The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on all industry sectors – including the financial services industry – and Jersey has been working hard to continue supporting the Island’s finance industry throughout the crisis and maintain its resilience and reputation, with many in the workforce having to work from home to ensure that this premier IFC remains open for business.
Seeing itself as very much a Jersey company since being established on the Island in 2011, Affinity has grown its wealth management business – both organically and through its recent acquisition of Pinnacle Trustees – from five to 56 employees. Despite remote working and not being able to travel, COVID-19 has had little impact on its business activities.
David Stearn, CEO of Affinity said: “The pandemic has not proved a significant headwind from a commercial perspective and our new client pipeline has been pleasingly strong. Our decision, from the inception of Affinity, to prioritise technology spend, proved a key enabler and helped ensure the continuity of our business during this challenging time.
“As the pandemic took hold, we put in place a number of measures to protect the health and safety of our employees. For a time we all worked from home, spending much of our day on Zoom calls with colleagues and clients around the world. Consistent with our Mental Health policy and as part of our on-going Wellbeing Program, we offered online Pilates lessons, mindfulness sessions and ensured we continued our all-important Friday afternoon drinks.”
Over the best part of a decade, Affinity has come to appreciate Jersey’s inherent benefits as a stable and well-respected jurisdiction, the levels of support available from the Island authorities and the high degree of resident expertise. David said: “The jurisdiction offers a robust regulatory and legal framework from which to operate globally, with our client base now spanning some 30 countries. From the outset we have enjoyed an open and collaborative relationship with the regulator and actively engage with our industry body, Jersey Finance.
“Jersey offers a highly skilled workforce with a large pool of expertise. As a firm we prefer to ‘grow our own’ whenever possible – hiring locally and investing significantly in the training and development of our staff. Our increasing numbers necessitated an office move, at a time when many were questioning the future and function of such space. Whilst we are supportive of working from home, we also strongly believe in the need for in-person and team interactions.
The availability of competitively priced, state of the art office space in central St Helier means this October has seen us move into a modern working environment – complete with breakout areas and collaboration pods. Importantly, as a new building, we now have a lower carbon footprint per employee and, where possible, we have worked with our local architects and suppliers to select sustainable furnishings. The size of the Island lends itself to cycling to work so we have installed plenty of bike racks to support this.”
“Looking ahead – as we enter our 10th year – we remain committed to stakeholder capitalism, resolutely focused on more than just the bottom line. As members of Jersey Good Business Charter, alongside being signatories to the UN Global Compact and the Living Wage, we aim to be a sustainable business which very much ‘walks the talk’.”
At Butterfield, which took the decision to set up in Jersey just a couple of years ago, it has very much been business as usual. The Bank found that Jersey’s fibre broadband connectivity enabled its team here to continue working effectively from home during the pandemic.
Noel McLaughlin, Managing Director of Butterfield Bank (Jersey) Limited, said: “Butterfield is a leading independent offshore bank and as Jersey is a leading offshore financial centre there is a natural alignment. The potential for growth fitted our strategy in a market we knew well and knew we could thrive in. The Island’s status as a Crown Dependency allows businesses to benefit from an offshore centre that is independent from the UK and mainland Europe, while still being a short flight away from the City of London.”
In 2018, Butterfield acquired the banking and custody business of Deutsche Bank, which provided a foothold in the market. Noel said: “Our focus has initially been on the local fiduciary market, which has been well received as clients want a more partnership driven relationship with their banker. We continuously listen to our clients and it is our aim to be agile and we have the autonomy to make quick decisions locally. Towards the end of 2020 we are rolling out our new online banking platform and in 2021 we are planning to expand our private client offering as well as begin offering local residential mortgages.”
The Bank has found the regulator, the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC), Jersey Finance and other government stakeholders, accessible, helpful and coordinated. Noel said: “Banking is a heavily regulated industry and we have had significant dialogue with the JFSC from the outset, working together in an open and transparent way, which reflects positively on how welcoming Jersey is to new businesses.
