March 26, 2024

Nassau, The Bahamas. In a stirring keynote to the STEP Bahamas 2024 Conference, GrahamThompson (GT) Consultant Counsel Sean McWeeney, KC, framed the conference theme “Facing Realities – Fostering Solutions” into a call for action for individual excellence.

His address targeted Millennials and Gen Zers of the wider financial services sector, including the supporting legal and accounting industries.

Mr. McWeeney highlighted what he framed as “strategically important aspects of personal development and associated mindsets”. Things he believes to be “absolutely vital” to whether the outcomes of individuals’ endeavours, present and future, would become successes or failures.

He defined his discussion in four areas:

  • Upping our game and getting rid of protectionist crutches.
  • Exporting ourselves as a tool of self-investment.
  • Specialising.
  • Learning another language.

Upping our game and getting rid of protectionist crutches

Under the first he urged that, “we need to not just be good at what we do, we need to be the best at what we do”.

He shared his belief that a sense of entitlement of being owed opportunities because one is Bahamian, had contributed to fostering in some, “an ethos of mediocrity”. This sense of entitlement he described as “a dark side to Bahamianisation”.

While for its time, the policy he said was a “glorious transformative instrument of state policy”. In today’s context, he characterised Bahamianisation as “protectionist crutches”.

Extolling merit over nationality, “competence”, he said, “should anchor our ambitions”.

“We need to set the bar higher and insist on nothing less than world class standards.” The mindset must be he said, to work both harder and smarter, to be better at “what we do” than “Cayman or Bermuda or the Channel Islands or Singapore”.

Exporting ourselves as a tool of self-investment

He challenged the sector’s younger professionals to consider exporting themselves “to other jurisdictions as a career development, résumé building, self-investment strategy.”

Recognising that such a strategy could be perceived as counter-intuitive, a contributor to brain drain, he asserted that “fundamentally, it’s an investment in yourself”.

He named a number of outstanding Bahamians who distinguished themselves in international roles before returning to The Bahamas to serve in capacities of immense leadership and influence. He also highlighted Bahamians currently performing exceptionally in highly competitive global roles. Emphasising that those noted, represented only a subset of a much larger cadre of highly accomplished Bahamians in the global landscape.

The wider world of opportunity he affirmed “especially if you’re young and ambitious, and want to make an investment in your future”, is a pathway for personal and professional advancement.


Mr. McWeeney underscored “the dearth of specialist skills in The Bahamas in relation to the financial services sector and its satellite support systems”. The legal profession he said was chief among them.

Less than ten of the near 1500 lawyers in The Bahamas he said were trust specialists. “It’s one of the main reasons why we are so heavily dependent on specialist trust lawyers from abroad.”

He also projected that an even lesser number of the country’s lawyers are specialists in investment funds and associated products.

The strength of the sector’s “still healthy volume of trust business for lawyers in The Bahamas”, he surmised as due to the strength of the country’s trust law. Which he believes is “the best trust law in the whole of the offshore world”.

“One very compelling proof of this is that even when trust companies fold up here and export all their trust business to another jurisdiction, more often than not they retain Bahamian law as the governing law of the exported trusts.” Retaining Bahamian law as the governing law he explained, sustains the need for the advice of Bahamian lawyers.

While recognising a place and need for generalist practitioners in law and other relevant fields, he emphasised that “the more profitable outcomes at the personal professional level in the years ahead are going to be achieved by the specialists, not the generalists”.

Mr. McWeeney advocated for “openness to foreign expertise, especially foreign legal expertise, where specialist skills are in short supply but needed all the same”.

The Bahamas’ continuing competitiveness he suggested requires that “trust litigants and their professional advisors are able to recruit and deploy the best available specialist legal talent wherever it is to be found”.

Learning another language

In this part of his address, Mr. McWeeney targeted client relationship professionals.

He emphasised that “the predominant segment of our financial services industry today is in the non-English speaking world”. Mainly Central and South America and the Spanish Caribbean, underpinning Spanish and Portuguese as the sector’s primary languages. Increased growth into Asian and other markets he added, was expected in the coming years.

Not nearly enough in the sector he said communicate directly, conversationally with clients, in the clients’ own native language.

One’s career development he explained “stands to be boosted by the acquisition of bi-lingual, even multi-lingual capabilities”.

Concluding Guidance

Mr. McWeeney imparted six final guiding notes on the subject of achieving “well-roundedness”.

He told “the younger, newer players in the industry” to work as hard as they could, but without allowing themselves “to become drones”. To “carve out time to develop and sustain meaningful relationships”.

He encouraged those Millennials and Gen Zers to make time to give back to the community. “The cumulative effect of our incremental efforts” he said, “can be transformative in the long run”.

Mr. McWeeney also urged them to read. “Reading books and acquiring a new knowledge across a wide range of things will help bring about a much more mutually satisfying basis for social interaction with your clients and colleagues alike.”

He also reminded them simply to “stay humble”. Admonishing to never “think your organisation can’t do without you”.

To the more experienced in the room, he invited them to “embrace the challenge of mentoring”.

His final guidance was a reminder that “disappointments are inevitable”. He urged the younger professionals in particular, “to learn to handle and overcome disappointment on the job or in your profession”.