On Saturday, Guernsey reached the milestone of 100 days with no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 within its Bailiwick. Guernsey Finance Chief Executive Rupert Pleasant reflects on how the island's finance industry has responded to the pandemic and continued to operate 'business as usual'.
Guernsey was one of the first places in the British Isles to come out of 'lockdown', having pursued a strategy of 'test, trace and quarantine'. Apart from strict border controls, life here has been more or less back to normal for seven weeks, with no social distancing and no face masks worn in daily activity.
Despite the difficulties of lockdown, experienced globally, Guernsey's financial sector has shone as an example of stability.
The financial services industry is well-prepared for incidents of disruption. Business continuity is a regulatory requirement, and many global firms, operating in Guernsey, have been through previous pandemic incidents with their offices in Asia.
Guernsey firms have retained their well-established high levels of service throughout lockdown and demonstrated the island's economic substance in being able to do so. And with financial services being the largest sector in the local economy, it should be the engine room for growth and economic recovery in the island over the next few months and years.
During our ILS Insight webinar in July, Jutta Kath, Head of Transaction Management at Schroder Sequaero, said that Guernsey "never missed a beat" when it came to servicing clients during lockdown. Guernsey's financial services firms were still fully accessible at an important time of year for the insurance sector.
Local infrastructure, both physical and legal, allowed us to adapt and be flexible in those areas that needed to change. Guernsey rules allowed for board meetings to be held by telephone or video conferencing and for the appointment of alternative directors.
Guernsey has long allowed the electronic signature of documents, the Electronic Transactions Law, 2000, playing a significant role in enabling business as usual, offering legal certainty for electronic transactions.
On economic substance, the Guernsey International Business Association issued guidance on how companies could comply with substance requirements during the pandemic before Guernsey locked down, giving further certainty and continuity.
Guernsey Finance research also showed that nearly two-thirds of firms in Guernsey made little or no changes to work remotely, and all firms see it as a viable option for the future.
One of the firms which has had to adapt perhaps more than others is Guernsey Finance itself. We entered lockdown with a full schedule of our own and third-party events all over the globe for the whole of 2020.
As we, or others, have steadily cancelled them over the weeks and months, we have had to move to a new world of video and online webinars. Moving online has brought its own opportunities and even enhanced our global reach.
We frequently state that Guernsey is a great place to live and to do business. And in our current, Covid-free status, that could not be more true.
Originally published by Guernsey Finance, August 2020
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