“Jersey Finance made several introductions within government and helped organise meetings for the Group’s executive team and senior officials. This approach was the catalyst for Butterfield being one of five lenders in the Government of Jersey’s revolving credit facility scheme, as part of the Island’s pandemic response.
“Our first year focused on establishing and building brand awareness on the Island while assembling a strong team. The pandemic then hit in our second year. Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, the team was working from home and it wasn’t possible to travel, so the Island’s fibre broadband connectivity has been key to ensuring we maintain business as usual.
“We have a highly skilled workforce, all of which are locally based and have worked in the industry for a significant period of time. The recent acquisition of ABN AMRO Channel Islands demonstrates Butterfield’s ambition to grow market share; attracting and retaining highly talented local staff are critical to achieving this objective.
“We are committed to supporting the communities and environments we call home. With the majority of Butterfield’s offices based in island jurisdictions, the Bank reflects this geographical profile in its commitment to protecting the marine environment. In the Channel Islands, Butterfield works in partnership with the Plastic Free organisation and Jersey Marine Conservation to teach people about the devastating impact of plastic pollution on marine life. We also work closely with Durrell through the sponsorship of the Durrell Challenge 13k road race and our employees participate in volunteering projects at Jersey Zoo.
“Butterfield has very ambitious plans for the Channel Islands, in which Jersey will play a key role as we continue to grow our business. We are committed to the jurisdiction and by building long term relationships with our clients, we are extremely confident about the future.”
Over at finance software and solutions specialist Puritas, they were initially watching and waiting with understandably interested anticipation – and a little trepidation too – at how Jersey would be impacted by the pandemic.
However, the team at Puritas soon realised that its software solutions would be fully supported by the Island’s robust digital infrastructure and were impressed with the way clients stood-up during the COVID-19 lockdown.
As Trevor Cole, Managing Director of Puritas put it: “Very few of us gaze with excited anticipation towards angry black clouds signifying a gathering storm. But if there’s nowhere to take shelter, the only option is head down, steady steps forward and hope that what you take in will bring you safely back out the other side.
“One looming uncertainty in March 2020 was how well Jersey’s finance industry would hold up under the gathering dark clouds of COVID. Especially our vital digital infrastructure and systems. Would it see us safely back to the sunshine? Or struggle in the fading light?
“From the start, however, it was obvious that Jersey’s digital and finance infrastructure was comfortably weathering the storm.
“Connectivity and bandwidth remained constant thanks to farsighted investment in the Island’s universal fibre-to-thepremises and high-speed gigabit network. “It also meant that remote working from the office presented little challenge. “The digital community, led by Digital Jersey, remained active and positive towards its members. And Jersey Finance continued its important role focused on promotion, regulation and support.”
Overall, COVID’s threatened stormy conditions turned out far less troubling than might have been. Which to a finance software and solutions company like Puritas was great relief and a positive reminder of why Jersey remains an attractive location for its business.
Yet if Jersey managed to retain much of its stability, what about the Puritas team, the technology and the experience of clients it serves? How well did they fare in these conditions?
Trevor, whose role encompasses many of the key corporate and client functions required to deliver critical organisational performance – including quality management, service planning and delivery, governance, compliance, budgeting and risk mitigation – said: “Since launch in 2006, our aim has been to improve client performance through assuring reliability, eliminating complexity and creating efficiencies.
“As finance accounting, compliance, audit and reporting demands have increased exponentially over that time, so too has our understanding and ingenuity.
“We specifically design software solutions to help fund administrators and investment portfolio managers navigate multifaceted requirements such as KYC, CDD and AML, risk assessments, FATCA and CRS.
“We create solutions to allow straightforward customer onboarding and migration, entity data and document management. And incorporate key facilities such as share register and dealing and investor portal. And do so with quality as a priority, having recently acquired ISO 9001 accreditation.
“Crucially, the software solutions into which we package all these specialist services have streamlined automation and stable resilience at their core.
