As we move into 2011 many opportunities and challenges face Jersey, but the Island is well equipped to turn them to its best advantage. Partner and head of Crill Canavan's Commercial Department, Advocate Paul Wilson, looks at how international markets and client demands are influencing Jersey's development in financial and other services, and how its professionals are responding.
It is said that the only constant is change. In its primary industry – finance – Jersey never stands still. Enhanced legislation, innovative structures and increasingly strong service providers are combining to ensure the Island is best placed to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates, and not only in financial services.
Jersey's source of financial services work has been moving eastwards for some time, first to the Gulf then to India and China. The UK is still important for existing work, but is declining as a supplier of new work; an illustration of this shift is Jersey Finance opening an office in Mumbai and doubling its presence in Hong Kong. There is clearly scope for development of the Indian and Chinese markets, where wealth and GDP are growing faster than almost anywhere else in the world. But Jersey is not the only international finance centre to identify these opportunities, and serious competition is inevitable from Guernsey and the Isle of Man, the Caribbean jurisdictions, Singapore, New Zealand, Malta, Mauritius and elsewhere, all of which offer their own range of structures and services.
To make the most of these opportunities, it is vital that Jersey provides the right structures and services - and at the right price. Jersey lawyers, accountants and finance industry professionals have been working hard to achieve this.
In private wealth, the development of the Jersey Law Foundation - available since July 2009 - was a response to the perceived needs and demands of such new markets, where the trust is perhaps a difficult concept to comprehend and thus not as readily saleable. With its own identity and its existence depending only on registration, the Foundation has the benefits of greater clarity and certainty, and the ability to exclude or defer disclosure of information about the assets in the structure to family members is attractive to entrepreneurs structuring their wealth.
Further industry developments include refinements to legislation to ensure that Jersey corporate entities continue to be fully competitive. Legislation for separate and incorporated limited partnerships has been passed by the States and approval of the Privy Council is awaited, expected in Spring 2011. Further legislation is proposed that will enable Jersey companies merge with foreign companies and other entities, thus enabling their greater use in cross-border corporate structures.
One of the greatest growth areas for Jersey in the past ten years has been investment funds. Jersey is best known as a provider of well regulated bespoke fund structures, but those qualities mean that they come at a price that may not be particularly attractive to potential investors from new markets, particularly when competitors such as Guernsey, Cayman, BVI and Malta offer fund structures for considerably lower fees. To enable Jersey to meet this demand Crill Canavan created the Standard Form Expert Fund, which is available in corporate or partnership form. These funds have been further developed into a suite of commoditised funds known as Platform Funds, designed and priced to compete directly with offerings from other offshore jurisdictions and so win business for Jersey which might otherwise go elsewhere.
The cost of continually developing and enhancing structures and services, and then of marketing them internationally, requires service providers to have greater critical mass, so it is likely there will be further consolidation of lawyers, accountants and trust companies within the Channel Islands. This is well demonstrated by the forthcoming merger of Crill Canavan with Guernsey lawyers Collas Day in Spring 2011 to form Collas Crill, with 16 partners and a staff of 140. The combined firm will market into India and China, which may not have been possible without resources being combined.
One of the challenges is to diversify the sources of Jersey's GDP. A great deal of work has been carried out by the Economic Development Department to identify and create opportunities for Jersey outside the financial services sector, such as e-commerce, e-gaming and intellectual property, all of which require the skills of lawyers and accountants to develop their full potential. 2011 should see those efforts coming to fruition as, for example, some of the most up-to-date intellectual property legislation in the world was passed by the States in December 2010 and awaits Privy Council approval, and the final piece of legislation to enable Jersey to enter the potentially very lucrative e-gaming market should be passed in February 2011. Likewise Jersey Enterprise has been working extremely hard not only to pave the way for Jersey businesses to make the very most of those new opportunities, but also to bring new business to the Island.
It is important that Jersey businesses work closely with Jersey Finance and Jersey Enterprise to make the most of the opportunities they create as the best results will come from teamwork and commitment.
At the same time as this greater focus on new markets and new areas of business, links with lawyers and accountants in London and other UK centres of business will continue to be important, particularly with those which have contacts or a presence in new markets or specialist expertise which is relevant to them.
Therefore, both in servicing the Island's traditional markets and in developing its offering for new markets, both in financial services and other business areas, lawyers and accountants will remain central to Jersey's continued success in the new decade.
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