Reflecting on the first half of 2020, it’s actually quite mind blowing to consider just what has happened over the past six months – how our behaviours have changed and what the impact has been of a virus that at the beginning of the year, just as we were all diligently embarking on our annual business plans, we were paying little attention to.
As I mentioned at our Members Update yesterday, nothing about the last six months has been normal – 2020 has already been an exceptional year with the world facing the biggest peacetime crisis of our lifetimes and we have all been impacted in some way. The loss of loved ones, jobs and livelihoods, both in Jersey and internationally, has been tragic and catastrophic and we should be unerringly grateful to all of those involved in keeping our island running – from hospital staff, police, emergency services, retail, transport, and infrastructure providers to civil servants and politicians who have had to make difficult decisions under enormous pressure in a situation where there is no ‘play book’.
What strikes me about how Jersey’s finance industry has coped with the fallout of COVID-19 is just how resilient and adaptable the industry’s members has been – not just to pivot to new ways of working, but to use the new environment to explore new service lines, improve their propositions and – vitally – engage with the local community and embed their value as good corporate citizens.
It’s a well-used phrase at Jersey Finance – you can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails. We’re used to adapting, and quickly. The past six months have exemplified that approach.
Of course, a huge amount of what we would have been doing has changed over the past few months, particularly on the events front. That has made us more ambitious than ever before in our digital outreach – something that is particularly important given that around half of Jersey’s new business emanates from outside Europe.
In a digitally-driven environment where everyone’s focus has suddenly been channelled into an online space, it’s been more important than ever to really try and cut through the noise and promote the Jersey brand clearly.
It’s why our business development teams in our overseas markets in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the US have been quick to provide regular virtual updates and webinars, collaborate with key partners to drive online content, and produced a series of market updates for our members and wider stakeholders, which we have promoted through our website and other channels. We also held our AGM virtually for the first time ever.
As an industry we have played our part in supporting the local community through a challenging few months – our member firms have volunteered their time and resources to support local businesses and charities, we have been part of efforts to establish the Government’s emergency loan scheme for local businesses, and we have input into the Government of Jersey’s economic recovery plan.
Our industry has pressed on with bringing new service lines and strands to support our international investor base too – at Jersey Finance we announced our engagement of Andrew Mitchell at Equilibrium Futures to help us set out a long-term vision for sustainable finance for Jersey; amendments were approved to Jersey’s limited partnership legislation to make it easier for fund managers to migrate their structures to Jersey; and pleasingly, figures for the first quarter of the year, reflecting the period immediately prior to widespread lockdown measures in Europe, were very positive, with bank deposit figures up and the value of funds business in the island reaching new record levels.
As we look to the coming months, we are careful not to wish for a ‘return to normality’. What we have learned over recent months is that there are always better ways of doing things and that we must not stop in pushing ourselves to achieve more.
I have already blogged a number of times about the vital role I believe quality IFCs like Jersey can play in economic recovery both at home and internationally. As a responsible, stable and expert centre for facilitating flows of quality capital to where it is needed most, this is our chance to shine, and we must embrace that and talk about how we are doing that.
But it is also our chance to demonstrate our digital edge.
We will, for example, be maintaining our strong online presence and drawing on virtual channels to maintain the connections we have made over recent months. Our business development teams, for example, have created closer connections and collaborated to support potential business flows to Jersey, working across time zones together to present Jersey’s proposition and showcasing our international dynamic. Through better use of technology, our teams in the US, Asia, the Middle East, UK and Jersey are increasingly providing their specialist knowledge to clients in a much more joined up way.
This approach will be reflected in our ‘Global Jersey’ virtual event in late September, which will highlight in some detail the multifaceted areas of Jersey’s finance industry, how it has coped this year and how it is evolving to meet the new demands of our global client base – right across our private wealth, funds, sustainable finance and fintech sectors.
Our funds masterclass series, meanwhile, will also pivot to an online format before hopefully returning to a physical event later this year, and we will be delivering virtual events – webinars and roundtables – to our Far East, Middle East and European markets, covering the family office and funds spaces.
Complementing this, we’re continuing to build on the successful roll-out of our ‘Jersey Heard’ podcast as part of our strategy to find new digital channels to engage with our stakeholders remotely. You can subscribe free of charge here.
At the same time, we are also looking forward to a more regular stream of face-to-face event activity from late-September onwards, including our Future Connect series and our inaugural Rising Stars Awards.
Finally, taking place in London in December, our annual Private Wealth Flagship conference is this year entitled ‘Making A Positive Impact’. It will feature a number of expert speakers discussing sustainable finance trends, impact investing, philanthropy and how international finance centres such as Jersey support these agendas.
Of course, we need to remain agile and nimble over the coming months, ready to react to future market developments but the resilience we have shown as an organisation and as an industry over the past six months gives me huge confidence that we are in a position to meet future challenges and realise opportunities in the second half of the year. Our objective is to be the easiest IFC to do business with remotely in a digital world – now is our chance to demonstrate that.