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"Without him, Jersey would be a very different place indeed"

Tuesday 14 May 2019

"Without him, Jersey would be a very different place indeed"


Jersey would be “much poorer” were it not for the man who worked behind the scenes to fend off international criticism and “attacks” to “save the day”, a former Chief Minister has said.

The tribute to Colin Powell CBE came from former Chief Minister Frank Waker, who said he was “deeply shocked” to learn of his passing yesterday.

Mr Powell passed away peacefully on Monday 13 May.

Once Jersey’s most senior politician, Mr Walker once had a close working relationship with the Cambridge-educated economist, who is widely regarded as creating the blueprint for the island’s finance-oriented economy.

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Pictured: Frank Walker, former Chief Minister, shared his memories of Mr Powell with Express.

He began advising the States of Jersey in 1969, quickly proving himself invaluable.

Within two years, he had produced one of the most important writings on Jersey in the past century: a detailed focused dissection of the island’s make-up.

The economically avant-garde survey covered everything from agricultural crop patterns to sewage treatment, and even touched on issues only coming to the fore today: the importance of monitoring immigration, protecting the environment and the age-old question of what to do about Fort Regent.

But, most importantly, it was an early marker of his destiny as architect of Jersey’s largest industry and biggest employer: the £1bn finance industry.

As finance grew, however, so did the international scrutiny on the island’s alleged status as a ‘tax haven’ and question marks over whether it could be used as a channel to launder criminal cash.

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Pictured: Mr Powell "didn't know how to retire", according to former Chief Minister Frank Walker.

It was at this point Mr Powell found himself no longer in the position of architect, but as arch defender of the island – a position he defended robustly, but with modesty, as Mr Walker told Express.

“There are so many achievements, it’s impossible to pick one particular moment out. Certainly, one of them for me would have been when we attended a very difficult OECD meeting in Paris and Colin was so convincing, so persuasive and at the same time so charming that when he presented Jersey’s case, he won the day for us. That was one of so many occasions of when he won the day for Jersey.

“It was almost an accepted fact that if Colin was going in to bat on behalf of Jersey… the results were going to turn out well for us.”

And as recently as this year, Mr Powell was still working on “saving the day” for Jersey, having turned his attention to fighting attempts by UK politicians to impose public registers of company ownership on the island, as he revealed in his final interview with Connect.

It was his gentlemanly character, Mr Walker recalled, that was his great strength in any negotiation.

“He was very hard-nosed when it came to defending Jersey, but he had a natural charm about him and a wonderful ability to get on with people from all walks of life and a fantastic sense of humour… He always had this ability to make sure we were seen in the right light, and that many of the false impressions that have abounded and continue to abound about Jersey internationally were corrected and our true position very clearly put forward and understood.”

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Pictured: Mr Powell was recently helping in the fight against the UK parliament imposing public beneficial ownership registers.

He continued: “He was calm, considered, factual, very difficult to argue against, and very authoritative. He imbued confidence and trust. Those are probably the two most important elements that Jersey needed and still needs internationally – we need to be trusted, and people need to have confidence in us, and that’s what Colin did for us.”

Speaking of his personality, Mr Walker remembered an individual for whom “work wasn’t a chore, it was an absolute obsession”.

“He was always determined, he strove for perfection, and was always determined come what may that no effort would be spared to promote and sustain Jersey.”

With others, the “man of integrity” was instantly “likeable, very easy to work with” – although this comes with the caveat: “He certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly.”

He went on to describe Mr Powell as “irreplaceable”, adding that, despite this, he was confident that Jersey would still flourish with the foundation he laid.

Mr Walker added: “It’s absolutely impossible to overestimate his contribution. Jersey would, without Colin, now be a very different place indeed – and you wouldn’t normally say that about any one individual, but with Colin I actually have no fear of saying that is absolutely as it is.”

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Pictured: Mr Powell taking part in his final interview with Connect last month.

Mr Walker continued: “I’ve lost count of how many retirement events I went to for Colin because he, apart from being our international ambassador had a number of other roles – Chairman of the Finance Commission, for example - from which he allegedly retired some time ago, but he didn’t know how to retire.

“We always thought that Colin would go out with his boots on as the saying goes and clearly he has, still too soon, still too early, but let’s hope that the guy at last is resting in peace.”

Mr Walker was one of three generations of Chief Minister to share his memories of the late Mr Powell.

The incumbent, Senator John Le Fondré, led tributes yesterday with journey back to his teenage years.

"I first met Colin when I was 18 years old. He served both my father and me with distinction, and his contribution to Jersey’s financial services industry, and to the island itself, is incalculable. For more than 50 years, Colin guided the island’s economy with wisdom and foresight.

“Colin shared his expertise with generations of officials working in economics and external relations, and his dedication was instrumental in forging the island as we know it today. He will be greatly missed.”

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Pictured: The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, recalled meeting Mr Powell aged 18.

His predecessor, Minister for External Relations Senator Ian Gorst, added: “I will always be grateful for the wisdom of Colin’s advice when I served the island as Chief Minister. There aren’t many difficult situations, either local or international, that Colin hasn’t faced before, and he was always able to help politicians to see the long view.

