Beyond Brexit - a Jersey view
Mark Hucker joined Volaw Group as its new Managing Director in January 2017. He reflects on his new position within Jersey’s fiduciary services industry, and the changes within the sector.
I left my last role in the fiduciary sector in 2011, glad to get out of an industry where clients, confidence and customer choice seemed to be in slow decline. And to some extent my pessimism has been borne out in Government statistics – any real “growth” in the headline figures for the sector over the past few years has been driven by increased expenditure on Compliance personnel – yes, one in 20 of us in the finance sector in Jersey now has a Compliance title and yes, staff costs are included in the calculation of Gross Value Added (GVA) produced by the Office of Statistics!
So why climb back aboard the sinking ship in 2017, especially in the wake of Brexit and Trump? Well of course it’s a combination of factors at a sector and a business level.
The Island as a whole, and the fiduciary sector in particular, has weathered the storm of change post 2008 crisis and if anything is poised to emerge stronger, more diversified and more resilient than ever. The modern Trust Company is no longer just a low value administrator or a necessary evil, it is a Manager, Adviser, Partner and Innovator as wealth structuring becomes ever more complex and global. And despite protectionist threats from the US or EU, the proliferation of cross-border, multi-jurisdictional investment is likely to continue as clients take advantage of new opportunities and seek to protect themselves, their businesses and their families from country-specific risks.
And even the language has changed – tax evasion became tax avoidance which has now become tax neutrality and efficiency. A painful journey over 20 years or more but one where Jersey led the way to become an internationally recognised and legitimate client destination – from ‘tax haven’ to a trusted and transparent finance centre. It will be a challenge to maintain this status especially in the face of pressures from Europe but Jersey is resourceful and innovative enough to meet the challenge. And throughout the journey, the fundamental principle of fiduciary oversight, of preserving and enhancing client assets, is unchanged. Alongside the effective, proactive regulation of the sector, it has protected both our clients and the reputation of our Island and remains at the heart of all the activities of the sector, new and old.
So why choose Volaw? It often seems to customers and counterparties alike, and I’ve been both, that there is no difference between service providers so a choice is made on the basis of fees, or more often, relationships. However, in reality the consolidation in the sector and the diversification by activity and/or jurisdiction has enabled many companies to create or build on a competitive edge.
Volaw is one of the largest independent fiduciaries, owned and controlled by its directors – enabling it to make fast and effective decisions, take its own view of risk and support clients without any conflicts of interest. It also brings more than 30 years’ experience to meeting client needs and its services are delivered by a stable and skilled team, more than 40% of whom have been with the business for 10 years or more. However, stability is only part of the package and Volaw has survived and grown by innovation, notably supporting the launch of the first Shariah-compliant fund in the Island in 1996 and growing a loyal and prestigious client base in the Middle East.
Mark was born and educated in Jersey, where he has spent most of his career, gaining more than 20 years’ experience in the offshore financial sector. He is a chartered accountant and qualified trust practitioner with considerable experience across a range of businesses in the fund and investment management, fiduciary and banking sectors.
Most recently Mark was Chief Executive of the Standard Bank Offshore Group, responsible for offices in Jersey, the Isle of Man and Mauritius. Previously he had been Managing Director of Key Trust Company and Chief Operating Officer of the Ermitage Group. Mark was appointed Managing Director of Volaw Group from 3 January 2017.