C5 Alliance urges Guernsey to demonstrate it’s open for eGaming business

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C5 Alliance Guernsey recently attended the three-day ICE (International Casino Exposition) Totally Gaming 2017 conference at ExCeL in London, as part of Alderney Gambling’s ‘Team Alderney’.

The event, Europe’s largest and most wide-ranging gambling conference, attended by over 25,000 people, showcased new developments across the gambling sector for both land-based and online casinos and offered a number of seminars on topics such as the latest legislative changes.

Marc Lainé, Managing Director of C5 Alliance Guernsey, who attended the event with client relationship manager, Adrian Bott said the event was an excellent opportunity for networking and it highlighted the need for Guernsey to refocus its efforts on attracting eGaming to the island.

“C5 Alliance was pleased to be able to support Team Alderney in raising awareness of the Bailiwick’s eGaming proposition. Once again there was a noticeable increase in participating jurisdictions this year with at least 60 different countries represented, including our Jersey neighbours. Government funding has played a key role in the growth of eGaming in jurisdictions such as the Isle of Man and Malta.”

“ICE is the premier event in Europe for eGaming; the industry continues to grow globally and it is increasingly apparent to me that Guernsey needs to remind the sector not only that it is open for business, but that as a jurisdiction it is an attractive place to do business. We have a world-class infrastructure and connectivity on the island, a fibre network and three major data centres to serve the market. With back-office support and short journey times to London we are excellently placed. We are outside the EU and the uncertainty about the Brexit effect on tax in this industry” said Mr Lainé.

Competitor jurisdictions like the Isle of Man, Gibraltar and Malta have been making hay for some years and the eGaming sector is now a primary employer and provider of significant GDP for those jurisdictions. Mr Laine believes that Guernsey needs to consider the contribution this industry once made to the islands economy, estimated to have been in the region of £50 million a year, and develop a new strategy to reassert its place as a well-suited location for operators licensed by the AGCC (Alderney Gambling Control Commission).

Businesses need more clarification on cyber security standards

shutterstock_165303932I recently attended the FT Cyber Security Summit Europe in London; one of the speakers was Nausicaa Delfas, Director of Specialist Supervision from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and from her address I learnt that the FCA’s attitude to cyber security and supervision is very proactive and prescriptive in terms of expectations.

The FCA is taking an interventionist approach; they have set their approach to cyber security and have clarified in detail their expectations of firms but at the same time acknowledge there is no one correct answer.

FCA expectations:

  • ‘a security culture’, driven from the top down – from the Board, to senior management, down to every employee;
  • good governance around cyber security in their firms – senior management engagement, responsibility – and effective challenge at the Board;
  • firms have identified their key assets and that the protections around them are appropriate
  • firms need to have adequate detection capabilities;
  • firms should have systems and controls to ensure they can carry on in the event of an unforeseen interruption, and to be able to recover from interruptions, preserving essential data.

The FCA highlighted three emerging risks areas at the Security Summit; an increase in ransomware attacks; the outsourcing of data storage to cloud services, which means businesses are sometimes unknowingly adopting the governance of their cloud provider, and an ever-increasing skills gap in the industry.

Security measures for any business shouldn’t be just a ‘tick-box exercise’. While recovery and response after an attack are important, if an organisation has got to that stage arguably it is too late. Key assets need to be protected appropriately and confidence in personnel should not be over-estimated.

Raising and understanding standards around cyber security is vital. Boards and senior management teams in Guernsey, with vague guidance, are struggling to understand the level of competence, preparedness and compliance needed.

Our regulator cannot be expected to produce its own detailed independent advice and some would rightly argue it’s not its job to tell businesses how to protect themselves – beyond that organisations must be able to demonstrate that they have applied high standards in the event of breach.

The regulator in Guernsey clearly has a far smaller jurisdiction and therefore a smaller mandate than the FCA who have given high priority to ensuring licensees meet minimum clear standards; whilst local financial services businesses do not need to comply with the FCA cyber security guidance they should embrace this helpful advice and test themselves against it.

It was refreshing to hear how robustly the FCA are dealing with the clear and persisting threat to regulated businesses.  Cyber-crime pays, and for as long as it offers a lucrative opportunity it will continue to grow, attracting more participants and greater levels of sophistication.

