IT 2001

Fund Administration

Going Worldwide from Vanuatu

By Steve Bergsman  August 01, 2001 4:00 AM GMT

Going Worldwide from Vanuatu

From a small office in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Thomas Bayer keeps tabs on his worldwide enterprises: A suite of financial companies involved in everything from banking to fund management and insurance

From a humble posting over 30 years ago, Bayer, a native Pennsylvanian, has pasted together what he calls a family enterprise of sister companies (there is no central holding company). He graduated with a degree in management from Lehigh University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Finance at The University of Pennsylvania. In the mid-1960s, he took a job in Australia, later moving to Singapore before winding up in Port Vila to join the Pacific International Trust Co. Ltd., better known as PITCO. In 1984, Bayer family interests bought all the equity in PITCO, eventually building it into the largest trust operation in Vanuatu.

Five years later, the same family interests acquired Vanuatu’s European Bank Ltd. and its subsidiary, European Trust Co. Ltd. The bank also has a sister company, Asia Pacific Finance, based in London. Now, European Bank and Asia Pacific Finance are wholly owned subsidiaries of a Delaware, USA holding company called European Capital Holding Corp.

Other international units of the group include a trust company in New Zealand, a life insurer in Canada and Vanuatu Maritime Services Ltd., a ship registration firm with offices in New York, Hong Kong, Japan, London, and Port Vila. “We have the contract to run the ship registry in Vanuatu using our operating office in New York,” explains Bayer. “We now have over 500 vessels around the world flying our flag.” Bayer’s family of companies employs 100 people worldwide, with 55 of those workers based in Vanuatu.

One of the group’s more significant companies is called Pacific Fund Managers Ltd., a manager of funds domiciled in Canada, the most important of which is the Pacific Capital Growth Fund Ltd. (PCGF). PCGF comprises seven currency funds that invest in bank deposits with leading international banks and provide shareholders with foreign currency investments in Australian dollar, deutschmark, Japanese yen, New Zealand dollar, pound sterling, Swiss franc and US dollar.

In addition, PCGF boasts three managed funds:

Forex Trading Fund. Trades in a variety of currencies on a short-term basis.

US Dollar Managed Funds. A medium-term dollar based cash management fund.

Australian Dollar Managed Fund. Similar to the US Dollar Managed Fund, but managed from an Australian dollar perspective.

“We no longer have any equity funds,” says Bayer. “We do only fixed income, currency and managed currency.”

PCGF did have an equity fund until last year, but the company wrote to all its investors to say it was closing the fund and giving the money back because as, Bayer says, “the market was out of control.” That was in February 2000. It was great timing, because the New York stock market slumped soon afterwards. “Nothing made sense to us,” says Bayer, “and we would rather see that the investors had their money back.” As it turned out, it was a fortuitous decision for all concerned. —SB