Guernsey Finance is our marmite Financial Services sector promotional agency. You either love it or you hate it. I’ve worked closely with it for many years and thoroughly enjoy its unique, malty flavour.
It always surprises me therefore that many who can’t stand it seem to be generally bright and switched on people. But for some weird reason that can’t see the benefit and even more worryingly they can’t understand why the tax payer is asked to stump up money to support it.
Many are paid up members of the “We Hate Finance Fat Cats” and therefore are too set in their ways for me to even waste my time to convince them otherwise. However the majority are normally reasonable and sensible people. Perhaps a tad too fond of recycling or ridding our roads of cars, but in the main they are normally just like you and me.
Given that the States of Guernsey will soon have to decide if GF (I like to call it “GF”) is going to get an extra wad of that diminishing resource the taxpayers money I thought I would have a little go and explaining why cash support at this time is not just a “nice to have” but is essential. Essential if you believe we need to keep schools and hospitals open and see our income tax revenues holding against severe downward pressure.
Quite simply GF is the promotional agency for Guernsey’s financial services industry. It doesn’t perform business development or marketing functions for the finance firms here, they have their own staff and budgets for that. The individual businesses need to see a quick return for their spend on sales. They work existing markets and get the best returns by pushing against open doors. These days for many companies a long term plan covers the next 3 years.
Guernsey Plc hopes and prays that the Finance Sector will last longer than 3 years. It therefore invests in exploring new markets and paving the way for future business flows. Yes, that will help individual companies when they have access to a new source of business but better they do it from here than from some other jurisdiction that had the budget to open the markets before us.
Currently the States supports GF with significantly less than half of the amount we spend on subsidising milk production. An industry which produces directly and indirectly 70% of our Gross Domestic Product and provides over 6,500 jobs isn’t even worth supporting as much as our daily pinta.
Our major competitors are facing up to difficult times by investing in opening up the new markets we will also need access to if we want to survive. Our near neighbour and greatest competitor, Jersey, has already invested millions where we only get thousands. They understand about investing to generate more income for their future prosperity. Seemingly we don’t.
An opportunity is coming up. Some money has been found, not the millions Jersey has found for their promotional agency, but £300,000 a year for 3 years. Not the £2m+ for the kerbside recycling trial but just £900,000 drawn down over 3 years. GF, bless them, believe they can compete successfully with other jurisdictions who have been given significantly more. I think they will do the job with the money but it’s quite shameful that to preserve the future of an industry that contributes 100s of millions a year to our economy all we can find is an extra £300,000 for 3 years.
Even then that money is not certain to be forthcoming because there are Deputies who don’t want a penny spent on supporting our Financial Services Industry. When you next see your Deputy tell them that you are prepared to gamble an extra £300,000 a year to help keep our Island afloat.