When I’m travelling and asked where Fairway Group is based, I’m very proud to say Jersey.
Of course, the most common response is “New Jersey – but you don’t have an accent” followed by a conversation about the “original” Jersey. But once you get past those lessons, it’s clear that the Island has a lot going for it and punches above its weight on the international stage.
In the financial sector, it is recognised globally as one of the best qualified and most important international financial centres with access to leading law firms, accountants and auxiliary services all within walking distance.
The next stage of the Island’s evolution has arrived quicker than those planning for it expected. Technology has opened up the world of finance, threatening the traditional financial hubs such as London and New York, as well as offshore centres like the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man and of course Jersey.
If you can access advice, valuations and investments from anywhere in the world and instruct transactions on your mobile phone, is there really a need for whole teams of conventional trust and fund administration?
The answer is a definitive YES. Technology may speed things up and provide unlimited access, but we believe that is a good thing and can only help to provide a better service to clients around the world, regardless of time zone.
This year we have made our biggest ever investment in technology to allow our company to flourish on the world stage. Communication and collaboration are now seamless and mobile based allowing our team to spend more time with their clients and less time behind a desk. Even our recruitment is benefitting from technology through local company Pinpoint and their innovative software.
The Government of Jersey has done a great job in ensuring that the digital infrastructure is in place to allow all local companies to compete on a technical level with the best in the world. While artificial intelligence and machine learning may be able to process some aspects of administration quicker, more often than not it is the human relationships that underpin any partnership.
Perhaps it’s this aspect where I worry most for Jersey’s future. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, my children aren’t even considering Jersey as an option to further themselves, they’re looking at entrepreneurial centres in the UK and further afield as they just don’t see that culture here.
The Island has one of the highest concentrations of leading businessmen and women in the world, either as residents or as company owners but it doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything to harness their talent and connections. What can we offer talented children and adults to stay in Jersey apart from the beautiful surroundings (not so evident in the winter!)?
We are also not doing enough to tackle the lack of diversity within the corridors of power – starting with the Government. It is an overwhelmingly a male institution with no female members until 1948 and only 45 women ever elected to the Assembly. According to PWC, if Jersey increases its female employment rate by 8% to match that of Sweden then GDP could be increased by 6% – the equivalent of £239 million.
The threat of failing to do so could be catastrophic for the Island, but still nowhere near as bad as the environmental challenges that we are facing.
For an island with just 100,000 people and one of the largest tidal ranges in the world, why are we not at the forefront of sustainability? It costs £45 million to talk for years about hospital sites when that money could be used to introduce island-wide standards on recycling, not the laughable parish-based system we have now.
Likewise, on an island where you are basically never more than 10 miles away from a destination, the infrastructure for sustainable travel is simply not viable. We have showering facilities and secure bike parking for our staff but there are still no universal standards for new developments to encourage active travel and get people out of their cars. We need to learn from other economies similar to ours like Israel’s “startup nation” or sustainable energy in Costa Rica as an example of what we can become with some strategic thinking.
There is a groundswell of optimism about the future of Jersey which I share but it can only come about if those at the top are willing to make bold decisions and look further ahead than the next voting cycle.
We have world-leading talent, entrepreneurs with global reach and all set on a stunning island. Let’s use all of it and build on these so that one day, people think of good “old” Jersey first.