All fund servicing centres - Dublin, Luxembourg, Guernsey, Cayman - have capacity issues, but of the genuine island offshore centres, Jersey is not only most populous but the best established in terms of the number of people employed in the financial services industry and training and skills throughout the sector as a whole. In addition, it also scores highly in terms of the volume and level of real activity being undertaken by banks and other institutions within the jurisdiction. In small jurisdictions, human resources are at a premium. While service providers such as fund administrators are increasingly making use of technology to ease the pressure on staffing, even more important than systems is investment in people. Not that you don't need decent systems, but having the right kind of skilled people is fundamental.
Jersey's capacity to provide the people required by its financial services industry has been improved by measures to facilitate bringing in the skills it needs, such as amendments to housing legislation that support the new migration policy. Meanwhile, for senior posts the practice of imposing a time limit on J Category consents has been removed, making it easier to attract skilled and experienced candidates who want to make a permanent home in Jersey.
These reforms reflect the government's understanding that while the local workforce is highly skilled, it is obviously limited in size. At the same time, they send a message to the global community that the authorities are ready to take the steps necessary to maintain Jersey's competitiveness as a financial centre, at a time when other jurisdictions have tightened restrictions on the employment of non-nationals in the industry.
This attitude is important for a group like Mourant, whose fund administration staff has grown from around 100 people to 160 in the space of a year. The hedge funds business in Jersey is set to undergo substantial recruitment during the year to complement an existing team of specialists experienced not only in fund audit, like so many administrators, but areas such as middle office systems design, hedge fund operations and investment banking products. One significant benefit for Jersey's hedge fund services businesses lies in the fact that the island now possesses an industry with the appeal to attract some of its brightest people who until recently had to go abroad to develop their careers. In the past graduates of top universities from Jersey who went into fields such as investment banking had only limited opportunity to use their expertise and experience at home.
Today, however, both service providers and the growing community of hedge funds that have established a presence in Jersey are extremely keen to recruit people who already have a strong connection with the island and would like to return - and there is evidence many top-quality people might do so if the right opportunities were there. This could do for Jersey - albeit on a smaller scale - what the return of the Irish diaspora has done for Dublin, providing an injection of skills obtained around the world that has proved a key element in the growth of its own financial services industry. The hedge fund industry is a low footprint, high value, and very highly skilled sector with a global profile, and Jersey service providers are looking for the best staff in order to compete internationally at the highest level.
By Gary Clark head of hedge fund services with the Mourant Group