An island of choice for family offices

23 January 2017

Written by Stuart Mauger RBC Wealth Management

With more and more family offices launching, Stuart Mauger, Director of Sales and Relationship Management at RBC Wealth Management, points to some of the reasons for setting up shop in Guernsey.

It is never an easy decision to establish where the most advantageous location will ultimately be for your family office or principal service providers. A number of factors need to be considered, including time zones, languages, accessibility, proportionate regulation, local tax rates, human capital and cost.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In some cases, it may simply boil down to the founding family or partners of the firm and where they would ideally like to live and grow their business.

Guernsey is renowned for its strong sense of community and veritable work/life balance, as well as excellent schooling, healthcare and leisure facilities. Most notably, this all lies a short flight away from London - the favoured conduit to most international business centres.

The picturesque fortifications dotted around the island offer a window into the Guernsey residents of old, speaking much of their robustness and agility. That agility, together with modern air links and the advent of technology, has created a wealth of experience locally that has been trained abroad and enriched by professional experiences in Hong Kong, London and New York, subsequently bringing additional skills to the island. Guernsey also benefits from ease of communication and access to clients globally.

Indeed, the efforts of ‘We are Guernsey’ earlier this year saw a Shanghai-based family office spend a week in Guernsey with local practitioners in September this year – evidence in practice of the multinational nature of the jurisdiction.

The traditional single family office can leverage over 150 licensed fiduciary firms, fund administration family vehicles, investment, legal, tax and corporate service providers to complement their fixed costs for permanent staff by opting for the variable costs of ‘on demand’ advisers. When family offices are considering how to optimally run, many are focused on a core value proposition. Instead of being all things to all people, it’s specialisation in a specific set of skills that may be the key to success for family offices. Indeed this approach that has led to the evolution of many of the island’s multi-family offices.

The reality that families and their COIs understand is that with information exchange, and early adoption of the Common Reporting Standards (CRS) regime and US FATCA, Guernsey has reinforced its status as a compliant and quality jurisdiction. It is fully transparent - creating value for a family office that wants to be associated with a premium first class offering.

It would be nice to pen an article omitting Brexit, but in truth the unknowns of the UK’s divorce from the European Union may cause some to have concern over the future viability of the island as a financial centre. However, this would be short sighted. Guernsey has always been a crown dependency that sits outside of EU governance and will retain an intrinsic and strategic partnership with the UK regardless of future events.

Of course, Guernsey may not be the preferred choice of where to domicile for all family offices. For some, it may make sense to structure in the more cosmopolitan locations of London and New York, or indeed, against the more traditional backdrops of Monaco or Switzerland. As with all decisions of domicile, the trade-offs must be closely analysed against key objectives and with all factors taken into account.

An original version of this article was first published in eprivateclient's 2017 Guernsey report, January 2017.

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