Originally published in Investment International, April 2009
What has Guernsey been doing to promote its financial services offering in China and how successful has it been so far?
Looking back now it is quite remarkable to think that it is not much more than a year ago since Guernsey began to promote its financial services offering in China. In the twelve or so months that have passed we have made significant progress in raising our profile within political circles and among the business community, most notably in Shanghai.
Two cases illustrate this point: firstly, in November 2008 Tu Guangshao, the Vice-Mayor of Shanghai, led a delegation to Guernsey and announced that the city would be using the Island as a model for its own development as a financial services centre. Secondly, during the last quarter of 2008 some of our (particularly trust and company) practitioners reported new business from China in the pipeline.
We are aware that despite this progress it is not going to be a case of 'jam tomorrow' and that our success will be in the longer term. But at the same time we are confident that we have the building blocks in place to secure substantial flows from China in the future, including through Guernsey investment funds which we will be increasingly promoting in the region during 2009.
It was at the end of 2007 that we appointed Chinese national Wendy Weng to run our Guernsey office in Shanghai. This was officially opened when a delegation of senior government officials and business leaders from the Island visited the city in March 2008.
They held a series of meetings with both industry firms already based in the city and representatives from key institutions such as the Shanghai Stock Exchange. In addition, this was the first occasion that we met Vice-Mayor Tu.
During the summer of 2008 I was able to further raise our growing profile in Shanghai as well as develop our presence in Beijing by visiting the cities as part of the Lord Mayor of the City of London's delegation to the region.
Building on strong foundations
Our experiences led us to identify fiduciary services as a product area where there was a particular demand in China for something new from international finance centres. During October a delegation from Guernsey spent a week in Hong Kong and then a week in Shanghai promoting the Island's trust and company expertise.
The positive response to both the Guernsey Registrar of Companies and the Island's practitioners on the delegation shows how our fiduciary offering has captured the imagination of professionals in Shanghai. In particular, we have seen a growing recognition of how Guernsey companies can be used to provide structures for many different types of products, including funds.
It was during this visit to Shanghai in October that Vice-Mayor Tu accepted an invitation from Guernsey's Chief Minister Lyndon Trott to see at first hand what makes the Island a leading international finance centre. The Vice-Mayor visited Guernsey in November with a delegation that included Zhang Yujun, President of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, as well as local government officials.
Their itinerary included a presentation on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange (CISX) and meetings with the Chief Minister and other senior politicians and officials; Peter Neville, Director General of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC); and leading industry practitioners.
The Vice-Mayor's comment that Shanghai would be using Guernsey as a model for the development of its finance industry is a major endorsement of Guernsey as a leading international finance centre. It was also encouraging to hear him speak of how working together can be mutually beneficial for both centres.
In 2009 we will be following up our progress in the fiduciary sphere while also specifically promoting Guernsey investment funds in China. In particular, we will be highlighting the potential advantages – for both non-Chinese but particularly Chinese promoters and sponsors – of using Guernsey incorporated funds as a route to list on the London Stock Exchange and therefore raise capital for investing (for example, in infrastructure projects) in China.
In 2008 we developed a strong relationship with the Shanghai Venture Capital Association (SVCA) and we are aiming to advance this further so that we can present to their membership during 2009. During the first half of this year we have marketing trips to both Shanghai and Beijing and in the second half we will be visiting Shanghai again and also Hong Kong, the latter where we will be exhibiting at SuperReturn Asia.
During the last year we have made great strides in raising our profile in China but we are not resting on our laurels. In 2009 we will be pushing on with promoting our brand and specifically Guernsey investment funds so that we can secure flows of business from China's major financial centres, maybe not immediately but in the not too distant future.
For more information about Guernsey's finance industry please visit www.guernseyfinance.com .
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