New Providence
Veteran Financier Wants to Know Your Business
By Serena Williams
Oct 30, 2018 - 12:28:09 PM

Jim Wilson

Nassau, Bahamas - If you have an interest in learning what makes a business successful, you may want to take a look at Jim Wilson’s job description as a Vice President of Corporate Finance at Royal Fidelity.

 “One of the key roles of Corporate Finance, and the one that occupies most of my time, is primarily two-fold. It’s first about finding companies that may already be suitable as an investment but also about recognising companies that could be suitable for investment, given the guidance and assistance Royal Fidelity provides.” It is the original version of peer to peer financing but with due diligence and regulatory controls being mandatory parts of the process.

 “I’ve been in the business for a while. Developing good contacts is important but it’s about the experience – recognizing the opportunities and understanding the nuances of what makes a business or a proposal successful and hopefully, having developed a good reputation and the trust with the clients who may look to you for guidance and support.”  “My own view and that of the company is I won’t raise funds for a company I wouldn’t be prepared to invest in myself.”

The VP said that with bank interest rates at all-time lows, the desire for a better return has resulted in some depositors seeking better returns, looking beyond savings accounts in favour of investments in local and overseas stocks and bonds. 

“We all want more of a return on our savings,” said Mr. Wilson. “So more and more Bahamians are looking at investing in local and overseas companies through our Brokerage platform and Global Invest, our managed service that facilitates investments in international stock exchanges.”

Jim Wilson says he is always working on, or researching, the next potential, ‘big deal’ ant there isn’t a shortage of potential. 

“We have a couple of deals on the go right now, but of course these remain confidential until we are close to going to market.  One of the larger propositions currently with us is a refinancing of some of the debt held by NAD for the airport.  We are looking at bringing this to market before the end of the year.”

Jim Wilson said that Royal Fidelity’s long and successful track record of raising funds assists in attracting clients.

“A lot of enquires are due to word-of-mouth – people are familiar with us so they approach us for advice on the potential opportunities.  There are situations where they may have also approached the commercial banks but for whatever reason they don’t fit the Bank lending criteria. So sometimes it’s about finding the right mix of financing. We’ve had discussions with most of the large banks and done deals with Royal Bank and others. We’re open to doing deals with any of the banks where it makes sense for the client, the Bank, and of course ourselves.  There opportunities arise where a company may have proven cash flow but the Bank can’t make a deal work due to the length of time needed to repay the loan, or the amount of debt may be too high for the assets being financed. We will work towards structuring a deal that works for everyone.”

Jim Wilson said he feels there are definitely opportunities in the corporate finance space that aren’t yet getting attention.

“As an example, the government speaks about perhaps privatizing some of the smaller, currently government-owned entities and these should present great opportunities for either management or local investment groups to take over these businesses to successfully run them.  I think those can be real opportunities. And perhaps government should be saying, ‘Here’s what we’d like to privatize.’ I’m sure some of these businesses are not making any money right now, and the government is subsidizing them, and that is the incentive for the government to sell them, but there may be opportunities there for existing management in those businesses and those entities to take them private; raising funds through family friends and / or corporate finance in order to take them private.”

When asked if there were more Bahamas-based foreign owned companies for which they raise capital Jim had this to say:

“No, I don’t think so. Our business is Bahamian focused and our capital raising and other Corporate Finance services are focused on businesses in the Bahamas.  There are lots of Bahamians who run very successful businesses.

What you find is that certain segments tend to be dominated by foreign ownership – such as hospitality and given the dominance of hospitality in our economy that gets most of the attention. Some of that is because of the large amount of capital required to start a hotel project, for instance, and also it’s a specialized kind of experience required. Obviously, we have some very talented Bahamians working in the hospitality industries here who’ve come up under Atlantis’ and so on, but are they opening their own hotels? Are they moving into that business? If they are, we’re certainly not aware of it.”

Mr. Wilson thought there were opportunities for all sorts of businesses. The non-hotel tourism sector, through the AirBnB’s and so on.

“They’re renting a room out. To me, that’s a form of business ownership and entrepreneurship in how you’re running that. I think there are opportunities for bed and breakfasts through the family islands and perhaps even here in Nassau that tells us there are opportunities for hotel projects that are less than the mega projects costing tens of millions of dollars. It is focused, obviously, on the tourist product still, which I know we talk about diversifying away from; but while that is, if you like that tourism goose – that golden goose that we have – I think there are still opportunities there to be had.”

Jim Wilson also saw opportunity in the local tourism activities such as the food, art and historic Nassau tours– all Bahamian run and owned. “Tourists want the flavor of the Bahamian point of view and the Bahamian view of the country.”

Another opportunity he said exists in business succession. 

“As owners of long time existing businesses begin looking for an exit for whatever reason - age, lack of interest from family members to take over the business, lack of funding for needed growth – we can assist in determining the best options on the way forward.”  

Jim Wilson said he’d like to see foreign investors partnering with Bahamians.

“Having somebody from abroad come in and say they’re going to do something, whatever business it may be may have wonderful and different ideas, but typically they should be partnering with somebody local. I don’t think that should be forced, though, but I think partnering with somebody local, who understands the local market, who understands how things get done, is an important catalyst and support for any new venture. I do believe there are lots of different businesses – it’s only limited by our imagination in terms of what Bahamians can be getting into.

Obviously, you want to focus on something where you have some experience and some knowledge in what you’re doing to do.”

Michael Anderson Royal Fidelity’s President said that Jim Wilson will play an increasingly important role in the company’s future in The Bahamas and Barbados.

“We are ramping up for an extraordinary next couple of years, and capital financing will be playing a key role in our strategic planning, and Jim’s expertise will be key in our success and broaden the base of capital markets in The Bahamas and in our other territories,” said Michael Anderson.”

About Jim Wilson

Jim Wilson has over 30 years of banking experience with major Canadian Banks in Canada, The Dominican Republic, and here in the Bahamas. His experience spans working in branches to overseeing private banking to various roles in International Corporate and Commercial Banking.  During his career he has participated on risk and credit committees, chaired various credit committees and been a member of the local Board of one of the Canadian Banks.  Corporate & Commercial Banking has provided him with financing experience on everything from “mom and pop” operations when he started his lending career, to large infrastructure projects including Ports, Airports, Hotels, Construction Financing, and everything in between.  

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