Brexit and Trump fail to dampen optimism of funds industry

The Jersey Finance Funds Conference, held in London each year, is a good barometer of the health of the funds sector in Jersey and indeed globally. This year conversation, both in the panel sessions and in the breaks, was dominated by industry specific issues, particularly tax co-operation and BEPS, but also by the impending referendum on Brexit and the surprising success of Donald Trump’s candidacy for presidential office.

Uncertainty caused by the twin pillars of Britain leaving the EU and who knows what happening in the States is not welcomed by business, so most statements during the day came with a big caveat. Geoff Cook summed it up when he asked if the political situation was ‘more complicated or just plain crazy?’

But, despite having one eye on future uncertainty, funds practitioners in Jersey and London are optimistic for the future. The value of funds in Jersey has increased by 15%, the island is well set with agreements in place for third country status cementing positive relations with the EU and with OECD experts welcoming the island’s approach to BEPS.

It was stressed several times during the day, none more so than by Ben Robins of the Jersey Funds Association that in a world where international business is expected to have real substance where it pays tax that Jersey, with its network of international finance businesses, skilled practitioners and competent and consistent regulators and lawmakers is well set to benefit in the modern international business community.

BBC journalist Nick Robinson presented another challenge for the international finance community by highlighting the resurgence of grass-roots politics. Whether it is Jeremy Corbyn in the UK or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders in the US, anti-establishment politicians are gaining support with ‘average’ voters. ‘How do you maintain wealth creation through developing the finance industry when voters don’t think it is working for them?’ was the question posed by Robinson which will be a key challenge for international finance in 2016.