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Envisaging Tomorrow’s Guernsey – Harnessing Five Key Drivers Shaping the Future

27 June 2022

Written by Rohit Talwar

In a fast changing world with rapid shifts taking place in every aspect of business and society, what steps can Guernsey take to secure a vibrant and positive future for all its citizens? As a futurist, it may come as no surprise that I believe envisaging Guernsey’s future requires a foresight-driven, knowledge-based, and innovation-centred approach to drive sustainable development and growth. In the face of disruption and uncertainty, the approach must lay the foundations for a range of ‘possible futures.’ So what are some of the forces that Guernsey can harness to help shape a positive future? Here I explore five key forces of change, and the associated actions Guernsey can implement to take advantage of them.

Emerging Growth Sectors – The industrial landscape is likely to change dramatically in the next five to ten years. Mature industries such as traditional financial services (FS) will  to disruption and will likely cut headcounts through automation to stay competitive. In parallel, new knowledge based and technologically advanced sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI), green technology, autonomous vehicles, synthetic biology, smart materials, FinTech, blockchain, the crypto economy, and metaverses are emerging and are on track to become the trillion dollar industries of the near future. Guernsey’s challenge is selecting and attracting the next wave of high value and environmentally sound sectors which can generate quality jobs, bring in top talent, and contribute to continued economic development.

An example would be insurance for the crypto economy. The market capitalisation of the crypto sector more than doubled in the last year to be worth around $2 trillion today and the insurance sector is starting to recognise the exponential growth opportunity arising for management of the risks for crypto ventures and exchanges, insuring the crypto holdings of individuals and companies, and offering secure crypto custody services.

Part of becoming a hub for players in new sectors might include attracting the industry associations for these fast growing industries. Seeking to host their annual conferences until they outgrow Guernsey’s capacity to house them would also put Guernsey on the radar as a possible location for ventures in those sectors. 

Talent – Globally there is an intense battle for skilled knowledge workers. Destinations are competing and innovating on three fronts - the quality of available talent, the investment in the continuing education and skills development of the workforce, and the support offered to  talent from outside. Key here is the blend of both central support and assistance to help people take responsibility for their own learning - encompassing the changes shaping the future of work and the skills required by the incoming industries. Innovations might include smart use of existing facilities - schools can become remote learning centres in the evenings. Here faculty from around the world can provide the content by video, while local mentors would help participants interpret and apply the knowledge gained.

Broadband Infrastructure – Key to attracting the digitally centric sectors of the future will be the provision of world class fixed broadband access, with predominantly smaller destinations competing to offer the fastest speeds globally. Businesses in possible target sectors from FinTech and blockchain solutions, through to crypto insurance and AI development are typically global from day one. These businesses and their customers take for granted that they will have reliable, robust, and superfast connectivity. The new 5G and fibre based communications solutions coming to market also typically have a far lower energy consumption footprint than previous generations of 3G, 4G, and cabling technology.

Innovation – The search for growth is increasingly fuelled by new ideas, and destinations must demonstrate that innovation runs through their core. This might include smart competitions to attract promising new ventures, coupled with innovative funding alliances to provide the successive rounds of support required to help start-ups scale quickly.

Innovation also needs to extend to models for funding change and infrastructure development. For example, Miami has introduced its own cryptocurrency and takes a share of the ‘mining’ fees earned by those who validate the transactions using these ‘Miami Coins.’ The revenues earned from a Guernsey Coin that was accepted as legal tender could be used to fund critical developments such as high speed broadband rollout. Community based funds could also be developed – enabling citizens to invest some of their Guernsey Coins in new ventures – potentially benefiting both from the success of the ventures and the resulting appreciation in value of Guernsey Coins.

ForesightNations, cities, and businesses alike are starting to embrace the need for good foresight to help them understand the drivers of future change and the scenarios that could play out. Such insights can then inform the development of robust strategies that prepare us for a range of possibilities and help us spot emerging opportunities and challenges. Regular foresight exercises that engage the wider community would help ensure greater island wide understanding of the need for continuous change and enable the development of smart strategies that help Guernsey secure an exciting future.

Taking action on these drivers requires a combination of factors. Key amongst them are a willingness to think big, the desire to leverage Guernsey’s size and act fast, buy in from the business community, and processes that engage the wider population at every stage. There is no single proven recipe for ensuring a positive outcome. However, acknowledging and acting on these five drivers is a ‘no regrets’  way of starting the journey to Guernsey’s future.

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist advising national and local governments, leading corporations, and investors around the world on how to anticipate and prepare for the emerging future.

This article first appeared in The Financial Times, 19th April 2022.

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