Guernsey – in the global elite for private wealth

02 November 2018

Ten Guernsey lawyers were included in the Private Client Global Elite compiled by Legal Week, a list of the world’s elite lawyers advising high net worth clients.

The Private Client Global Elite is a global directory of the world’s top private client and trust disputes talent and rising stars in the industry. Guernsey Finance sponsored a gala dinner in London for the elite list.

In the run up to Guernsey’s first Private Wealth Forum in London, we caught up with some of Guernsey’s private client elite lawyers one morning at the Crown Club in St Peter Port to discuss the strengths of Guernsey’s private wealth offering and its future development.

On the panel were: Alasdair Davidson, Partner, Head of Litigation and IPC in Guernsey at Bedell Cristin; Alison Ozanne, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution in Guernsey at Walkers; Christian Hay, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution in Guernsey at Collas Crill; Gavin Ferguson, Partner - Head of Private Client & Trust in Guernsey at Ogier; and Matthew Guthrie, Partner at Mourant.

Guernsey is a leading global finance centre with more than 50 years’ experience providing specialist services to sophisticated clients worldwide. What attracts clients to these shores?

Alison Ozanne (below): Guernsey law itself is a genuine, viable export for us. Clients from other jurisdictions love Guernsey law - deliberately choosing Guernsey law trusts for example.

The strength of our judiciary is a real asset too. The Carlyle Group case [where US private equity firm The Carlyle Group was sued when a Guernsey investment fund went into insolvency in the wake of the of the global financial crisis] has shown we can handle really big pieces of litigation.

Christian Hay: We have political and economic stability, well-established professional services and well-regarded service providers.

Today, we are seeing a flight to quality. The best companies are being set up in the best regulated, most transparent jurisdictions because of reputational reasons. We should not be afraid to say we are properly regulated, as long as we are easy to do business with.

Guernsey is looking to enable widespread adoption of technology in financial services. What might this mean for clients and their advisers?

Gavin Ferguson: Innovation is crucial in enabling the private wealth sector to comply with global standards in the most efficient manner possible; that way Guernsey can maintain its robust regulatory regime without encumbering business practices to their detriment.

Christian Hay (below): We can steal a march on the competition if Guernsey is seen as an easier place to do business. Enhanced regulatory compliance through the use of technology can be a definite advantage to Guernsey.

Matthew Guthrie: Technology could make a massive difference in administration too. But we cannot forget that personal relationships will remain important - private clients want to know that they will see and speak to someone they trust.

 

While committed to international standards of transparency, our clients’ right to privacy remains of paramount importance. How is this protected in the digital age?

Alison Ozanne: UHNWIs particularly value confidentiality. In Guernsey there is a judicial structure protecting client confidentiality in a perfectly legitimate way. If you want information you’ll have to go through our courts and justify why you need it.

There is a real advantage to being an island. We can be “Fortress Guernsey” on data protection and cyber security – this is something we should really be promoting.

Alasdair Davidson (below): Data is going to be increasingly important for clients, and they will be particularly keen to know where their data is and what is happening to it. Guernsey is ideally positioned for that - you will want your data here.

For those not already familiar with the island, why should HNWIs and their advisers choose Guernsey as a base for their family office?

Matthew Guthrie (below): Guernsey is the antithesis of all the anti-offshore rhetoric about brass plaque companies – we are a transparent, well-regulated jurisdiction where people live and work and carry out activities. That fits with the current environment and the direction of travel for substance.

Alasdair Davidson: A big advantage we have is the quality of professional services available.

Alison Ozanne: Indeed, how many of the Global Elite lawyers are based in Guernsey? The number is disproportionate, and this happens in other services too. It’s indicative that if you’re coming here you’re going to receive a very good level of service. We do City-quality work on a beautiful island.

Gavin Ferguson (below): Guernsey is a great place to live; it is beautiful, safe and offers a quality of life that is second to none. Far from having to compromise on standards of service providers as a trade-off, the island boasts first rate professionals across the board.

Christian Hay: Guernsey is still very Guernsey. There is a strong sense of pride in the island, and a belief that we will find a solution to be better than other jurisdictions. With that we will be able to drive a successful future. We have an innovative book of products we can offer, including the Guernsey Green Fund. The next generation of millennials are going to be less inclined to just sit back and allow the trustee to get on with it. They will want to know what they are invested in, what the CSR policy of the target company is, and to be much more involved in the decision-making. That is the future.

 

The other Global Elite Private Client lawyers from Guernsey were: Ian Swan (Babbe), Jeremy Wessels (Mourant), Chris Edwards (Mourant) and Simon Davies (Ogier). Alice Bricogne (Ogier) and Gregory Haddow (Collas Crill) were named as ‘Ones to Watch’.

Photographs by Chris George. Thanks to the Old Government House Hotel for hosting the event at The Crown Club.Global

Global Elite round-table participants: (L-R) Alastair Davidson, Christian Hay, Matthew Guthrie, Gavin Ferguson and Alison Ozanne.

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