Guernsey job market report by Mike Bonsall (November 2010)
Guernsey has a reputation as a safe and secure jurisdiction, offering robust corporate governance, innovative wealth management solutions and the professional expertise of some of the most highly regarded people in the industry, the island has managed to weather the economic storm better than most.
So how exactly has the island faired over the past twelve months?
2009 saw many firms constrained by headcount freezes, often driven out by head offices as a result of adverse conditions affecting their businesses on a global scale. Those that were still able to recruit often did so cautiously, resulting in a recruitment process that could take many months to complete. This, coupled with a wider sense of unease and uncertainty amongst candidates, as well as employers, made for testing times.
The contrast between then and now is thankfully marked. Headcount freezes have, in the main, been lifted and there is a positive sense of optimism amongst recruiters and candidates. Whilst there have been some high-profile corporate casualties, there are also major players putting Guernsey at the very forefront of their global business strategy, and are rapidly establishing the island as the hub of their wealth management business across the whole EMEA region.
The outlook for smaller, locally-based, independent firms would also appear optimistic. There are certainly challenges to be faced, such as keeping pace with ever increasing operating costs and the demands for increased corporate governance and compliance. However the ability to remain nimble and pro active, delivering innovative, bespoke solutions to ever more demanding clients, at a time when bigger firms are often weighed down by greater levels of bureaucracy, can give these firms a vital competitive edge.
Conveniently located and combining a world class business infrastructure with a genuinely cosmopolitan and highly attractive standard of living sees Guernsey continuing to attract high profile businesses and individuals to its shores. Last year saw the likes of Terra Firma boss Guy Hands take up residence here and this year has seen Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button choose the island as his primary residence. We are also seeing an increase in high profile hedge funds also relocating their operations to Guernsey.
For these individuals and businesses Guernsey does appear to tick all the right boxes. However, whilst its ranking in global financial centre league tables remains strong, the island’s government and leading industry figures continue to raise awareness and forge greater links with emerging markets. At the same time the commitment to greater tax transparency and the preservation of the island’s competitiveness, whilst satisfying its EU neighbours, remains a top priority.
Guernsey has now signed a total of 17 TIEAs (tax information exchange agreements). The latest being with Greece. There are also further agreements likely to be signed over the coming months.
In recognition of the Far East’s rapid rise to prominence, Guernsey has also been strengthening its relationship with key figures in the region. Events such as the recent visit to Beijing and Shanghai by Guernsey Finance Chief Executive Peter Niven, the Island’s Chief Minister Lyndon Trott and the Lord Major of the City of London are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Looking ahead, next February’s ‘Future of Trusts’ conference, featuring key international speakers from the UK, Switzerland, China and India and covering such hot topics as Indian Wealth, Chinese Private Clients and Sharia Law, will only further enhance Guernsey’s reputation as a cutting edge wealth management jurisdiction.
So for professionals investigating employment opportunities on the island, how are things shaping up?
With responsibilities to the island that extend beyond safeguarding the interests of individual organisations, the government of Guernsey continues to regulate the influx of non-locally qualified workers into the island’s financial sector. Therefore before firms can look to apply for the necessary permits to recruit off-island, they do need to provide sufficient evidence that they have made every reasonable attempt to recruit a local candidate.
There are however still some great opportunities for exceptional international candidates, who can bring with them a high level of experience and relevant expertise. Salaries remain competitive in the global offshore market and other contributing factors, such as the island’s 20% maximum rate of personal income tax, extremely safe and secure environment and attractive quality of life means that Guernsey is often at, or near the top of our candidates’ wish list of jurisdictions.
With wealth management professionals becoming increasingly mobile, we are also seeing an increase in expats looking to return to Guernsey. Over the past year AP Executive has placed a number of high profile returnees with firms on the island. The fact that these professionals, who have spent a number of years in other jurisdictions building their careers and are at the very top of their game, are choosing to return to the island now, is an excellent testament to the esteem in which the island is held in the international community and to the employment opportunities that currently exist here.
Mike Bonsall is a Manager for AP Executive, a specialist global private wealth management consultancy.
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