There are indications of growing ties between the Island and the world’s most rapidly growing financial superpower
by Peter Niven, Chief Executive of Guernsey Finance, the promotional agency for the Island’s finance industry
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.
|Guernsey Finance –Address: PO Box 655, North Plantation, St Peter Port, Guernsey, GY1 3PN|
Phone: +44 (0) 1481 720071
Fax: +44 (0) 1481 720091
Peter Niven, 54, is Chief Executive of Guernsey Finance LBG, the international promotional agency for Guernsey’s finance industry.
Having spent 30 years with the Lloyds TSB Group, Peter retired from the position of Chief Executive of the Bank’s Offshore operations in June 2004 and embarked upon a second career, still in the industry, but in developing and promoting Guernsey as a leading international finance centre.
Although his field of expertise was initially in the UK, Peter has spent the last 14 years offshore in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man together with running offices in Dubai, the US, Spain and the Far East, maintaining a diverse business covering retail banking, funds and fiduciary services. The nature of Lloyds’ international business has also taken him across the world on many occasions and he is therefore very familiar with international marketing and the need to build a strong presence in chosen markets. Originally from Manchester and with a degree in Chemistry (neither of which have been particularly helpful to him in financial services!), Peter – a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers and a Chartered Director – still maintains his experience on the front line as a director of a number of Guernsey based investment funds and captive insurance companies, including Chairman of F&C Commercial Property Trust a FTSE 350 company.
As an antidote to all this Peter has four daughters who keep him on his toes. He and his wife Anne, who is Head of Economics at the Ladies’ College in Guernsey, like to travel when not at work, and take every opportunity to indulge their enjoyment of the theatre and opera in particular.
Leading lawyer: Guernsey strikes a chord in the Far East Guernsey’s fiduciary offering has struck a chord with industry professionals in the Far East, according to a leading international private client lawyer.
Nick Jacob, Partner, Tax and Private Capital, Lawrence Graham LLP, chaired the Guernsey fiduciary seminars during the Island’s recent delegation to Hong Kong and Shanghai.
“Historically many practitioners in China have been familiar with trust and corporate structures from the BVI and Cayman but less aware of what other international finance centres can offer. However, more recently this has begun to change with Guernsey in particular starting to get its name known in the region,” said Mr Jacob.
“I believe that professionals in the Far East should be made aware that their high net worth clients – individuals and institutions – can benefit from using trust and corporate services in Guernsey. The Island already has a great heritage of excellence in providing fiduciary services internationally and its offering has been enhanced this year through the introduction of a new Trust Law, a new Company Law and a new Company Registry.
“What we saw at the seminars is that these messages, and particularly the services of the new Company Registry, really seemed to strike a chord with local lawyers, accountants and trust professionals. The results seem very positive for Guernsey both in terms of winning business off the back of this delegation and also for its long term success of securing flows from China.”
The delegation spent one week in Hong Kong (5th-11th October) and the second week in Shanghai (12th-17th October). The team was showcasing Guernsey as lead sponsor and exhibitor at the STEP Asia conference in Hong Kong, through a series of meetings with key decision makers in the two centres and at specific trust and company seminars – chaired by Mr Jacob – in both locations.
Peter Niven, Chief Executive of Guernsey Finance, added: “We have been very pleased with the positive reaction that we have received from the professionals in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The Guernsey industry practitioners that came on the delegation are reporting that they now have pieces of business in the pipeline as a direct result of their participation.
“What I think has contributed to our success is that we did not just have Guernsey industry practitioners singing our own praises but in Nick we also had third-party endorsement from a highly regarded and very experienced lawyer who was able to speak with authority on using international finance centres such as Guernsey for clients in the region.”
Photo: Nick Jacob, Partner, Tax and Private Capital, Lawrence Graham LLP, chairs the Guernsey trust and company seminar in Shanghai.
Shanghai keen on the Guernsey finance model Tu Guangshao, the Vice-Mayor of Shanghai, has spoken during a visit to Guernsey of how his city would like to use the Island as a role model for the development of its own financial services sector.
He said that financial services currently accounted for just 10% of Shanghai’s gross domestic product but it would be seeking to expand this sector in the future.
“We have much to learn from Guernsey…….Guernsey will be a very good partner for us,” said the Vice-Mayor, who added that there would be benefits for Guernsey as well.
“Guernsey would also like to find more opportunities elsewhere in the world and in that sense Guernsey and Shanghai have a lot of complementary areas.”
The Vice-Mayor was in Guernsey after accepting an invitation from Chief Minister Lyndon Trott to extend a planned trip to the UK by visiting the Island.
The Chief Minister said: “It was good to meet such a genuine group of people, led by the very senior and knowledgeable Vice-Mayor Tu. It was a pleasure to engage with him and his delegation and I am certain that this is the latest stage of a long and fruitful relationship between us and Shanghai.”
Peter Niven, Chief Executive of Guernsey Finance, said: “The Vice-Mayor was delighted with the welcome he received in Guernsey and especially from the Chief Minister. He took a shine to the Island immediately and was particularly impressed with the infrastructure and expertise of our finance industry.
“Indeed his comments are a major endorsement of the Island as a leading international finance centre. All in all, the visit was a great opportunity to cement our strengthening relationships between Guernsey and Shanghai – the major financial services centre in China.”
The Vice-Mayor was joined by Zhang Yujun, President of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, as well as local government officials. Their itinerary began with a presentation about the Channel Islands Stock Exchange (CISX).
The delegation was also able to see the Island from a different perspective by taking a guided coach trip around the coast. This was added to the schedule after an invitation from the Commerce and Employment to set sail onboard the Sea Fisheries vessel The Leopardess had to be declined due to the weather conditions.
Viewing the Island’s coastline was followed by a tour of the States of Guernsey debating chamber and outline of the Island’s history and constitution by Deputy Bailiff Richard Collas. The party was then received at Government House by the Lieutenant Governor Sir Fabian Malbon and his wife Lady
The official engagements were concluded with a chance for the delegation to meet 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 such as Steve Le Page, Chairman of the Guernsey International Business Association (GIBA).
The Vice-Mayor has already met with Guernsey representatives three times during their visits to Shanghai.