From Geoff Cook, chief executive, Jersey Finance.
I READ with interest the article entitled ‘When the future was full of Middle Eastern promise’ (JEP, 5 December).
I have been visiting the Middle East, including the UAE and Dubai in particular, for many years, formerly as a banker running sizeable operations in the region, and more recently with Jersey Finance.
I would agree that the growth seen in Dubai has been truly spectacular and one can’t help but admire the aspiration and ambition demonstrated by the Maktoum family. However, in the light of recent events, your article seems to imply that much of the marketing effort undertaken over the last six years by Jersey may have been wasted effort.
I am pleased to be able to reassure your readers that tangible business flows from the region have been substantial, in that approximately £18 billion of Jersey deposits originate from the GCC region.
In addition, a number of major Middle Eastern enterprises have created managed entities and structures in Jersey, and this activity has created employment and contributed significantly to the Jersey economy.
The institutions referred to in your article who have benefited from expatriate business in the region will in all likelihood continue to enjoy the benefit of this business as skilled executives relocate to more buoyant centres. These will most likely be in Asia and other growth centres, in which case these international banking relationships will be maintained, simply being serviced in a different location.
What is more, there is a pipeline of Middle Eastern business coming to Jersey and more good news will emerge in due course in this respect. It has also been interesting to see that the principles of Islamic finance have been enhanced through the global financial crisis as the kind of speculative leveraged activity seen in many conventional western institutions has not been permitted under Islamic finance principles.
Middle Eastern and Asian cultures prize and value friendship and commitment very highly, and it is particularly important at this time that the Jersey financial services industry maintains its commitment and support for the significant number of stable and valuable businesses which operate in the GCC, and in the UAE in particular.
I note that your article goes on to question whether the investment in China and Hong Kong will deliver a return, in the light of the events in the Middle East. I am pleased to report that again, the Far East has been a source of business for Jersey for some time and the marketing effort into this region has paid off by way of resulting in significant and tangible business flows.
Again, the value of deposits held in Jersey on behalf of Asian customers is considerable. In addition, a substantial number of trust structures are held, again with very significant value, contributing to both the profitability of the trust industry and associated employment opportunities for Jersey people.
One of the striking cultural contrasts between Asia and the Middle East and Western Europe is that by and large, these cultures are committed to long-term relationships and have a positive outlook on business, even in the face of adversity. This is in many ways a refreshing and attractive quality, when contrasted with the sometimes rather gloomy outlook in the western economies.
In this case, while Dubai is facing challenges, these will be overcome and the enduring friendship and business relationships between Jersey and the Middle East will continue, to the benefit of both centres.