If the start to your year has been anything like mine, it’s hard to believe we’re already approaching the end of January.
We may be only a few weeks into the new year, but already in 2020 we’ve been putting the final touches to the first event in our Funds Masterclass series in London in early February, we’ve held a roundtable for US fund managers and lawyers, the FT’s The Banker magazine has published a series of videos about our evolution as an international financial centre, we’ve been promoting our new ‘FinTech Map’ and organising our first FinTech community of Interest Group event with Digital Jersey, and we’ve launched our Spring into Finance and Life in Finance initiatives for students here in Jersey.
Later this week, we’ll be outlining our plans for the year at our Annual Review, and what strikes me as I look back over what we’ve achieved in 2019 (and we’ve achieved a lot!) and our direction of travel in 2020 is how we’re evolving as an IFC to play a new kind of role as a vital ‘connector’.
As a forward-thinking centre, we’ve always been mindful of being at the cutting edge of the funds, private client, banking and capital markets industries by enhancing our proposition, our environment and our digital infrastructure.
But as we look even further down the track, our role as a responsible IFC is changing too, and across the activities and our objectives we set ourselves, it’s increasingly clear that what we do here is not about our segmented business sectors in themselves, but about our holistic positive proposition as a centre that connects businesses, investors and people, in a myriad of different ways, to bring about positive change.
There’s no doubt that 2020 looks set to pose some geopolitical challenges. No sooner had the UK election in December appeared to have shed some light on a way forward in terms of Brexit, than instability has increased in the Middle East, the US is set for another potentially turbulent election year and we’ve seen tragic events unfold in Australia.
Though we seem far from these big picture issues, the reality is that we are not – in fact, we have the opportunity to play a hugely meaningful part in addressing global issues. Actually, we already do in a number of ways – as I look back over 2019, it’s clear that the success we have had in attracting record levels of funds business, growing our family office platform and facilitating ever greater levels of philanthropic and sustainable finance activity is based on our proposition as a safe harbour, our expertise, our independence and neutrality, our know-how and our ability to act quickly to the environment around us.
These qualities will become increasingly important and should put us in a good position to play a positive role globally in the long-term as the world looks for proactive, stable centres that can facilitate connections, manage financial flows, and act as a neutral bridge between destinations to ultimately bring about positive change, in a world troubled by instability and uncertainty.
That might be through digital innovation, for example. Yes, digital adoption can help address trackability, cost and speed of processes, but it’s also about relationship management, and maintaining and building trust. It’s why in Jersey we have a huge commitment to a fintech agenda for that specific purpose.
It might be through cross border investment. Already this year, for instance, we’ve seen the UK government announce a commitment to investing billions of pounds into Africa with a particular focus on green and sustainable investment. Jersey has ramped up its focus on Africa in recent, years, we even did a study about our potential impact in the continent some years ago, and we have the perfect ecosystem, experience, knowledge to facilitate cross-border investment and FDI into much needed infrastructure.
This year we’ll be expanding our proposition in the MENA region, and extending our reach into global markets more widely, including building on our US platform following the launch of our New York office last year.
It might be through sharing insights into new and emerging areas – over recent years we’ve commissioned and published more than a dozen pieces of independent research into areas such as Islamic Finance, global financial flows, sustainable finance and family office structuring. By shining a light on key areas, our hope is that we can bring people together, stimulate debate and help support progress. Our programme for 2020 will see us maintain this momentum in a number of areas.
Or it might be through skills. In Jersey we have a specialist financial services workforce of some 14,000 people – more than most other IFCs – who are experts in their fields, who work day in day out with colleagues all over the world, and who can provide access to specific expertise quickly and easily.
In a world that is becoming increasingly sophisticated, having access to specialist skills will become more and more important – which is why Jersey has a focus on nurturing the talent of tomorrow to ensure we are future-proofed in key areas like governance, regulation, sustainable finance and philanthropy.
Along with my Jersey Finance and industry colleagues, I’m really looking forward to outlining our vision for how Jersey is ready to play a part in connecting people and businesses the world over at our Annual Review this week.
Despite all the fragmentation, uncertainty, divisiveness and instability in the world, we fundamentally believe that there are certain core objectives that can be shared, and by working together and drawing on our strengths built up over decades, we can be part of the solution in achieving those aims.
So that is our guiding principle and my challenge to the wider international financial services community this year – in 2020, make it a priority to think about the world around us, consider what it is that connects us, and set out how we might collaborate to play a role in addressing our shared global challenges.