Guernsey’s place in the world and its global reputation was the focus of discussion and debate at the Institute of Directors sell-out convention.
Brand and reputation experts joined panellists in imagining the islands positive future if it can harness and demonstrate its value to the world.
IoD Guernsey chair John Clacy said: “Guernsey is great in the context of what we give to the world , however Guernsey can be even better and in this environment of constant change the world needs us like never before. But has the world heard enough about us? Does it understand us?”
He suggested that the island’s qualities – stable, well regulated, bespoke, transparent and niche – could genuinely help to deal with global challenges.
“We have been silent for too long and allowed others to write our headlines. We should be telling our story with pride and passion. It’s time for action rather than endless reviews. This is our time,” he said.
Elaine Gray, a partner at convention sponsor Carey Olsen, agreed. “Guernsey does business well with class and integrity and has always had a knack of giving great things,” she said.
Keynote speaker and expert on countries, cultures and globalisation Simon Anholt encouraged the audience to think big.
“If we microscope rather than telescope we sink without trace,” he said.
Stating that countries are “crippingly insufficiently ambitious”, he said that the world has a way of finding out about remarkable places, “not based on the past – what you’ve done – but what you’re about to do”.
He said that politicians are brand managers as much as policy makers. Everything hinges on reputation.
“You want to be admired so how can you be admirable? 63,000 people is a team who can put concerted effort into making a difference. It’s impossible to change the reputation of a country merely by branding and messaging.”
Hanna Laikko of branding company Moving Brands had vox popped people on the streets of London. Of those who had heard of Guernsey many predictably described the island as a tax haven, a label that also exercised the sixth formers on the Directors of Tomorrow table. But they were also upbeat about the island’s potential. Grammar School pupil Elliot Coutu suggested that Guernsey’s history could be better exploited through an interactive visitor experience in one of its bunkers.
“Just because something was in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be developed in the future,” he said.
Ms Laikko posed the possibilities that Guernsey could become known for renewable energy, block chain, digital assets, electronic vehicles, marine conservation or a testbed for artificial intelligence?
Panellist and marketer Richard Holmes found Economic Development’s vision document generic and “a bit boring” while a show of hands indicated that only 20 per cent of the audience was familiar with it.
“You want to be a centre of excellence, but in what,” he questioned.
Economic Development president and convention panellist Deputy Charles Parkinson said Guernsey states needs to be bolder and take more risks. It has to be the catalyst.
Hotelier Julia Hands wanted to see more marketing so that Guernsey could be less of a hidden gem, while Andreas Tautscher said “you have got to have the content to show you have the knowledge and capability to move into a space”.
During the debate references were made to the values that Guernsey embraces – honesty, transparency, generosity, support of charity and community, values that can be applied to whatever the island is selling, be it finance, green energy or tourism.
“If we focus on what the world needs us to be not only will we have a great future, we’ll also have an island that will be an amazing place to live in and one we can be proud to leave to the next generation,” Mr Clacy said.
The IoD’s next event will be a breakfast meeting on Friday 26 October when Andy Sloan, deputy chief executive, strategy, at Guernsey Finance will talk about the development of the financial services strategy, ahead of the Committee for Economic Development’s formal publication of the policy framework for the finance sector expected later in November. Dr Sloan will share his thoughts on positioning the island as a provider of specialist financial services.
Other sponsors of the event were Intertrust Guernsey, Ravenscroft, HSBC, DXC Technology, JTC, Source Recruitment, Deloitte, the Ana Leaf Foundation and TPA with contributions from Orchard PR, Sueco and Joys.