A delegation from the the Isle of Man is sharing the island’s unique business benefits at The Commonwealth Business Forum
By Mike Cowley
When Mark Lewin, Chief Executive of the Isle of Man Department for Enterprise joined a delegation of government and private sector representatives, headed up by Hon Howard Quayle MHK, the Island’s Chief Minister, to The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) to drum up trade this week, his role was to deliver a clear message that the island is a welcoming powerhouse in terms of Fintech and Innovation.
Yet despite the fact the Isle of Man punches way above its apparent weight in both sectors, he was well aware that the delegation first needed to answer the constant question about the Isle of Man. What differentiates it from the UK?
For it is this differential which has helped turn the island into a global player in terms of financial services, the digital economy and innovation.
Most people (even those in the neighbouring UK) though still view the Isle of Man as part of the UK because it is located close to England’s North West coast but the reality is that it isn’t
The island is a Crown Dependency, self-governing, with its own legislative assembly, administrative fiscal and legal system and courts of law. Nor is it represented in the British parliament.
When it comes to The Commonwealth, the Isle of Man is not a member, as membership is only open to sovereign nations, but is considered part of The Commonwealth by virtue of its relationship with the United Kingdom. And the island is active in several Commonwealth bodies including The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and The Commonwealth Games, where it picked up a silver medal in double trap shooting this year.
Developing stronger economic ties with Commonwealth nations is also part of government policy. This saw the island become a strategic partner of The Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) in 2017.
As part of the Isle of Man delegation involved in a series of events at the CBF, Mark Lewin took part in the high profile Innovation and Financial Services panel under the chairmanship of Lord Holmes, Vice Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fintech.
It proved a perfect platform for a former globetrotting senior executive of RBS – one of his roles was head of offshore technology as well as managing director for one of the largest banks on the Island – before he entered the political arena on his native island.
The case he made for Commonwealth states to consider doing business with the IOM was based on the fact that it is already an established centre for Fintech and Innovation with both Insurance and e-gaming, each with 17% of the GNP followed by ICT and banking with 9% each.
What has enabled it to achieve this are a series of USPs including the IOM being:
- A small island that has become an established international business centre
- A long history of innovation as indicated by the recent Commonwealth Export Champion award to PDMS (see panel)
- A well-established financial services sector with more than 400 financial companies including global household names, most of which choose the island as a base for one of their international multi-centres
- A world beating digital infrastructure after two decades of digital innovation. This is the fastest growth sector on the island
Highly stable, self-generated power supply. Power outage equates to a system reliability factor of 99.998% and ranks amongst the best in Europe
- A regulatory environment which was the first in the world to mandate that e-gaming businesses must keep players’ funds separate from working capital to make sure funds are protected, so protection for clients in the buoyant e-gaming sector is found on the island where no player has ever unlawfully lost money from an Isle of Man-based company
- A financial platform which adheres to stringent anti money laundering standards with software also developed locally – and an early adopter in porting these standards to also apply in digital sectors
- Political stability with the oldest continuous parliament in the world, almost devoid of traditional party politics so avoiding the potential for radical change
- Financial stability, and social stability in that it is one of the safest places in Europe in terms of crime
- It is tax efficient – with zero rates of corporation tax for most industries, banking being an exception
- There is no inheritance tax or capital gains.
What caps it all for the Isle of Man is the quality of life to be found there. It is the world’s first UNESCO whole jurisdiction site which means that nature, population and the economy are all considered to be in sync.
“Where else in the world would you find sophisticated and highly regarded financial services sectors, innovative and fast growing digital global brands all working together and contained in an amazing Island offering unrivalled quality of life – the world’s first jurisdiction to achieve UNESCO Biosphere status, “says Mark Lewin.
“It is simply such a special place to live and work .”
PDMS takes Manx-based innovation to new horizons
When Isle of Man software solutions development company PDMS was in the running to be named as a Commonwealth Export Champion, the criteria it had to fulfil were innovation, ambition and the ability to succeed across Commonwealth markets.
As a result, Director Bruce McGregor was quietly confident. He was well aware that PDMS ticked the box for innovation with its breakthrough registry framework platform developed by its engineers which has enabled the company to succeed across a range of sectors that include specialist registration and regulatory solutions.
The company that has grown from a two-man start up 25 years ago to a staff of 77 with 57 of these at its headquarters on the island and most of the remainder at a new strategic office it has established in Scotland.
The final criteria – the ability to succeed in The Commonwealth – was a no brainer as PDMS already has a number of member states as clients, including the Bahamas where its software solution has run the country’s shipping registry for the last six years – a situation which has sparked ongoing talks with up to 10 other Commonwealth countries.
It also has a financial intelligence solution that includes anti money laundering which is already being used by Guernsey, IOM and Gibraltar, which is certain to attract significant interest across The Commonwealth.
The initial focus for PDMS was understandably on its home island where it serviced not only local businesses but also the Government, developing the IOM Government website at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy.
“Our software framework built by our engineers over the intervening years is the platform which allows us to provide innovative solutions for both businesses and governments, a situation which our Commonwealth Export Champion status title can only help reinforce underpin,” says Bruce McGregor.