‘Professionally Panama’ looks to Jamaica for business clients

‘Professionally Panama’ looks to Jamaica for business clients

BY RICHARD BROWNE Business editor browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, November 07, 2015

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HISTORICALLY, Jamaicans have long been attracted to Panama as a place to make or accumulate wealth. But up till now, they have always had to go it alone, with little support or advice on the best way forward.

Roger Brown, a Jamaican now resident in Panama, is planning to change that with the launch of his boutique investment business Professionally Panama, which aims to help Jamaican companies and individuals to get the most out of the fast-growing Central American country.

"Our initial clients have come primarily from North America, and Europe to a smaller extent," Brown said in an interview with Jamaica Observer. But, with strong roots in Jamaica, Brown is now looking to promote Panama to the local market. "Jamaica is a natural source market for me," he said.

Professionally Panama is a small private-client operator, specialising in helping companies and individuals to do business in the Central American republic of Panama. While most of the company's clients come from North America, the company is now expanding to Jamaica.

The company offers various business services in Panama City, including offshore private banking, global asset protection, international estate planning, property investment advisors, residency and medical programmes, legal and tax advisors, corporate workspace solutions, business and concierge services and VIP hospitality services.

Brown first had the idea for the business in 2006 when he visited Panama, "just pre-boom", for a sport-fishing trip. Investing in the country was far from his mind. But a quick three-hour tour of the booming capital of Panama City on his way back to the airport for his return flight changed all that. In fact, he was so impressed with what he saw that before checking onto his flight, he had already made his first real-estate investment in the country. The ball has kept on rolling since then.

In fact, Jamaicans have been doing business in Panama for decades,
with informal commerical importers travelling there for decades on Copa Airlines, to buy products at bargain prices and then sell to the Jamaican market. But the relationship goes even further back, with Caribbean cities such as Colon populated with people of Jamaican descent who can trace their roots back to the island largely via their forefathers who once worked on building the Panama Canal. These people still identify with Jamaica, and still speak Jamaican patois.

Centuries before that, in the late-1600s, Panama attracted Jamaican investors in the form of pirates led by Henry Morgan, who set out to sack Panama for its great wealth. The captured treasures, however, were not as vast as had been imagined. With a little local knowledge, the pirates may have had a more succesful raid.

It is that local knowledge that Professionally Panama is seeking to offer to a new generation of Jamaican investors. "It's difficult without a good network, as we found," said Brown. The company is now actively looking for Jamaican business and lifestyle clients who want to break into the Panamanian market, to invest in the economy, or just to access cheaper health care or visit a new metropolitan city.

"A Jamaican or Caricom platform is limiting to growth," Brown said, while pointing out that Panama is linked into much larger trade agreements, including the new Trans-Pacific Partnership and linkages to the North American Free Trade Association.

Meanwhile, Brown is looking for other investment destinations -- places like Medellín in Colombia, as well as Nicaragua and Guatemala.

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