Guernsey: punching above its weight
02 February 2015
Sophie Vaudin, lead underwriter at Robus, discusses Guernsey’s strengths as a jurisdiction and a place to live.
The sea food is deliciously fresh, the beaches and waters are beautifully clean, and the commute to work is a snappy drive along the coast road looking out at the sun glistening on the sea and over Herm (apart from in the winter of course when the rain is lashing down and the fog is so thick that the car in front is barely visible…but that’s for another time and arguably still preferable to an hour and a half commute whatever the weather). In a former life the island triumphed in its agriculture and horticulture.
Guernsey can boast being the supplier of the flowers which made up the bouquet held by Princess Diana at her wedding to Prince Charles (the flowers were actually grown, picked and supplied by my Grannie-inLaw). Nowadays the island’s main source of wealth is brought in by its finance industry, but just as with the success of the growth of tomatoes, strawberries and freesias in days gone by, for a small island Guernsey continues to punch above its weight. Guernsey is the number one captive domicile in Europe, and number four in the world.
For an island with a population of a little over 65,000, a maximum speed limit of 35 miles an hour and a thriving market in ‘heg-veg’, that is more than fairly impressive. The beauty of an island the size of Guernsey is the well-resourced services and efficient and nimble infrastructure. In London, for example, it can take months to process an application for a new passport, weeks for a new telephone line to be connected and eighteen months for an insurance application to be processed by the FCA.
In Guernsey things can happen much more quickly. Guernsey is all about relationships.
At Robus our relationship with our regulator, the Guernsey FSC, is excellent and we understand that maintaining this close working relationship is of vital importance to our business and to our clients. This relationship means that if there is a problem or if we have a new licence which requires consideration, we can pick up the phone and discuss the matter directly with the person making the decisions.
Although the proverbial red tape exists everywhere, it is decidedly quicker and easier to overcome when telephone or face-to-face discussions can be held quickly and easily. Our close working relationship means that a new insurance application is generally able to be turned around in a four to six weeks and in certain instances only a few days, where this is specifically required, meaning that we are able to give our clients what they need, when they need it.
The importance of developing strong relationships also underpins the way in which we do business. There are those large corporate insurance managers who are content with their clients being merely a number, for whom there are only ‘business as usual’ services. As a small independent insurance manager, Robus prefers to develop strong individual relationships with our clients – allowing an increased understanding of what our clients require beyond our standard responsibilities. We also understand the importance of the ability to introduce a cross-pollination of ideas, business flows and profit opportunities between our clients. We understand that an introduction can provide the next great idea.
A reputation for innovation
Guernsey’s legislative framework is both broad and well proven, with a reputation for innovation in the development of PCC, ICC and foundation legislation. Guernsey continues to innovate in the legislative arena and monitor developments in other jurisdictions to improve and adapt. Robus is no stranger to innovation.
Chris Le Conte, the Robus Group CEO and founder was responsible for the development of the world’s first ever PCC and the world’s first ever insurance ICC, with the Robus Group’s Justin Wallen heading up their management teams. It is this innovation and creativity that underpins the Robus Group and is so very representative of the thought leadership that exists within the industry in Guernsey. The expertise within the island is abundant. For a captive owner, having made the decision to look to Guernsey for its management, the possibilities are nigh on endless with subsidiaries of many of the internationally recognised risk managers available along with numerous independent captive insurance managers.
As with everything in life, the devil is in the detail, and it is the detail that can set one manager apart from the next. It would be understandable for the assumption to be made that all captive managers were created equal – surely there are only a finite number of services which need to be offered and a finite amount of work that needs to be done, what can really be the difference between these companies? In answer to that I would quote my mother – ‘A car is only a way of getting from A to B – if it gets you there it doesn’t matter what car it is’.
While this view is quite correct, a Ford Mondeo will get you to your destination just as an Aston Martin or Bugatti will do, the key is that the journey and the opportunities which are presented to you on the journey couldn’t be more different. In managing a captive there are a certain number of things that have to happen. In particular the company must have management accounts produced and audited financial statements completed each year, premiums and claims need to be administered, the various statutory and regulatory returns submitted and there needs to be a robust compliance framework.
Although all of them can be done more or less efficiently, in essence the basic services will be performed by whichever manager is chosen. But it is the journey and the opportunities presented by the chosen manager which offer the value and the difference.
The Robus difference
The Robus Group’s belief in its ability to offer a different service to its clients is cemented by our pledge to offer our clients ‘The Robus Difference’ – expertise, creativity, clarity, independence, service and security. We aim to act as a true business partner to our clients rather than an external service provider, providing exceptional core services for our Guernsey and Gibraltar clients as well as adding advice on strategy, structure and capital.
Guernsey’s prowess as a captive domicile is maintained by its flexible solvency requirements, familiar business environment, robust yet pragmatic regulatory approach and a continued genuine willingness shown by the regulator in support of new innovations.
As a well-established international business centre Guernsey houses a community of outstanding professional service providers, from accountancy to legal services. Its location allows convenient day trips to and from the UK and as a British Channel Island, Guernsey offers a familiar business environment with a legal system based on English common law. Guernsey is a jewel in the English Channel, and one which really is worth exploring.
An original version of this article was published Captive Review's 2015 Guernsey report, February 2015.Back to News
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