Two presentations were held at the Gibraltar office in London on 27 June with a view to further raising the profile of the Gibraltar finance centre. Fourteen journalists from the financial press attended the noon session, and 14 'expat' Gibraltarians working in financial services in the UK were present at the evening event. The presentations were delivered by the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Trade, Industry & Telecoms Keith Azopardi after an introduction by Finance Centre Director James Tipping.

Journalists from the following publications were briefed on latest developments in Gibraltar: The International, Resident Abroad, International Wealth Management and Private Banking (Financial Times publications), Weekly Telegraph/Portfolio International, Financial Products, Offshore World, Offshore Red, Insurance Day, Business Insurance, Insurance International, and Global Reinsurance.

Expat Gibraltarians were also interested to learn of the latest developments on the Rock and many expressed surprise at the progress made and the diverse areas now being covered. The following Gibraltarians, all of them senior financial services professionals in the UK, attended the second presentation: Joe Sacarello (HSBC Investment Bank), Arthur Imossi (NatWest Bank), Tim Haynes (NASDAQ), Charles Prescott (Fitch IBCA), Christopher Cardona (Denton Wilde Sapte), Brian Isola (Waterson Hicks), Donna Seruya (Nomura), Andrew Lavarello (Willis), Edinburgh-based Albert Morillo (BlackRock), Michael Davis (Macquarie Bank), Victor Galliano (BBV Securities), William Gomez (BBVA), Louis Castro (Williams de Broë) and Herky Dialdas (Independent Capital Corporation).

"There is a wealth of Gibraltarian assets out there who will fast become the best ambassadors we have in the international arena," said Gibraltar Finance Centre Council Chairman Paul Savignon, who was also in London for the occasion. "It is surprising that we have not tapped this support before now. As Gibraltar's need for expertise grows, Gibraltarians with a wealth of international experience should be our first port of call."

Indeed, the Finance Centre Director embarked on a rolling programme of promotional presentations shortly after his appointment last year, and the current initiative to target financial journalists and Gibraltarian financial professionals gives further impetus to the marketing drive. "The presentations organised in London to journalists and to Gibraltarians are designed to be repeated on a regular basis," said James Tipping. "This will ensure that the long-term momentum regarding the profile and products offered by the finance centre continues to be maintained."

In his remarks, Deputy Chief Minister Keith Azopardi tackled the OECD initiative head-on, stressing the need for clarity, consistency and consolidation. He maintains the view that the Government of Gibraltar's policy of tax reform will accommodate the OECD in the long term.

Although Mr Azopardi's presentation focused on financial services on the Rock, he was keen to put across the message that the finance centre does not play the overly dominant role it does in, for example, the Channel Islands. "We do not rely solely on financial centre activities and this is important," he emphasised, pointing out that five million people visit Gibraltar through the land frontier alone each year, whereas London, which is much larger, receives 25 million visitors.

The Minister went on to say that forthcoming legislation would give impetus to Gibraltar's new products and emerging markets, highlighting e-commerce in particular. "It is important not to underemphasise how enthusiastic we are in Gibraltar about e-commerce," he declared. "Gibraltar has been strategically placed to act as a gateway historically, and now, as an electronic gateway." The web-hosting business is expected to expand to a value of trillions of dollars by 2003 and Gibraltar has already attracted interest in this area of e-commerce. "The Rock of Gibraltar - what better emblem for security and for placing your web servers there," said the Minister.

"It is interesting that it sometimes requires an event such as this to focus the mind on what has been undoubted progress over the last 12 months," Paul Savignon further commented. "It is gratifying that the issues relating to competent authority and the EU dimension have ceased to be a liability and are now recognised as positive assets by would-be users of Gibraltar. The Government has successfully clarified Gibraltar's EU position to the extent that it has ceased to be an issue and we are well on the way to investment services passporting."