Chris Le Conte, of Robus Risk, speaks of his love for Guernsey and takes a look at the journey the island has taken in its pursuit of becoming a successful captive domicile.
The first record of a Le Conte on the island of Guernsey is in the 12th Century and we know our family tree back to the 1500s, so it is fair to say that a passion for Guernsey is in the Le Conte blood!
Personally, I arrived in Guernsey in 1978 from the US where I had lived for 10 years as my parents had made careers there. If you had asked me in the 1980s if I would still be in Guernsey in 2013 I would have laughed at you. Back then I had the urge to travel and work in other places, as my sister Sarah has gone on and done, working in the US, Egypt and many Asian countries. So why am I still here? Well, simply because I have had an incredibly enjoyable career in captive insurance and there has been no better place to be in the past 20 years than Guernsey when it comes to captive insurance.
The period of growth: 1985 – 1995
Captives really started to take off in Guernsey in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Insurance companies were formed in Guernsey because of a commercial regulator, a flexible tax regime, professional advisors and communication links to the UK generally and the City of London in particular. The traditional captive model was at the forefront and popular with many UK companies. Even the introduction by the UK of Controlled Foreign Company Legislation and, a little later, insurance premium tax couldn’t stop the flow of business.
The period of innovation: 1995 – 2005
The 1997 emergence of protected cell companies (PCCs) is well known as driving Guernsey’s business growth and is an innovation that the 2012 statistics demonstrate continues to generate material new business. But there were other key innovations in this period also – mortgage indemnity captives assisted many UK banks and building societies protect their balance sheets and offer protection to their customers. A number of insurance groups used Guernsey’s efficient capital regime to assist their group capital management. Again the regulatory framework was key and Steve Butterworth, the then director of insurance epitomised all that Guernsey stood for in insurance terms and ensured Guernsey had a leading role in international regulation too.
I am sure this, along with active marketing by the industry, helped international companies begin to express interest in Guernsey and we formed captives for Japanese, South African, American, Israeli and Australian clients as well as a host of continental European clients.
The period of consolidation: 2005 – 2010
This period saw Guernsey to my mind pause for breath a little and Guernsey’s captive market remained fairly stable.
Guernsey insurance managers started looking abroad for new business opportunities and it is no coincidence that almost all the insurance managers established in Gibraltar and Malta during this period were driven by people in Guernsey; our innovative outlook, and wish for new business needed a new outlet!
The market also changed with a gradual reduction in the number of insurance managers as smaller managers were acquired, primarily by the larger independents.
The period of reinvention: 2010 – ?
At a governmental and finance industry level, Guernsey faces decisions as to its approach in a number of areas. Offshore centres in general are coming under increasing pressure from most Western countries due to their perception as tax havens and Guernsey’s economy needs to be redesigned if it is to continue to flourish. While this should have little direct impact on captive insurance, that is not to say it won’t have some influence on how Guernsey’s captive market grows.
From a regulatory perspective Guernsey has made the clear decision to sit outside Solvency II, and that approach is undoubtedly correct while the Solvency II framework remains mired in debate and disagreement. If it does ever take
over as a European regulatory framework Guernsey will need to consider the impacts of remaining wholly outside it. Alongside this, Guernsey’s own review of solvency methodology is on-going and we must ensure Guernsey maintains the flexibility, pragmatism and capital efficiency that have made it the great captive and offshore insurance centre that it has become.
In the meantime I am pleased to report that innovation continues to flourish with PCCs being used for the UK housing NewBuy scheme and the launch last year of the Risk Purpose Trust as a risk management and risk funding tool.
The ideal captive domicile
I realise that this is an unashamed advertisement of Guernsey as a location for insurance and reinsurance, I don’t apologise! Guernsey remains the ideal captive domicile and the benchmark against which others are judged. Having made my career in Guernsey for the past 20 years, I have confidence in the next 20 years too and am sure Guernsey will continue to lead the pack. When choosing where to establish our new insurance management venture, Robus, we were obviously focused on the future and where we saw captive insurance thriving; Guernsey was the only logical choice. And having just completed our first year of operations, I’m proud to say the Robus Group has been shortlisted for Independent Captive Manager of the Year and Innovation in Captive Management at the UK Captive Services Awards 2013
WILL BIDWELL, CEO, EVOLUTION GROUP
“The Evolution Group has three entities in Guernsey so we are clearly a fan of the domicile. Our PCC has continually brought new business opportunities for us, and Guernsey is the obvious leader in this fi eld. Guernsey is quick and easy to get to from the UK, has no time difference, plenty of professional assistance on hand and fantastic restaurants!”
MIKE LEONARD, DEPUTY CEO, 1ST CENTRAL GROUP
“Having first established a reinsurance company in Guernsey in 2004, the benefits for businesses operating in Guernsey were clear from the outset. It was, therefore, an obvious choice to locate our Group headquarters when we set up 1st Central as a new insurance group in 2008 to focus, initially, on selling motor insurance in the UK. In addition to the Group’s holding company, we also established a reinsurance company and a premium finance company as fully owned subsidiaries primarily because we see Guernsey as a stable environment, with great access to the UK market and pragmatic regulation. Over the past year we have located the 1st Central Group’s web-design and development team here and we see Guernsey as a skilled hub for our business, whether it be capital management, operational or intelligent input to our overall strategy.”
Originally published by Captive Review, February 2013
For more information about Guernsey's finance industry please visit www.guernseyfinance.com.
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