Brexit: A Sad Day for Europe

This is a sad day for Europe and it does seem in part that the referendum was largely about immigration. It appears there was a divide in the voting demographic which has never been seen before – with the older generation in favour of the leave vote and the younger generation, those who will inherit the many consequences of this significant decision, in favour of remain.

There are many aspects to consider in the wake of the decision to leave and even if Britain is better off out of Europe, the advantages may be short lived if this decision is now the catalyst for the collapse of the EU. We may eventually be worse off as a result of economic disruption and chaos and it may now cause a domino effect; Europe may seek to make an example out of the UK – worryingly Guernsey could become a bargaining tool in the difficult negotiation period that will now follow.

Guernsey’s politicians and external relations team, who have in my opinion being doing a commendable job to get our voice heard on the global stage, now play an even more significant role in getting us the best deal possible. From today the clock has started ticking to get that deal.

The diversification of our economy is brought more sharply into focus as a result of this decision; no one in the technology industry has a crystal ball to indicate which services will be most impacted but what I do know is the greater the diversification in Guernsey the better the chances for growth and continued prosperity. Is the States of Guernsey prepared to lead by example and really invest in diversification in the run up to the exit in two years’ time?

Today our world became a little bit more uncertain and in this time of uncertainty we need to consider what makes us vulnerable – our deficit. I throw down the gauntlet to the States of Guernsey to return the deficit to zero by the time of the exit to ensure we are as resilient as possible for what may lay ahead.

Is grant funding the missing piece of Guernsey’s digital start-up puzzle?

Adversity is undoubtedly the mother of invention; so if Guernsey wants to nurture innovation and invention – is this possible in an island where adversity is not the norm?

A senior partner working in professional services described to me his predicament – he has exciting digital business ideas he is keen to pursue, but he is currently employed in a well-paid position which gives him a secure future. In the current climate there is little incentive for the best talent to create a digital or Fintech start-up, it feels too risky compared with just doing ‘the day job’.

I have met half a dozen local start-ups that have the potential to bring tens of millions in new tax revenue to the island.  You won’t find them sat dreaming at the Digital Greenhouse, but struggling to hold down a full time demanding job while trying, in what little time they have left, to move their company or project forward. For these entrepreneurs there is no red carpet treatment, government endorsements, facilitation or door opening and introductions.  They offer the most promise, but are not nurtured at the pre investment stage.

I strongly believe the way to accelerate these new ventures and provide the best chance of success is via a government grant.  I tested this theory and spoke with 30 or so key Fintech and digital businesses in London at Finovate, which showcases the cutting-edge innovation in banking and financial technology.

Every single venture started with grant or match funding in some form.  Indeed, a Guernsey digital entrepreneur recently started his new business in London with a £40,000 UK grant and tax breaks for investors.  This is an opportunity lost for Guernsey and demonstrates that we have not got it right – yet.

Great work has been and is being done in this area and we have been promised that much more is in the pipeline – but we need to highlight this matter to our new States of Guernsey Deputies now in the hope of getting a grant scheme in place. I have discussed this with government and have enjoyed a good response from officers as they wait for the newly elected Deputies to take their places.  Credit must be paid to these officers, with many now preparing grant scheme options for their new Board to consider.

Grant funding must not be confused with investment – either private or government.  Investment at first or second stage is the natural result of a successful grant-funded phase of development – one does not replace the other and they are both essential. Of course a funding scheme will be even more controversial if the recipient fails.  I don’t believe that there would be more than a handful of worthy projects each year, and we must be realistic some of them will not succeed. But without a government funding scheme in place we have a beautiful jigsaw puzzle with the piece in the middle missing.

ML

Election is our opportunity to make a difference

A States Deputy in a former life and vocal advocate of collaboration between business, government and the community, earlier this year I gave some serious thought to standing to be a Guernsey Deputy again.

With a of number business and personal commitments already on my plate, I chose against throwing my hat into the ring, but the decision process focused my thoughts on how we can get the best government possible for our island home.

