Guernsey is aiming to put itself at the forefront of sustainable investment, consolidating its early wins in the environmental and governance space to make it a leading jurisdiction for ESG investment.
That was the message from Gillian Browning, Director of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission’s Investment, Fiduciary and Pension Division at the at the 2022 Guernsey Funds Forum on Thursday.
“Guernsey hopes it will be at the leading edge of the sustainable and social investment agenda,” she said. “To date, we have had more of a focus on the environmental space and we have always been strong on the governance, which has been the bread and butter of Guernsey’s financial services for years.”
Gillian took part in the event’s first panel debate focusing on Endless Opportunities in Sustainability, along with Dylan Cox of Pitchbook, Lorraine Johnston of Ashurst and Sona Stadtelmeyer-Petru of J. P. Morgan Asset Management.
The panel discussed what the definition of sustainability is, with Lorraine explaining the differing regulatory environments that exist in UK and Europe. Sona highlighted the challenges presented by a lack of data, which makes it hard to be confident about the impact sustainable investment is having. Dylan spoke of the increased awareness of the pitfalls that exists since the first cleantech boom, when more than 50% of funds failed.
The scene for the afternoon’s events was set by author, economist and event keynote speaker Dharshini David, who said that although times are particularly troubled, there are many opportunities. She referenced the pandemic, the war in Ukraine – which has exacerbated the energy crisis – and commodity price hikes which have contributed to the creation of an unstable global picture.
“Out of crisis comes innovation – there is light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. The second panel session focused on Endless Opportunities in Technology, with panellists Clara Durodie of Cognitive Finance, Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller of the States of Guernsey, Jeet Singh of EY and Wim Ritz of ZEDRA.
Jeet Singh described technology as both an enabler to drive new processes and on the other hand there are creations such as digital assets or purely cyber-related items.
Clara believes AI is the basic enabler for emerging technologies and if its deployment can be understood it will be possible to create more technological advances.
How do you give value to digital assets? Deputy Kazantseva-Miller said from a government perspective if someone sees value in a digital asset: “We want to look at it, and because we are an independent government, we can regulate and legislate and make sure the right controls are in place to protect investors and meet global standards, AML, anti-bribery, corruption and follow principles of good investment.”
Deputy Kazantseva-Miller discussed the direction of travel with regard to technological developments in Guernsey. “We are tiny, but we are mighty,” she said. “When you look at the regulatory approach, what government is doing and the close cooperation with industry, we can be nimble and agile. We need to continue providing innovative products, we have a healthy risk appetite but we take it seriously and we do it well.”
The panel concluded that the intersection of ESG and technology requires focus because of potential unintended consequences of technology. They agreed that further work in this area will pay dividends.