Guernsey's funds industry is well placed to capitalise on an ever-changing global environment, according to Guernsey Investment Fund Association (GIFA) Chairman Andrew Whittaker.

The Guernsey Press' coverage on GIFA's annual dinner reported that Mr Whittaker told guests how the past 12 months had been a significant time both locally and internationally.

His prediction last year that major votes would have huge repercussions on the local finance industry proved to be correct but he has faith in how Guernsey can react to more major votes to come in Europe in the near future.

"We have the skills and nimbleness to exploit opportunities as they arise," Mr Whittaker. "We have put in place building blocks post-Brexit and opportunities could be aligning here.

"We have a huge chance to make our own luck, to drive Guernsey forward as the world continues to unravel itself."

The funds sector experienced five straight quarters of growth up until the end of Q3 in 2016, despite a number of issues threatening to impact the local industry - not least the delay in securing a third-country passport under the EU's AIFMD regime following the Brexit vote.

Mr Whittaker thanked the biggest fund managers using Guernsey, such as Permira - whose latest fund Permira VI recently closed at €7.5 billion - Apex and Cinven, for continuing to choose the island as a domicile.

"Their choice of Guernsey says a lot in a world of change and we should be proud," said Mr Whittaker, who added he was heartened at the island's approach to pursuing new ideas and that the Guernsey Financial Services Commission had been proactive in introducing the Manager Led Product and the Private Investment Fund.

He also praised the Guernsey Government for its work with the UK on Brexit and hoped that might bring opportunities to the island, particularly with more favourable double-taxation agreements with other countries.

The GIFA executive committee's strategy for the year had a primary focus on securing third-country access to the EU. The island, Mr Whittaker said, had done a 'sterling job' in securing no objections, only for bureaucratic delays to intervene.

On tax, global events - including the Panama Papers - led to increased scrutiny but the OECD's Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative was more of a significant issue for the funds sector and its investors, he suggested.

"We worked hard to get Guernsey's relationship with the OECD through the UK government more visible," he continued. "It is a vital step in demonstrating that we are in this club."

Mr Whittaker described the roll-out of BEPS across dozens of countries as 'relentless'.

"Tax will continue to be the focus for investors," he added. "We'll still have the advantage of no GST or VAT, but other changes continue to need to be managed in order to protect the Guernsey industry."

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