S.2 EP.3 – The CBI Index

On this episode of Plan B, we talk about the CBI Index — a guide that provides accurate, up-to-date information on all active citizenship by investment programmes.

S.2 EP.3 The CBI Index

Researcher Talks About Why Caribbean CIB Programmes Rank High

The CBI Index is a yearly report published by the Financial Times’s Professional Wealth Management (PWM). The 2020 edition will soon be released, but, in the meantime, we can tell you that in the 2019 edition the top five CBI positions were held by nations in the Eastern Caribbean region.


For a third year, Dominica was named the best with a score of 90%, followed by St Kitts and Nevis (85%), Grenada (81%), Antigua and Barbuda (80%), and St Lucia (79%).

James McKay, from McKay Research, developed the CBI Index. James walks us through his methodology and what makes the CBI Index such an effective tool for investors looking to attain second citizenship.

AM: What attracted you to do research in the field of CBI and how did you prepare to work on such a detailed report such as the CBI Index?

JM: The CBI industry is very important but under recognized compared to other major global developments. It was a unique opportunity to apply our research expertise from other areas to what we see as one of the fastest growing and dynamic sectors in the investment space.

The increasing rise of autocratic governments, social turbulence and geopolitical stress have a significant impact on the way that investors approach the safeguarding of their assets and their families going forward …. and that’s really what attracted us to this space.

For preparation, we use multiple sources of information such as official programme statements, press releases, circulars, etc. There is also a significant volume of specialist industry press that is always handy for getting the latest bulletins. In terms of secondary sources, we speak to governments themselves and the agents who manage [CBI] programmes for them. There is also a large amount of official data and official statistics that we use for the index. We depend on the most reputable sources here. For example, the UN Development report is key.

AM: I understand that the CBI Index is based on 7 pillars that determine the ranking of a dozen or so countries – each of which has an active CBI programme. Can you take us through what some of the factors are and their significance?

JM: That’s right, the CBI Index provides a mechanism for appraising these programmes to help the decision-making process for investors. In 2017 we had 12 jurisdictions and they were evaluated based on 7 pillars which were:

  • Freedom of Movement
  • Standard of Living
  • Minimum Investment Outlay
  • Mandatory Travel or Residence
  • Citizenship Timeline
  • Ease of Processing
  • Due Diligence

In terms of these pillars, the architecture of this index is designed to provide a broad range measures of the programmes’ strength and at the same time include as much detail and granularity as possible.

For example, if you take some of these pillars, such as Minimum Investment Outlay, they are relatively straight forwards because what you’re really measuring there are the costs of a single applicant across the different programmes which is really just a single number, as is the Citizenship Timeline. But there are also others in that that are a lot more complex. For example, the Freedom of Movement pillar is not just the measure of the number of jurisdictions that the passport can access visa-free. That’s because the investors place a great deal of emphasis on particular business hubs, so your Londons or your New Yorks, as well as countries that will enable them to actually settle as well and their family. All these subfactors need to be built into the pillar. There is a lot of different calculations that go into them.

In 2020, we will be introducing new pillars to this version – one that represents family unification, and the other that looks to stability within a programme.

AM: The CBI Index was launched in 2017. Do you think a citizenship by investment index has the same impact or relevance now in 2020 as we face a pandemic that has closed so many borders?

JM: I think on many levels there will be a degree of revaluation of priorities as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. On a base level, an important issue will be where one’s entire family is welcomed with the increased restrictions of moving around the world. Related to that point will be an increased desirability of jurisdictions that have very low or no cases of COVID-19. These tend to be areas a little bit more remote from land mass.

AM: Some of the top runners in the 2019 CBI Index were countries in the Caribbean like Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis. Why do you think the Caribbean tends to do better than perhaps a more famous nation like Cyprus or Turkey?

JM: There are a multitude of different factors behind the Caribbean countries’ success there. Caribbean countries like St Kitts and Nevis have over 30 years in the industry. These are not fickle programmes. They’ve had the benefit of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t work, and it really shows in terms of how these programmes are put together. As well as their due diligence and their efficiency. Perhaps looking at it on a more basic level, the Caribbean countries also tend to be the most cost effective. That is always going to be an important factor in any decision-making process. Also, passport power. A lot of these countries have visa-free access to many jurisdictions. In addition to that, they also tend to offer quicker processing times. The Caribbean lifestyle is a huge plus for many people as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.