Geoffrey Cook

The Jersey Finance Group, based in Jersey, held its annual private client conference in London at 8 Northumberland Avenue on May 13. The event, “Mapping the Future,” was held between 12:30 and 7:00 pm and attended by over 200 guests.

Geoffrey Cook, the CEO of Jersey Finance, gave a welcome speech that was quickly followed the keynote speaker, Stephanie Flanders. Currently the chief market strategist at JP Morgan, Flanders covered all aspects of the financial crisis in her last job as Economics Editor for the BBC.

The keynote address was given by Philip Marcovici, founder of LawInContext and partner at Baker&McKenzie until 2009. Marcovici opened with the topic of transparency and information exchange, and how this is now a permanent feature in today’s economic landscape.

Then there was a panel of experts consisting of Colin Powell, representing the government of Jersey; Richard Hay, a solicitor from Stikeman Elliott; George Hodgson from the society of Trust and Estate Practitioners; and Naomi Rive, Chief Trust Officer from Coutts&co. The panel discussed how changes in transparency are affecting the private client landscape.

After touching on numerous issues in the sector, including the need for enhanced due diligence, money laundering checks and extra tax reporting, the session opened to a Q&A session.This was followed by a networking afternoon tea break where private banking professionals from all sides of the business mingled.

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Pascal Saint Amans, director for the OECD centre for tax policy and administration was the second keynote speaker. The second session branched out into topics including the global response required for a changing private client market. As the moderator, Stephanie Flanders kept the discussion on track.

Huge issues, such as whether new tax models or a reconfiguration of the IFC landscape are necessary, were among those debated. Some of the panel blamed the Swiss for not taking the lead on changes in private banking legislation and noted that no financial centres are taking leadership roles. Lives can be destroyed over nondom or complex tax issues that are becoming more prevalent in an increasingly international world, Marcovici said. Others pointed out that entrepreneurs will leave the UK as a result of increasingly difficult tax rules. Everyone agreed that tax evasion is wrong, but they all called for more transparency.

Tim Harford, author, behavioural economist and award winning FT columnist, wrapped up the session brilliantly. After discussing complex topics through the afternoon, Harford ended the event on a thought-provoking note. He compared the lives of Irving Fischer and John Maynard Keynes, and how dramatically differently their lives ended. He demonstrated the impact when we try to see into the future, but don’t always make the right forecast. Fischer made the fateful mistake of an unwavering belief in the U.S. stock market during the 1929 crash, while Keynes pulled out in time and died a wealthy man. The topic of making the right prediction for the future is something everyone in the room could empathise with.

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Cook ended with closing remarks and summed up of the issues of the day. The post-conference networking event in the main hall was equally interesting. Champagne flowed, and industry professionals seized the opportunity to network in the crowded room. Many attendees were from Jersey itself, and other parts of Europe. All the delegates I spoke with said that the panel speakers, and in particular the moderator, Stephanie Flanders, did an excellent job of raising issues that everyone is currently confronting.

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Photos: Jersey Finance

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