It’s now eight months since Rupert Pleasant took the helm at Guernsey Finance and now he’s fully settled into the role, 2021 presents him with the chance to take the organisation forward.
It can’t have been easy taking over during what everyone’s now describing as ‘unprecedented times’ or to put it baldly a global pandemic that continues to cause chronic economic uncertainty and almost certainly a reshaping of the financial landscape.
The focus for 2021
How have the last few months been and how does he plan to move the organisation forward this year, I ask.
“My background is business development, and the first six months has given me the opportunity to do some housekeeping on the agency to make sure that what we’re doing is as efficient as possible,” he says.
“But, it has been a very turbulent time and I’d love to give absolute praise to the team for being able to come out of what has been very much a physical world and move into a complete digital world.
“I think going forwards it’s going to be going into a very different hybrid world really.
“We’ve got to be prepared to be able to really start the year in the way that we finished 2020, which is very much focusing on digital, but we’ve got to be prepared and we’ve got to have those facilities in place for being able to do hybrid events going forwards.”
For an agency that relies on taking the message of Guernsey far and wide, being unable to travel and conduct roadshows all over the world has meant changing the way the organisation works to get its message across.
“We’ve adapted to virtual roadshows which have been a great success. I think going forward, we’re probably not going to need to do so many of those physical roadshows because we’ll have our BD specialists in the field.”
The role of chief executive, as well as being the ‘face’ of the organisation and a voice for the industry, is also to answer to the States of Guernsey which contributes to Guernsey Finance’s funding.
“You do have to have a degree of political acumen as well,” he says. “You’ve got to be able to keep both sides aware of what you’re doing. The States is obviously very interested in what we’re doing, and they’re very supportive.”
Dispelling the myths
How does an organisation like Guernsey Finance measure its success and satisfy industry and government of its value?
For those of us who live here and understand what our industry is about, it can be confusing to learn that out in the wider world the name Guernsey still carries negative associations, despite having a world class regulatory regime, no scandals etc.
This appears not to wash whatsoever in some places which seem determined to lump us with the negative tax haven label despite absolutely no evidence to support it.
Rupert says it’s all about education and dispelling the myths, which in turn wins business.
“Our strategy team have just produced a document, which is called Guernsey: Our Place in the World. It gives a very balanced view of what we offer, how we offer it and why we offer it.”
It appears to have already garnered success.
“If we can persuade more businesses that Guernsey is a force for global good, then that gives me a high degree of satisfaction.
“I want to get away from those negative labels completely and if we can finish the end of my tenure, and not be labelled that any more, that would be a great success.”
The green agenda
Spreading the word about Guernsey as a sustainable place to do business is an important mission for Rupert.
“I think our green initiative, our sustainable initiative, has got to be at the forefront of everything we do, and especially during Covid now everything that I’m seeing in the financial news at the moment is all about sustainability and green and ESG building back better.
“We actually were pioneering this before this came to the forefront of Covid so we’re ahead of the curve here.
“So what we really got to do is start walking the walk and talking the talk and making sure, not only from a Guernsey Finance point of view that we’re promoting green and we’re promoting sustainability, but as an island as a whole, so that people see us and say that’s a place to do business.
“I know we’re looking to diversify our economy over here, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. If we can get that kind of green badge internationally, then I think it will help the island as a whole.”
This aspiration dovetails nicely with the presidency of Joe Biden, who has already said that one of his first jobs will be to re-instate America on the Paris Accord.
“Those are things that I think are very heartening indeed. Things like the Guernsey Green Fund, and we’re also looking at a kite mark for the insurance industry at the moment as well, give an extra degree of credibility to everything we’re doing at the moment.”
Guernsey Finance’s industry update takes place this Thursday, 21st January. To find out more, click here.