Someone mentioned to me recently that the niche in which we have built our economy over the last fifty years isn’t financial services; it’s privacy (piracy is so seventeenth century).
I make the point not to give more airtime to the fashionable predilection for tax- haven bashing, which ebbs and flows with the political tide; but to focus right in on the nub of an issue which the Island needs to solve. It might prove to be the real implication of the Panama Papers; not that there is a nascent scandal waiting to emerge – there’s been little of real substance so far - but that in an era where cyber crime is de rigueur, can anything be truly private ever again?
We are in an age when we willingly share personal details on our social media profiles, the cyber crime equivalent of leaving the doorkey in the lock, not even just under the ‘Welcome’ mat. So if privacy is what you want (and for the benefit of our friends on ‘tax haven watch’, wanting to be private is not a crime) can that ever be truly achieved when all your details are stored online, and therefore, ultimately, accessible. Some companies think cyber security is simply a matter of updating their anti- virus software; others don’t even bother to do that. But all it needs is one mistake, just one inadvertent click, by one member of staff on one day....and from that point onwards your clients’ data could be surreptitiously leaking out of your systems every night, file by file, and you don’t know a thing about it. Until you read it in the media.
The reason I mention that here is that if you accept the point about the importance of privacy to financial services, it means Jersey needs to consider and adapt. In a world where privacy is steadily being hacked away by the twin axes of cyber crime and ever-increasing reporting requirements, we have a real issue to solve.
There are two examples in Connect this month that we might consider. The first is Jersey Post (page 18), which is moving from an uber-traditional business in Jersey, to an international ‘disrupter’, as it changes to cope with the decline of its core business: delivering local letters.
The second is to ‘think big’ - on page 26 you can read the story of Dr Tessa Hartmann, who has moved to Jersey after making Scotland more stylish, and has words of wisdom for our local retail sector.
So, don’t panic...and read Connect.