The interview: Lisa Springate

Written by: Nick Kirby Posted: 04/05/2018

LisaSpringate_BL2018As a commercial litigator with over 25 years’ experience, Lisa Springate took up a new challenge in November last year when she became Head of Technical at Jersey Finance. It’s been a fast learning curve, but one that she’s embracing 

How did you get to where you are now?

After studying law at university and completing my bar finals, I practised with Mayer Brown JSM in Hong Kong and as a barrister in London.

I was at bar school with someone from Jersey and they’d always said it was a very attractive jurisdiction with much to offer. So, in my mid-20s, I thought it was worth seeing what it was like. I’d only intended to stay for a couple of years to gain some offshore experience, but I loved the island and the work and have now been here 25 years! 

I decided to qualify locally as an Advocate and was with Bedell Cristin for 18 years, where I was a Partner in the commercial litigation department, before joining Jersey Finance.

What does your role as Head of Technical actually entail?

I lead the delivery of Jersey Finance’s technical services to its members. My role is to assist in representing the finance industry’s needs and concerns with regard to legislation, regulation and other key areas of innovation, so as to enhance its offering and provide its members with the ‘toolkit’ they need in order to compete globally. My role also entails promoting Jersey as a leading international financial centre of excellence. 

What drew you to the role?

I’d been a litigator for over 25 years and had risen through the ranks, from Associate to Partner. As I approach the big 5-0 next year, I was looking for a new challenge as I believe it’s important to keep pushing oneself. I’d already joined the board of the IoD in Jersey and Board Apprentice as a non-executive director, for instance. 

I’ve always thought that Jersey Finance was an impressive organisation with a very talented team led by Geoff [Cook, CEO] and Amy [Bryant, Deputy CEO], so I was interested in the role when it became available. I feel really privileged to be in this position – to be at the forefront of driving change – and proud to be able to promote the many attributes that Jersey has to offer on the world stage. I’m enjoying the role enormously.

At first glance, the change from commercial litigator to Head of Technical seems unusual, but is it really?

As a litigator, my role was always very varied and meant working under pressure most of the time. It was also very people-focused – dealing with high-net-worth individuals, local trust companies and banks. My new role is similar, in that I look at a wide range of topics, again under tight deadlines. 

I also deal with individuals from different sectors of the industry. I’ve found that the skills I acquired as a litigator and a Partner have stood me in very good stead for this role – how to lead the Technical team from the outset; be a good listener, communicator and negotiator; be calm in the face of adversity; as well as adopting various approaches to reaching a resolution.

What’s more, how to maintain a reality check in respect of what’s being asked, keep sight of the big picture, but not lose sight of the detail. And, last but not least, how to be commercial. 

With everything that’s presently going on in the world of finance, did you have to hit the ground running? 

Yes, very much! Geoff and Amy certainly took me at my word in the interview when I said I work best at 110mph. To be honest, the weeks have really flown by since I joined. There’s always something coming down the pipeline and I think it’s going to be more of the same for the foreseeable future – it’s the nature of the organisation.

In the current landscape, what do you see as Jersey’s biggest opportunities? 

There’s no doubt that over the coming year, jurisdictional differentiation is set to be even more important for international finance centres [IFCs] as they attempt to stand out from the crowd. There are plenty of ways in which Jersey is well placed to do just that.

First, Jersey has demonstrated a commitment to innovation. During 2017, it brought a number of innovative and unique products to the market, such as the Jersey Private Fund – 100 of which have already been established, despite the short time they’ve been available. 

Jersey’s Charity Law has also continued to be rolled out in phases, a new Charities Commissioner was appointed in 2017, and the charities register is due to be set up in 2018. It’s a framework that’s unrivalled in other IFCs and highlights Jersey’s ambitions in the global philanthropy space. This gives private wealth lawyers something else to offer. 

Other innovations are in the pipeline too, with Jersey continuing to stake its claim as a centre for digital excellence. The finance industry is focused on embracing the capabilities of virtual currencies, regtech and wealthtech to enhance its proposition in a rapidly evolving fintech environment. It’s the future of global finance, and Jersey intends to be part of it.

Second, there’s our extremely high regulatory standards. Jersey goes above and beyond most other countries where standards of regulation are concerned, and that’s been recognised by Moneyval, the World Bank and, more recently, the OECD. 

Last November, Jersey became one of only six countries in the world to be found to be entirely tax-compliant against OECD criteria. And in December, the EU’s Code of Conduct Group recognised Jersey as a cooperative jurisdiction following a year-long screening process. When you look worldwide at the instability in other jurisdictions, Jersey very much represents a safe harbour in rocky waters. People want stability and that’s what we offer. 

Finally – and perhaps most important – is the clear evidence that centres like Jersey provide specialist cross-border financial services that are an absolutely essential part of the global economy.

All of the above help to differentiate Jersey very favourably when compared with other centres.

LisaSpringate2_BL2018And what are the biggest challenges? 

On a jurisdictional level, it’s a challenging landscape for the finance industry right now. As we’ve witnessed recently, one of the requirements is supporting members through difficult times and making sure that we provide them with the information and support for managing their client relationships, as well as the appropriate tools for marketing their businesses and the jurisdiction.

