This is crunch time.
Over the past 12 months, the world has seen change the like of which we have not witnessed in our lifetimes. A pandemic has shifted the way we all work, we behave, we interact with each other, we conduct business, we think about our families and consider our futures.
Never before have we witnessed a phenomenon that has so universally and unilaterally affected us all – in all sectors and in all corners of the world.
Any way we look at it, this experience could have divided us, through restricted movement, human tragedy, loss of livelihoods and disruption to communities. But our collective response has been the opposite – because human nature is such that we will look to come together at times of adversity.
And this has been our approach as an international finance centre (IFC) too.
At our recent Annual Review event, I looked back over the past year to reflect on just how our priorities and workloads have all changed in such a short space of time.
Back in January last year, we were talking about what the Brexit home-straight would look like and how Jersey was providing a stable, certain solution in the wake of considerable geopolitical instability.
We could not have anticipated what was to come, but it has been pleasing just how we have come together as an industry to assert our resilience as an IFC.
We’ve pivoted our global outreach, business development and thought leadership strategies to a much more digital format – our Global Jersey series of webinars in September was a manifestation of that.
We’ve adapted, both as an organization and as an industry, to a remote working environment that looks set to be the norm for a while yet, backed up by a real focus on digital innovation.
We’ve shown pragmatism and compassion in how our organisations, and the experts who work at them, have sought to support those around them – by assisting local and international community organisations or providing enhanced access to emergency financing and liquidity, for instance.
And we’ve demonstrated agility in enabling cross-border investment to continue efficiently and robustly as markets and operating models around the world have been disrupted.
As a result, over the last few months, thanks to our resilience and stability as a jurisdiction, we’ve continued to see business come our way. The same cannot be said for all jurisdictions.
Banking levels have stood up well; the value of funds serviced in Jersey has yet again reached record levels of some £365bn, driven by alternatives; Jersey has been the launchpad for some of the most significant IPOs over the past year; and the number of registered Jersey Foundations has passed the 400 mark – supporting, in particular, philanthropic activity in the private wealth sector. and we are seeing growing interest in Jersey as a base and as a partner for family offices, who value the flexibility, service quality, and international connectivity we offer.
But of course, we are not out of the woods yet. There is much hard work ahead of us as we continue to see the repercussions of the pandemic on communities and livelihoods, trading patterns, approaches to work and investment behaviours, and as we enter a phase of what we hope will be considerable and sustained economic recovery and addressing unprecedented global levels of national debt.
Add to that, the new landscape created by the UK’s separation from the EU bloc, a new ‘Leader of the Free World’ and the sustained rise of Eastern economies, it’s clear there is considerable upheaval and uncertainty ahead.
Which is why I believe now is crunch time.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for IFCs to really demonstrate the value they can add; to step up to the plate, draw on our credentials and show that we are ready and capable – indeed necessary – to help rebuild economies and communities.
We know that Jersey as an IFC helps manage in excess of £1.3 trillion of global assets; we know that the FDI facilitated by Jersey firms helps build and grow businesses in emerging and developed countries; and we know that pooled capital in Jersey is supporting the long-term retirement pots for more than 60 million people around the world.
And we know we can do that by providing a no-nonsense platform that enables investment to be subject to less friction and greater levels of oversight than in most other countries, meaning that its impact can be greater, quicker and more effective. In an environment where the demonstrable impact of investment is very much the order of the day, that is a compelling proposition – and we need to continue to tell that story proudly and clearly in 2021.
Which is why we’ve refreshed our strategic objectives for this year to highlight our focus as a jurisdiction on digital connectivity and innovation; on our ambition to drive positive change in the local and global communities; on our global connectivity; and on sustainability. By doing so, we firmly believe we will emerge strongly from this period of tremendous economic and market uncertainty.
For instance, we’ll be focussing on making fintech a core differentiator for Jersey in supporting investors in a new environment where digital connectivity is critical to remote investor supply chains.
We’ll be undertaking some significant new research to provide an up-to-date analysis on the value Jersey adds around the world.
We’ll be articulating a new long-term vision for Jersey on sustainable finance.
And we’ll be evolving and diversifying our overseas engagement program, recognising that we are now operating in a far more complex and nuanced world.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Jersey Finance and the 60th anniversary of Jersey’s finance industry. Our 60th anniversary slogan is, fittingly, ‘Together we Shine’. It’s a reflection of our belief that collaboration and working together, with our members and other stakeholders, are critical to our shared success.
There’s no doubt the coming months will continue to provide challenges. But I strongly believe there is a need now more than ever for robust, stable, neutral jurisdictions that can support secure, impactful investment.
That need should give Jersey’s finance industry a unique opportunity to seize the moment and, by working together, demonstrate our collective value to international markets.