As we mark the 60th anniversary of our financial services industry it is clear a lot has changed from when Jersey first established itself as an international finance centre back in 1961. Jersey’s financial history dates to 1768, with the creation of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the oldest in the Commonwealth. Since then, the Island has evolved and adapted to thrive as a financial centre of excellence*.
In the early 70s, the Jersey’s economy was very different with tourism contributing to more than half of the Island’s income, finance was at just 9% **. The Island’s forward-thinking approach, saw the renowned Colin Powell appointed as Economic Advisor in 1969, with the explicit brief to conduct research into the ‘nature and characteristics of the Island’s economy… to provide forecasts of the rate at which it is likely to grow’. Powell advocated for the support of high-quality businesses, which led to Jersey authorities limiting bank licenses only to those in the world’s top 500 banks. Jersey soon became home to around 50 banks from around the globe and this was the catalyst to the expansion in Jersey’s economy*.
Jersey is now home to a sophisticated range of international banks, trust companies, law firms and a fully formed specialist intermediary market that employs over a fifth (22.5%) of the Island’s population and is contributing with a Gross Value Added (GVA) of nearly two fifths (39.5% in 2019) of the Jersey economy***.
This transformation has not been without its challenges and over the decades we have seen the sector reinvent itself to meet client demand, capitalise on emerging trends and remain competitive to other financial jurisdictions.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE SHAPING TODAY’S SUCCESS
In 1984, Jersey became the first jurisdiction to bring trust and company service providers within a regulatory regime by passing the Jersey Trust Law*.
This foresight and adaptability of the Jersey elected parliament and judicial system allowed us to be agile to emerging trends and to put the right legislation in place to remain competitive. The Island’s strong, highly regarded regulatory frameworks and tax neutrality enabled Jersey to attract innovative businesses to engage with finance in our jurisdiction. All these factors made Jersey the ideal destination for the headquarters of the newly launched RBS International back in 1996, following in the footsteps of NatWest, which started its corporate finance journey on the Island offering banking services to customers under the Williams Deacon Bank brand, first established in Jersey in 1963****.
ENTERING THE MODERN ERA
At the turn of the millennium, customers’ requirements were evolving at an exponential rate and technology was struggling to keep up with demand – at the time download speeds for everyone were very slow. In the late 90s electronic banking only provided visibility for a small number of accounts, it would take corporates significant amounts of time to download the balances and transactions of their accounts. As a result of this, we launched the eQ platform – allowing corporate clients to view and monitor multiple accounts and in multiple currencies – which was developed in Jersey in conjunction with corporate service providers for the local market, evolving to provide day-to-day banking solutions.
In 2020, RFI Group’s Global Digital Banking Report, identified that 70% of global banking customers use digital banking channels weekly*****. It is unsurprising that the key requirements and differentiating factors for any corporate bank, is having a flexible digital offering tailored to their customers.
Businesses are valuing automation and digitisation more than ever before. Although the pandemic has accelerated the speed in which this demand has grown, the rate of change in recent years has been impressive. In fact, we have probably seen more changes to the industry in the last decade than we have at any other time in the history of corporate banking.
Depositary services has emerged in recent years as the cornerstone of governance. The depositary function is looking to evolve and we are using Cloud technology to change the way we work, looking to use more automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and API connectivity to data providers to create this additional capacity by working more efficiently. This new approach will enable us to respond quickly to evolving industry and client expectations.
Despite the ambition to become digital-first, it is important not to lose the personal touch. As much as technology can enhance services, we must remember the importance of specialists and what Jersey as a corporate services destination is good at – knowledge and expert insight. The balance between powerful technology, great advice and personal relationships is critical, as it is only when these elements work in synergy with one another, will customers see significant results.
The relationship between technology and the personal touch, became even more prevalent in the last 18-months. The disruptiveness of the Coronavirus pandemic completely changed the fundamental ways we look at business. The advancements of digital technology have enabled remote working to become the norm around the world – with many in Jersey much the same – implementing a model with a remote-first approach, allowing staff to choose between remote, hybrid or office-based working to suit their needs. We know many clients are looking at similar modes of working and future corporate services need to be agile enough to provide solutions that organically fit the businesses they support.
THE GREEN EVOLUTION
In 2004, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote to over 50 CEOs of major financial institutions inviting them to participate in an initiative exploring ways to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives into capital markets. A report in 2005 ‘Who Cares Wins’ and a subsequent report called the ‘Freshfield Report’ showed that ESG makes good business sense, leads to more sustainable markets, better outcomes for societies and is relevant for financial valuation. Later reports published in 2013 and 2014 showed that good corporate sustainability performance was associated with good financial results******.
Seeking to remain agile and in the vanguard of such initiatives, Jersey commissioned a report in 2020, resulting in the development of ‘Jersey for Good – A Sustainable Future’, the Island’s long-term strategy and collective vision for the industry. This was further supported with the publication of ‘Jersey’s Pathway to Success’ a two-year plan to accelerate the journey towards a sustainable future*******.
Over the last year we have experienced investors (rightly so) scrutinising ESG strategies to a greater degree than ever before. Our customers face material investor demand to demonstrate tangible actions rather than stating goals. The ability to deliver an ESG strategy is crucial to a company’s license to operate and heir access to economic capital.
It is clear that ESG is more than a trend and is here to stay. For example, NatWest Group has introduced climate as one of the three focus areas for its purpose-led strategy, aiming to deliver the greatest environmental and social impact to stakeholders and we have appointed a dedicated ESG lead who is educating a team of 140 colleagues in climate matters, to ensure ESG considerations are fully embedded as the default way of thinking.
Later this year Jersey’s banking sector will take centre stage at COP26, highlighting the way in which corporate banking could support global decarbonisation and drive positive environmental change.
THE NEXT 60 YEARS
Jersey has long been the jurisdiction of choice for corporate organisations to seek expert advice, administrative services and banking support.
To reinforce and maintain the Island’s position as a world leader in finance, we all need to invest, innovate and adopt technological advances, commit wholeheartedly to a sustainable future and most importantly continue to support our people and the communities we serve.