Obviously, we can’t sidestep issues such as the Paradise Papers, and it’s imperative we continue to fight our corner when such things happen. 

In the 25 years I’ve worked here, however, I’ve seen Jersey be incredibly robust. There are a lot more challenges and they seem to be coming faster down the pipeline than before – but, if anything, it means the island is reacting more quickly and is more flexible.

On a personal level, a further challenge is managing stakeholders and the many priorities across the various sectors of industry, the government and regulator. The mediation skills learned as a litigator can be of great assistance at times!

The question of whether the finance industries in Guernsey and Jersey should work more closely arises time and again – do you see that as a possibility? 

Collaboration between the islands is already happening to some extent with high-level agenda items. For example, the islands share an office in Brussels. Ultimately, it makes sense for the islands to cooperate on certain fronts where there’s a dual interest – as Charlie Parker [Chief Executive of the States of Jersey] recently stated in his address to the Chamber of Commerce and the IoD in Jersey. 

But we have to bear in mind that, at the end of the day, the islands are competitors for business. It’s therefore a question of when we feel it’s in the interest of both islands to work together.

The Jersey Finance Annual Private Wealth Conference in London in April addressed the issue of technology in wealth management – do the jurisdictions that fail to capitalise on technology put themselves at risk of becoming obsolete?

Yes, I think that’s a good assessment. As a forward-thinking jurisdiction, Jersey is always keen to work with partners on initiatives that shape our future, and there’s no doubt that virtual currencies and blockchain are key areas in the fintech space that are set to have a significant impact on the future business landscape.

On innovation, Jersey has form. The world’s first-ever regulated bitcoin fund was launched in Jersey back in 2014. And last year a crypto-denominated fund was established in Jersey, which trades cryptocurrencies and other ‘coins’ and participates in selected ‘initial coin offerings’ (ICOs).

It’s also now just over a year since Jersey’s virtual currency regulation was introduced – and it was good to see the launch of Jersey’s first ICO, the ARC Reserve Currency, at the end of last year.

But it’s only part of the fintech story. Jersey is working with developers, experts and innovators right now to ensure that it’s ready to play a leading role in such a rapidly evolving area. We’re working with Digital Jersey to focus on developments in areas such as cyber security and digital enablement. These are areas that, alongside virtual currencies, will play an increasingly important role in international financial services in the future.

From a jurisdictional point of view, however, there’s always a fine balance to be struck between encouraging innovation and trailblazing in the digital and tech arena, and adopting a prudent and pragmatic regulatory position.

What are your members telling Jersey Finance about Brexit? 

The UK is our largest and most significant trading partner, so something that has an impact on them will quite naturally have an impact on us. There will certainly be a need for us to look at and consider the impact that Brexit will have on financial services, and the impact on Jersey as a result. 

This is why it’s good that we’re currently undertaking a strategic refresh, working in partnership with McKinsey. Importantly, we’ve negotiated bilateral treaties with the EU independently of our relationship with the UK. From that perspective, things are known for the finance industry. Jersey is, therefore, a very safe environment in which to do business.

What’s your view on the often-mooted skills shortage in finance and what can be done about it? 

To be honest, this isn’t something that I’m hearing from our members. Also, research conducted into this area has revealed that Jersey’s finance industry is a major contributor to the island’s economy, providing work for more than 13,000 people, spending around £370 million annually on goods and services in Jersey, and contributing £420 million a year in taxes. 

Employment figures have actually reached pre-financial crisis levels, with more than 300 local students being recruited each year for the past four years. That said, there are a number of schemes in place to make sure that we have the quality coming through from a succession planning perspective. 

We have a very active educational programme, where we go into schools and colleges to encourage young people to come into the finance industry. We also run the ‘Life in Finance’ programme, which is designed to help students progress from school to the professional workplace. 

However, we can’t achieve this alone. We need to work with our member firms to provide students with learning opportunities, allowing them to get a taste of what life can be like in finance and encourage them to consider a role in the finance industry in the future. I would therefore encourage our member firms to sign up for 2018, if they haven’t already done so!

And finally, what’s your view for finance in Jersey in the next 12 to 18 months?
 
The future of Jersey is inextricably bound up in the fortunes of the finance industry. We know from our island’s statistics that when the finance industry does well, the island does well too. Jersey has won many accolades as a well regulated and reputable finance centre to date.

The upcoming election in Jersey has meant that not only has a lot of legislation recently been passed, but there’s now a good opportunity for the government, industry and regulator to work together during the period of purdah to consider innovative products for the future that suit the challenges ahead and thereby enhance Jersey’s reputation even further. 

Whilst the external pressures will undoubtedly continue, I believe Jersey will keep navigating the change, provided that everyone works together and adjusts their sails accordingly. 

As a result, Jersey will continue to be a safe harbour in an uncertain world.

FACT FILE

Name: Lisa Springate
Age: 48 
Position: Head of Technical, Jersey Finance
Married to: David
Hobbies: Piano, travelling, gardening, walking our cockerpoo and, more recently, charity runs!
Interesting facts: I’ve flown solo in a Piper Cherokee aircraft, undertaken the Lillehammer Olympic Bobsleigh track and walked parts of the Great Wall of China.

 


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