I am a new arrival to Jersey, having returned to private legal practice, with Viberts law firm in Jersey, following in-house senior legal counsel positions in Dublin and Zurich. These were preceded by my being called to the English Bar and later re-qualifying and working as an English solicitor and Partner, in the City of London, where I belonged to Barlow, Lyde & Gilbert, one of the premier insurance and in particular reinsurance law firms, consistently first-ranked for some 20 years. Personal life changes have brought me to Jersey, as I shall be getting married to a Jersey girl in September of this year.
Beyond the latter development and the obvious delights of a beautiful island and sunny climate lying just off the coast of mainland France, what does Jersey have to offer to a specialist insurance and reinsurance lawyer such as myself and more importantly to the international insurance and reinsurance industry? Plainly, Guernsey, lying a little to the north of Jersey, might be well be a more immediate and obvious choice, enjoying an undeniably excellent reputation as an international insurance centre and captive domicile, being the 4th largest market in the world in terms of premiums written and the number of captives established (many by FTSE 1000 listed entities or Global 1500 companies).
However, one would be unwise to overlook that Jersey has in very large measure the very same benefits and advantages, together with others of its own, that make it attractive to such an industry, not least in terms of tax planning advantages and capital efficiencies.
Jersey has also achieved its own undisputed and broadly-based successes, beyond Jersey cows and dairy products, potatoes and flowers. I mean of course its world-class offshore financial services industry, where its pre-eminence in trusts and funds is widely recognised. Jersey's standing as one of the world's leading financial centres is undisputed and such successes have permitted the establishment of a well-developed and resourced community of experienced, capable and competent professional service providers.
Whilst Jersey's international insurance offering currently pales in comparison to its other financial services offerings, there is nevertheless a well-established and stable local insurance industry, enjoying support from well known overseas and international insurance groups:- there are currently some 184 regulated insurance entities, 172 being Permit A companies (that is, insurance entities authorised elsewhere than in Jersey) and 12 being Permit B companies (that is, incorporated in Jersey and doing insurance business in or from within Jersey). Further, some 118 entities are regulated to carry on general insurance mediation business.
Accordingly, Jersey has much to offer to international insurers and reinsurers more than one might at first expect. I am also not the only new arrival from outside Jersey. Beazley, a leading specialist Lloyd's insurance and reinsurance group, recently reorganised itself, to move its effective tax domicile away from the UK, using a Dublin reinsurance subsidiary to cause its UK profits to be taxed in Dublin and a Jersey holding company at the top of the structure, equally for tax reasons. Viberts is currently assisting a UK authorised insurer to deal with its Jersey policyholders under a Part VII insurance business transfer pursuant to FSMA 2000. The Jersey regulator is involved, as will be the Royal Court, in the approval process. Those who follow these matters closely will have noted that Zurich Financial Services recently completed a Part VII insurance business transfer pursuant to FSMA 2000 to its flagship Irish subsidiary, as part of a reorganisation of its European Union operations and as a capital efficiency measure. The transfer included insurance business done in or from within Jersey and thus required a similar local approval process, in addition to satisfying the Dublin authorities.
As a place in and from which to do insurance and reinsurance business, Jersey is a sophisticated jurisdiction with many benefits and advantages.
LEGAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK:- the Companies (Jersey) Law of 1991 has been regularly updated in response to a changing world, so as to maintain its applicability and flexibility. It is based in the main upon recognised English law principles.
The Insurance Business (Jersey) Law of 1996 is aimed at the regulation of insurance business. The substance of the local law of insurance largely follows English principles and practice, absent express provision.
This flexible legal framework would be well-suited to the international nature of insurance and reinsurance.
The Regulator is the Jersey Financial Services Commission ("JFSC"). The JFSC is a member of IAIS and well-regarded internationally.
TAX:- insurance in effect enjoys a 0% regime in terms of taxation of corporate profits. There are no capital taxes and no stamp duty (except as regards real estate transactions) in Jersey. An UK insurance group with a Jersey (reinsurance) subsidiary, writing essentially third party reinsurance, can achieve considerable, legitimate tax savings, as regards the dividends returned to the UK parent by the Jersey (reinsurance) subsidiary (since 1 April 2009). As a result, the return on equity is maximised, for the benefit of shareholders. However, new rules also apply from 1 June 2009, as a result of the recent budget, to overseas corporate profits, remitted to the UK, demonstrating the changeability, uncertainty and possible contrariness of the position in the UK. Any tax structure requires separate and specific advice.
An SPV transformer or other structured insurance vehicle can similarly prosper in the Jersey environment, whether the risk is transformed from insurance or reinsurance into a credit derivative or vice versa or where the vehicle is used as part of a securitisation arrangement.
POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC STABILITY AND GEOGRAPHIC PROXIMITY – Jersey is around an hour away from the City of London, via City Airport or a little longer via Gatwick and correspondingly longer via UK regional centres. Its economic and political stability are self-evident and the necessary infrastructure is in place. Jersey has also recently secured membership on the "white list" of the OECD, having executed at least 12 TIEA's with other OECD members. The costs of establishment in Jersey are likely to compare very favourably with those of seeking to establish in Bermuda.
EXPERTISE and KNOW-HOW:- Jersey is a well-established and well-respected international finance centre with a correspondingly skilled and resourced service community, which is being added to by new arrivals, attracted by the enviable quality of life. Practitioners like myself can carry on an international practice from within Jersey, whilst also building up a regional and local presence and charges are inevitably competitive.
WHAT NEXT?:- "Smash-and-grab" taxation policies, policy U-turns and general uncertainty have already led to a strong outflow of corporate entities from domicile in the UK, to various other European Union member states. Such factors impact directly on their competitiveness in a challenging world and result in loss of taxation revenues for the YK.
The recent Budget will have done nothing to persuade those who remain to stay and companies already minded to re-domicile may now be persuaded to take the plunge. Many leading insurance and reinsurance groups have already moved offshore from the UK in recent years or are taking advantage of legitimate offshore structures to re-domicile parts of their operations, for tax reasons. Some groups have established in Bermuda but that is a long way away and often driven by a need to cater for US business within the same groups. Other groups would plainly prefer to be closer to home, whilst enjoying similar benefits and advantages.
To conclude with a little more about myself:- the insurance and reinsurance work I typically do follows English law principles and practices (enjoying general international acceptance). I can readily be involved from within Jersey, which is a short hop away, if I do need to travel to the UK or Europe or indeed Guernsey. I have broad experience and expertise, across dispute resolution (whether in litigation or arbitration), (disputed) claims and general advisory work, including regulatory advice and as regards the day-to-day business of (re)insurance. Whilst in-house, it was a key responsibility to support the daily underwriting and handling of the more complex or disputed claims and run-off issues. I also looked after corporate, regulatory and compliance matters generally. I have assisted with capital provision to Lloyd's through reinsurance mechanisms and through a corporate name and established and secured the relevant Part IV permission for a UK-authorised insurer.
Whilst Jersey may not yet be the immediate first choice for insurance and reinsurance in this geographical region, it is nevertheless a very real and attractive one and represents opportunity. My firm would be delighted to help make and implement the decision to establish an operation or base here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.