Up Close … with Wendy Pierre, chief executive of the Seychelles International Business Authority-‘I believe in capacity-building and staff empowerment’


Wendy Pierre in her office at Siba
Having spent some nine years with Siba before being appointed in the new position, Wendy feels she has the necessary experience to shoulder the responsibilities the job entails.

Meeting her recently in her office at the Siba headquarters on Bois de Rose Avenue, the 33-year-old was very enthusiastic when she talked about her job and her plans for the future.

She said she is prepared to face the challenges that lay ahead and that she is thankful the experience gained working for many years in the financial services sector has stood her in good stead.

Before being appointed in the new position she was a manager dealing with the legal and compliance aspects of the financial services sector of the Siba.

“My new position will require that I will also have to take care of business promotion which is a very important responsibility of the Siba”, Wendy pointed out.

“But I know the sector,” she said, adding that support of Siba’s various partners, colleagues with whom she has worked for many years and the collective effort of members of her team is essential to help her succeed in her mission to propel the Siba to greater heights.

“Our partners’ opinions and contributions are very important and I make it a must to meet and discuss issues with them,” she added.

“They are all ready to work with whoever is ready to bring further development in the financial service sector,” she pointed out.

“I’ve always maintained a good and healthy relationship with everybody and therefore I feel comfortable to address colleagues and all members of staff and seek their opinion and advice on any issue,” she said.

“I am encouraged by all the positive feedback and words of encouragement received so far,” she added.

Wendy said there has been several positive contributions as well which together with her team she is working on.

Set up in 1995, the Siba is essentially a one-stop shop that covers both licensing and regulation of the primary offshore business activities. It is the Registrar for international business companies, international trusts, among others. The Siba also regulates International Free Trade Zone activities in Seychelles.

Education and training
Wendy joined the Siba in 2003 soon after completing her university studies in law. Joining Siba she concentrated and specialised in the aspect of compliance which is very important and essential in the offshore business sector.

“In this kind of business there are lots of risks which can potentially arise and compliance consists of  various safeguards which when put in place ensure the country is not exposed to those potential dangers like financial crimes,” she said.

“And when I studied compliance I came to know of the various structures which could help protect our country from those risks,” Wendy explained.

Three years ago she completed her studies for a diploma in compliance and now she is a member of the International Compliance Association which is affiliated to the University of Manchester.

The members share good practices and experiences for the benefit of the financial sector.

Wendy also followed several short-term training relating to other areas of the offshore sector.

At present she is studying for her masters in banking and finance which she is expected to complete next year.

“This is another challenge for me to overcome. I have to manage work, studies and other aspects of my life. But I can say that I have found the balance,” she explained.

She pointed out that the good thing about the Siba is the opportunity it gives its staff to study and work at the same time and this, apart from allowing staff members to find the right balance, it also gives them the chance to exercise self discipline.

“Siba strongly believes in training and more training for its staff, because without training members of staff would lack the skills and efficiency required to handle the increasing demands of the sector,” she said.

Wendy recalled when she joined the Siba in 2003 she worked for two years with a private business within the offshore sector to gain experience.

“I am grateful for the exposure and experience obtained while working with the private business.
It has helped to increase my competence and provided me with additional skills which are essential when handling different types of clients,” added Wendy.

She explained that her work as a compliance manager has also taken her overseas to attend various international conferences, meetings and seminars where she took part in discussions with international organisations and other bodies involve in the business.

Facing the challenges
But how does Wendy handle all the challenges of her new job?
She says a lot of development is taking place in the financial services industry and one has to be prepared for that.

She gave as example the fact that small island states like Seychelles are at present under a lot of focus for various reasons and one of them is the amount of interest in our financial services sector.

“People everywhere want to know what we have to offer,” said Wendy.
Another reason is that international organisations like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are concentrating to ensure small countries like Seychelles have in place the necessary framework which meet international standards when operating an offshore business sector.

Wendy pointed out that she is happy the Siba has in place the necessary structures and is forging ahead with its plans to modernise its operations.

“Siba is not only encouraging people to come and do business here but it also ensures it has in place the right structures for doing good quality business according to international best practices,” Wendy stressed.

With regard to the financial crisis affecting several parts of the world namely Europe, Wendy said its impact on the business sector locally is unavoidable but she believes Seychelles can withstand that due to the fact that it also has strong interests in other regions like Asia and Africa which are still stable.

“These are areas with lots of potentials which the Siba is planning to explore to ensure continued prosperity in the business sector,” added Wendy.

Several Bills related to the financial sector which the National Assembly approved at the end of last year are further proof of Siba’s commitment to continue to upgrade its operations to meet international standards. This follows a series of recommendations identified by the OECD which included making certain amendments to the various laws which govern the Siba’s operations.

“The Siba is very proud of its effort to meet international standards and be seen as one of these financial destinations which do good business and have the right framework in place,” Wendy pointed out.

She expresses her satisfaction that the Siba has managed to carry out those recommendations and pointed out that towards the end of May it will have the opportunity to defend the report relating to the work carried out in line with its effort to put in place those recommendations.
“Hopefully everything will meet the required standard and we could continue our work and move forward,” Wendy noted.

She further stressed that the important thing is for the Siba to maintain its position on the OECD white list.

Plans for the future
Wendy is also very much encouraged by the amount of interest shown in the services and products offered by the Siba which is aiming for more value added services.

“The Siba aims to work to ensure that once clients register their companies they also use services provided here and not those outside Seychelles,” Wendy said.
Wendy believes that in order to convince clients to use services provided here, more work has to be done to improve those services.

“The laws and framework are already in place and we plan to intensify building the capacity of our people to meet the demands of clients and retain in the country as much benefits from providing such services,” she said.

“Having the right people on the ground to provide the standard of services required by clients is very important and remains among some of the Siba’s greatest challenges for the coming years,” noted Wendy.

“But I am positive that with the support of our partners and staff commitment to the objectives of the Siba, we can go very far,” she mused.

In the coming years, Wendy said, building the capacity of her staff and empower them to move the authority further will be among her priorities.

“The effective and smooth running of the Siba can only be achieved through having efficient and capable managers,” said Wendy.  

Family life and past time
The mother of an energetic seven-year-old son, Wendy said she derives her strength from the support of her family first and foremost.

“Family life is very important for me and I believe a strong and stable family life is what gives me strength and the most joy in life and at work,” Wendy reflected.
She said she is always attentive to advice and criticisms.

“I am young and I still have a lot to learn. I welcome criticisms from everyone because I believe this helps you grow and become stronger.”

Wendy said she always looks forward for some fitness exercises with her son on the fitness trail, quiet and cosy evenings with her small family, weekend reunion with both her family and those of her husband’s.

She believes this is the time to replenish yourself, relax and discuss various matters, share and gain from others around you over some homemade dishes.

Wendy, who is not good at cooking, enjoys listening to the radio and watching TV mostly to keep abreast of current events. She also does not miss the opportunity to watch a good movie every now and then.

Reading she does all the time and it is mostly material related to her job.

By Marie-Anne Lepathy