and interview guidance you get will generally results in a more informed, superior outcome.
Nowhere’s perfect, of course. So what are the drawbacks of Bermuda?
For those who especially enjoy the plethora of choice and anonymity of a metropolitan environment, leaving city life to reside offshore can be hard. The Island is much more of a friendly ‘small town’ environment – yes, it does have art galleries, malls and cinemas but you’re not going to find the same array of choice as you get back in a city like Toronto.
Cost of living is also not cheap and has been compared to London prices. However, the difference that means you can save is that there is no income tax in Bermuda (there’s only a 6% payroll deduction, meaning that you get to keep and spend as you like the 25-35% of your salary that you’d normally lose to the tax man).
Jason, 28, chose to move from Canada because he wanted to both benefit from financial services exposure and also gain international experience. Since arriving on the Island last year, he has achieved both, enjoying extensive excursions to the States in his role as a Financial Accountant in risk management.
The most difficult adjustment for others is leaving behind their friends and family. “To be happy in Bermuda, you have to enjoy the outdoor life. You have to be independent and outgoing,” notes Jason, “otherwise you’ll find it hard. You need to develop friendships quickly since you don’t have your old social network to hand.
Everyone’s in the same boat
“Fortunately, everybody is in the same boat. So it’s really quite easy to get to know people whether it’s in the office, on the golf course or of course at the beach.”
Most professionals go with the intention of staying for two years before continuing their careers at home. However, your horizons widen significantly in the time spent in Bermuda and you find it becomes difficult to contemplate sacrificing the greatly enhanced standard of living to return home, particularly given new career opportunities that present themselves once you’ve proven yourself and got financial services, international reporting and overseas experience under your belt.
For that reason, most chartered accountants decide to stay longer than the standard initial two years – around 4-5 years is typical – and get to enjoy the famous pink beaches that little bit longer.
For the lucky ones who make it there, each and every day can be just another day in paradise!
If you are a lawyer or chartered accountant and interested in working in the Bermuda/Caribbean region, visit our jobs portal to see the latest vacancies. Our site also includes a downloadable All You Need to Know guide which will tell you all you need to know about living and working offshore.