“While some administration systems continue to rely on physical documents and records, or manual processing, our PureClient and PureFunds products have eliminated much of this. “This has meant our clients enjoyed continued, consistence system performance throughout the COVID lockdown and beyond. “
As the COVID-19 storm hopefully eases – in Jersey at least – we can look back over what Puritas and the Island has been through during 2020 with a good deal of positives. And when that next storm begins gathering on the horizon, look forward with confidence to finding a way through to sunshine on the other side.”
In spite of the challenges brought about by the pandemic, Trident Trust’s Jersey operation has retained an optimistic outlook on its future in Jersey.
George Bryan-Orr, the Managing Director of Trident Trust, said: “We made the decision to open in Jersey in 1983. In fact, our Jersey office was the second office of the Trident Trust Group. At that time, Jersey was the leader in offshore private wealth management, operating under internationally well-respected English Law, with tax neutrality and providing security to our clients’ affairs. Jersey catered well to the needs of our clients, while being easily accessible from the UK. We originally supported a range of international clients, who were becoming increasingly affluent and sophisticated in the wealth management structures they were using. Nearly 40 years later, many of the families that trusted us with their wealth in Jersey, remain clients.”
Over the last four decades, the Trident Trust Group has opened offices worldwide. Its core services of trust and company administration in Jersey are now offered to clients introduced by its network of offices across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Americas. George highlighted how the utilisation of a variety of Jersey legal entities and arrangements for private wealth structuring, has for many decades enabled clients to realise their long-term charitable and philanthropic objectives: “With the recent introduction of the Charities (Jersey) Law (the Charities Law), Jersey has reinforced its attraction as a leading centre of excellence to support global clients, whether private or institutional, in respect of their international philanthropic and charitable activities.”
Most recently, Trident Trust added a fund service licence to its range of services in Jersey to complement its trust and corporate service offerings. George said: “Fund administration is very a fast-growing segment of our business globally. The application process was robust but straightforward. With our near 40 year regulatory record in Jersey, the JFSC understands our business well and the reasons why we wished to add this service line to our business.
“The Jersey Private Fund is proving very popular with our fund management clients where they wish to attract capital from European investors with light touch regulation and accessing national private placement regimes within targeted jurisdictions.”
George feels that the assistance of Jersey Finance has proved invaluable as Trident Trust has sought new business: “Jersey Finance has been very helpful with our business development activities. The network of Jersey Finance offices across Asia, the Middle East and the US matches jurisdictions where we also have offices. So, our offices are in good touch with the Jersey Finance teams and regularly collaborate on events and opportunities in those regions.”
Trident Trust has been located in unique offices on Bath Street for over 20 years. Recently they brought two buildings together and due to business growth are investing heavily in an office refurbishment. George said: “While we know many of our competitors are moving towards the Esplanade, if we moved, our historical client base may not be able to find us.
“As an international Group, we do attract staff from off Island. For myself, this is my third jurisdiction with Trident Trust after tenures in Guernsey and Luxembourg. I feel I have it right this time. As we are supporting growth driven from Asia, we are soon to bring in one of our colleagues from our Hong Kong office, who speaks fluent Mandarin and Cantonese. Many of our other staff hail from the UK, Portugal, Poland, South Africa and good old Jersey of course. With our focus on not just providing jobs but careers to our staff, we are proud that numerous staff have been with us for many years.”
George explained that while Jersey’s excellent transport links have historically been important, in the current pandemic it is the Island’s digital connections that have been vital, ensuring his team were able to work remotely (although they are now back in the office): “Jersey is a world leader in the use of fibre broadband. Every home in Jersey is fitted with fibre, after forward thinking telecoms execs made this a goal.”
Having lived in four other jurisdictions during his financial services career, George finds that Jersey has the perfect mix of professional opportunities and lifestyle: “My daughters are well cared for in Jersey’s schools and we are enjoying being back near the sea after being landlocked in Luxembourg for five years. Jersey has been the perfect place to shelter from a global pandemic. The on Island testing facilities and pre-travel registration process has done a world-class job of keeping the borders open, while keeping the local population safe. I’ve never played so much golf as I have this year.”