“I would like to extend my sincerest sympathies to Colin’s wife, their daughters and grandchildren. They have shared Colin with Jersey for more than 50 years, and for that I thank them.”

Former colleagues and those who received advice from Mr Powell also paid tribute. Kevin Keen, who worked with him during his time in the States of Jersey, remembered a “giant intellect”, who was “always in early” and whose “intellect and incredible work rate did not diminish” – “even as he got older”.

Veteran investment banker Ron Mitchell, who relied on Mr Powell for advice, suggested that a book documenting his achievements in full “would likely exceed the 1225 pages of Tolstoy’s, War and Peace”.

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Pictured: Mr Powell also worked tirelessly to support children through the Jersey Child Care Trust and NSPCC.

But Mr Powell’s contributions weren’t solely political or financial: for many years he devoted time and energy to the welfare of children in chairing the Jersey Child Care Trust and helping to secure a new centre for the NSPCC in Stopford Road.

As his friends, family, and colleagues mourn him, his words in one of his many economic writings about the fate of Jersey ring out: “The horizon is not without some clouds but nevertheless the future remains bright.”

Islanders share their memories and tributes to Mr Powell…

Kevin Keen:

In my brief time working at the States back in 2015, Colin was always in early, always listened carefully showed respect to the person making the point, and then provided his infinitely wiser point of view in a very kind way. I still look at his Economic Survey of Jersey published back in 1971, which is such an amazing piece of work given the tools at his disposal at the time, this showed just how lucky Jersey had been to find him. A giant intellect and true gentleman.

Pierre Horsfall CBE:

While it is possible to write books about his achievements and wise counsel, it suffices to say that the Island of Jersey is a much better place because of his contribution to island life and the wellbeing of all Islanders… Having worked with him for many years locally  and internationally, where it was obvious that his work was admired far beyond Jersey's shores, I am of the opinion that the debt of gratitude owed by Jersey to any individual in the Islands long History does not exceed that which we all owe Colin Powell.

It was my honour to work with him and my privilege to know him, my heartfelt sorrow goes out to his wife Jenny and family.

Children’s Minister, Senator Sam Mézec:

I am really sad to hear that Colin Powell has passed away. There are few people in our history who have made such a huge contribution to our island, and probably even fewer who were as modest about it as he was… He loved Jersey and had such an impressive work ethic and we are incredibly lucky to have him. Thank you Colin. RIP.

Lieutenant Governor, Sir Stephen Dalton:

Colin Powell was a true gentleman and someone who set us all a very fine example both in his professional life and as a deeply caring person who campaigned tirelessly and selflessly for the betterment of others. Whether serving the States and people of Jersey, leading the NSPCC here in Jersey or helping to promote and guide the Island’s Community Savings Bank, Colin Powell consistently and characteristically gave unstinting support to all with whom he worked and for whom he campaigned…. I am clear that he made a very substantial contribution to international standards in the financial world as well as making a most positive economic impact upon the City of London and in Jersey. But, in doing all this, he also never flinched from caring for and supporting his wife Jenny throughout their long marriage. We are the poorer for his passing, but his contribution to this Island’s life and future will mean that he is long remembered as a great ‘Jersey man’.

Ron Mitchell:

Over the years I headed Citibank Jersey, and as Founder and Chairman of Liberty Ermitage Group, I had many occasions to consult Colin, a source of valuable advice and support. He always gave of himself in such a way that you would think you were the only person in his life that day. I feel privileged to have worked with him, and even more privileged that he became a lifelong friend… If a book were published of all the deserving tributes which will undoubtedly come from within Jersey and around the world, it would likely exceed the 1225 pages of Tolstoy’s, War and Peace. No accolade too great for this wonderful man.

Selina Winter, Team Manager for NSPCC Jersey:

Colin Powell CBE was an honorary member of the NSPCC’s Council and a leading advocate of the need for services for children and young people in Jersey. He took on the role of Chair of the Jersey Full Stop Campaign Committee in 1999 and since then has helped raise millions of pounds to run NSPCC services in the island.

Colin’s tireless and unending support for the NSPCC in Jersey has helped to keep thousands of children and young people safe from abuse and harm. On behalf of all the children of Jersey, we will be forever truly thankful to Colin.

Brian Curtis MBE, Executive Chairman of the Community Savings Trust:

Colin played a key role in the growth and development of Community Savings and, as with every role he undertook, he not only provided sound advice and guidance, but had the vision and insight to work out a solution to any problem or difficult situation.

He served as a trustee of the Community Charitable Trust – which has oversight of Community Savings Limited – from 2010 until 2016, before being appointed a director of Community Savings.

His unsurpassed grasp and understanding of the political and economic landscape, fierce intellect, and extensive range of contacts, was a huge asset to our charity and, such was the respect in which he was held by everyone who knew him, he was a powerful and learned voice in support of the socially and financially disadvantaged members of our society.

For me, personally, he was a great ally, a beacon of integrity, a hugely supportive colleague, and a trusted friend. Colin was a fantastic ambassador for Jersey, and for Community Savings, and his record of service is unlikely to be equalled.

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Posted by The old git Git on
A loyal and honest man with his heart in Jersey. Not many of them in politics today.
A gentleman who will be really missed. RIP Colin Powell.
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