The new era of digital innovation is dramatically changing how we work with clients, transact business and measure and evaluate investment performance. This brings challenges for international finance centres. According to the 2020 report Upskilling the Channel Islands’ workforce for a digital world by PwC Channel Islands, thousands of jobs in Jersey might be at risk in the next decade if nothing is done to invest in the skills required for a digital world. Fortunately, Jersey has already embraced the digital direction of travel, while its firms are responding to investor demand.
The Digital Jersey Academy, designed to support the teaching of key digital skills, was launched in 2019. Jessica Osman, Business Development Manager at Digital Jersey, explains that the intention was to provide everything from the degree Digital Learning Programme to shorter courses for upskilling/reskilling purposes.
‘We have recently introduced short courses in artificial intelligence [AI], something that has proven popular and that we hope to build on as the skills demand increases in Jersey,’ she adds.
The importance of upskilling
It is essential that firms invest in skills training to remain competitive over the longer term, says Paul Hunter, Group Head of Family Office Services at Crestbridge: ‘Upskilling is really at the heart of transitioning to a sustainable, technologically driven platform – and while we had a strong digital infrastructure in place before the pandemic, we have since rolled out professional development and skills sessions to staff in all locations specifically to help us maintain a position at the cutting edge.’
Alongside upskilling, jurisdictions need to invest in the framework to deliver the services. Commentators agree that infrastructure is key to supporting a successful digital environment.
‘In Jersey, we have a world‑class setup, with 1GB full‑fibre broadband to all premises and three tier‑1 telco providers offering reliant and resilient services,’ notes Osman. Such a framework sets the scene for the fintech innovation required to meet demands from ultra‑high‑net‑worth clients, for instance, for a greater digital service offering.
‘Our trajectory is being driven by client‑led trends, and we’re seeing a greater appetite towards digital adoption in a number of areas,’ explains Daniel Channing, Director of Family Office Services at Crestbridge. ‘We’re also seeing a tendency towards next‑gen family members driving digital change. We’ve responded to that by focusing on our own skills and capabilities, and by focusing on relationships with digital providers in specific and niche areas.’
‘We have some pioneering experts on the island doing some very interesting things in the AI space, and more firms I talk to are using clever algorithms to optimise output,’ adds Osman.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is keeping up with the pace of change across the digital sector.
‘Technological innovation is unrelenting, and we’ve seen considerable acceleration in terms of digital adoption among clients over the past 18 months during the pandemic as families have pivoted to a digital‑first approach and adapted to remote operations,’ says Hunter. ‘That pace of change will continue and will filter through to all areas, including cybersecurity, remote access, portfolio management, compliance and due diligence. For advisors and service providers in the family office space, being ahead of the curve, identifying gaps in demand and ensuring you have the right skills to meet those demands are going to be persistent challenges.’
It is evident that upskilling, tied to innovation and supported by an effective digital framework, will be crucial for a leading jurisdiction such as Jersey, which aims to become the easiest jurisdiction to do business with remotely in a digital world.