In our democracy, States Deputies will always be a reflection of our population, a mix of demographics is good (and I am pleased to see nearly a quarter of candidates are women this year – but there should be more) and a mix of ability is likely. The States of Guernsey may be run with the same focus on strategy and ethics as any other large organisation or business, but, in all other non-governmental organisations, those running the entity are chosen on their ability to do the job at hand not personality. So if we are never going to get a commercial board equivalent, are there practical things that can be done make our government the best it can be?

Our civil service employs over five thousand people on the island; I believe that working for the States of Guernsey needs to be considered ‘the place to work’ to attract the very best talent at executive level, not a second choice. If it is thought of as ‘the career of choice’ our politicians over time will be fed the best research and advice, a factor which can only positively impact on their decision making and our politicians.

Good things are certainly happening under the strategic leadership of Chief Executive Officer, Paul Whitfield but what else would it take for our civil service to become this sought after, aspirational career option? So much work is needed to turn around perceptions and create realistic expectations.

Secondly our new States Deputies need to embrace subject matter experts (SME); each political board already has the option to appoint two non-voting (and voluntary) members. Whilst this is not a requirement it is not always utilised fully. You can’t help think why would you not want an expert in the field of health, housing, education or commerce on your board? Are Deputies fearful of this professional input? Would they behave better with these sound thinkers sat beside them at the board table? Would the political egos be left at the door?  I know from experience that SME presence on boards raises standards of decision making and behaviour. I implore the new States to embrace them.

These are both practical ways in which we can give our 38 Deputies the best tools to do their job over the next four years. The starting point of course for us all is very simple and involves putting pen to paper on 27th April – I urge you to read the manifestos which come through your door over the next few weeks, challenge the candidates on what matters to you, but if you do nothing else – please vote.

ML

Will we ever be able to roam free?

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I recently travelled to the UK to watch Scotland v Wales in the RBS Rugby 6 Nations Championship. The trip was a present for my wife who is a big rugby fan.  Naturally – as a digital native I booked the flights and rugby tickets online and checked-in online.  But stepping off the plane was like stepping back decades into to a 1G world due to the exorbitant roaming charges that Telco’s across the world insist on. The true mobile experience is stifled; the convenience of travel apps, maps, timetables and guides disappear to the traveller who can’t justify a weekend roaming charge which quickly escalates into hundreds of pounds.

It’s ironic that a bus timetable app, which has huge value to tourists, is unobtainable yet tantalisingly close if you dare to turn on roaming and suffer the consequences. I am not a social media addict but I was unable to share my off-island rugby experience with friends until four hours after the game when I got to my hotel. Like addicts we move around new locations constantly on the lookout for our next score – of free Wi-Fi – which can often be found in a retail or hospitality environment. Have you ever been compelled to buy a coffee just so you can check your emails?

Next month I am going skiing in Finland and on this occasion it was much easier to book through a travel agent rather than wade through multiple online offers.  Naturally I’ve been researching the resort ahead of the trip and have downloaded an app of the ski area – but when it would be most useful to me when I navigate the slopes, I won’t have access to it. How much more fun could I have if I could roam free? Of course an option is to buy multiple sim cards to side step the problem, but in this digital age this seems rather archaic.

Members of the European parliament last year voted through new rules on mobile roaming charges, a step forward yes, but many have criticised these as only a half-baked solution, not truly creating a single digital market. Does a real zero-roaming charge world hinge on major telecom market reform? An undeniably mammoth task. UK residents suffer this problem only when they go abroad as their carrier is national. Us Channel Island folk have it worse – we suffer roaming charges every time we leave the CI, it’s like a UK resident ‘roaming’ each time they leave their county.

Back at home I’ve been enjoying the 4G experience since it launched last year; as expected speed has dropped a bit as take-up has increased. But now the letters from local providers have started to drop onto our doormats saying that unlimited 4G data is ending, so despite greater adoption we are now backtracking from a free and unfettered digital society.  Were we given it for free just to get us hooked? Are we really going to move backwards when we are supposed to be the centre of a digital revolution?

Next time you see mobile ads about our digitally connected world and all the freedom and pleasure it provides, remember it’s not totally true. Digital borders remain. Move outside your own small area of the geographical world and you’ll have to disconnect from the digital one. It is most definitely stifling growth.

ML