Isle of Man moves to strengthen economic ties with SA

Connie Queline

Isle of Man moves to strengthen economic ties with SA

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JIMMY MOYAHA: The Isle of Man recently announced the appointment of the business development consultant for South Africa in the Isle of Man. She joins me to discuss this latest appointment and the role of that going forward. I’m joined on the line by Cecilia Albertyn.

Cecilia, good evening. Thanks so much for taking the time. Let’s start with the importance of strengthening relationships between the Isle of Man and South Africa at this time. You’ve been in conversation at an international level in your previous roles with the British Chamber of Business on the importance of having these international relations. I wonder, as we go into things like the World Economic Forum this week, how important do these conversations then become, especially following your appointment?

CECILIA ALBERTYN: Hi, thank you. It’s so great to be here and to be able to have this conversation with you. I’m really excited about this new role, and to get to the importance of these relationships – particularly in light of Davos happening very soon.

I think more and more we all know we live in a global world, yet countries are also increasingly going towards protectionist policies; but we cannot grow if we do not grow our trade relations and also of course cherish them.

I think particularly from where I stand with the Isle of Man also, it looks particularly at business-to-business relations, which were also in my previous years of work what we mainly looked after. Even though the country relations and diplomatic relations do come in, the UK has always had a very good relationship with South Africa – not just on the business front but also from a diplomatic point of view.

From the Isle of Man point of view, it being a crown dependency but self-governing, it offers a unique proposition to businesses that want to grow and expand. And particularly as we move into really uncertain times and really challenging times, how can you internationally diversify? How can you grow, access UK and EU markets, for example, but not give up your SA operation?

So this is about diversification. It’s about complementing your business in South Africa and gaining access to different markets from what we can say is a different, safe constituency.

So we look at things like the tax advantages, the different structures that you can do around your business, to make sure that you’ve got that bit of a hedge against possibly currency volatility and things like that.

So what I’m really going to be looking at this year is what we can offer to businesses of all sizes in South Africa that do a variety of things. What can we offer them from an Isle of Man perspective to help them grow their businesses?

JIMMY MOYAHA: Cecilia, you mentioned a lot around the importance of the international relationships, and this sort of relationship being a gateway into getting into those relationships or improving those relationships. What will the focus areas be for the Isle of Man? I know, for one, financial services companies more often than not make use of those services.

But from an Isle of Man perspective and from just where you are positioned strategically within the world stage, when we look at things like partnership and growth, where do those focus areas fit into the types of industries that you’re looking at?

CECILIA ALBERTYN: You’re absolutely right. The financial industry does still dominate on the Isle of Man. However, it’s also one of our goals to actually expand on that as the world also changes.

So the key strategic projects for the Isle of Man at this stage are looking at skills; that is, developing the skills of the future and also being open to developing the skills pool on the island itself. It is a different visa system that you can enter into if you want to come to the Isle of Man, contribute some of your skills, do a bit of learning, and move on from there as it might benefit your business as well.

Read: SA’s finance expats are flocking to the Isle of Man

Fintech remains one of the big ones, as well as insure tech and sustainable finance. So there are a lot of tech abilities that they’re going to be looking at specifically.

I think particularly for South Africa, where we’ve seen recently that 40% of the fintech coming out of the whole African continent comes from South Africa. So we’ve got incredible talent and incredible innovation happening in the sector. How can we help companies who are creating and innovating in the technology space to get into different markets and to really get to a platform where they can be seen by the whole world?

JIMMY MOYAHA: Speaking of these different industries, Cecilia, you touched on something around the fact that it’s gaining access into markets and it’s not necessarily the traditional thought of the Isle of Man acting as a VC [venture capital] partner. It’s an international trade partner opening up access to new markets for businesses.

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How would businesses be best positioned to take advantage of this, and how do the relationships then grow from – you’ve now been appointed – where you are to the businesses that want to engage with you and with your team in terms of expanding their operations?

CECILIA ALBERTYN: I think that the good thing with the Isle of Man being relatively small is they’re incredibly agile and react very quickly. You can have a direct line to the people who can really make things happen very quickly, as opposed to going through long processes.

So I think the first thing that you need to look at is how your company is structured. Is it structured for growth? Is it anticipating what’s coming ahead? Is it anticipating challenging times? Is it diversifying its capital? How can you make sure that you are ring-fencing some of that for growth, and particularly if you go into new markets and you’re going to require other currencies.

Listen/read: The Isle of Man’s allure: What’s attracting South Africans?

So I’d say it is a good to start and have that conversation with the right people and have it early. If I can use an example, I spoke to a company over the December holidays that has won a contract – a wonderful fintech company in Cape Town won a contract with a US company.

There’s currently some difficulty with procurement from the US side, but if you have a company structured from the Isle of Man while still doing the work from South Africa, still creating the profits – but you can have that in the Isle of Man – this is no longer a barrier for you to access even something like the US market through that structure.

So this person is now able to grow their business, employ more people. What might be next is European markets. You never know.

Again, I think it’s starting with looking at what your problem is, how it can be solved, how you look at [things], first of all, and your company structure. That’s the conversation that I’m here to have with these people, and also point them to the next points that can get into the technical details of that.

JIMMY MOYAHA: Cecilia, you touched on something about tax advantages and operational advantages. I wonder, would the Isle of Man be a destination that businesses should be considering – if we are looking at South Africa’s current financial situation, in the global scale around the greylisting through the Financial Action Task Force; would businesses benefit from having that secondary ability to operate in jurisdictions that might not want to operate with us because we’re on the grey list?

CECILIA ALBERTYN: That is a very unfortunate truth which, as I had in the example just now, is becoming a reality for businesses. These aren’t people wanting to necessarily leave the country, but they’re faced with this. They cannot grow if they do not have a different structure in place. So it’s about having options, being agile and thinking, ‘I cannot do things the way I’ve always done them. It’s simply not going to work.’ The world keeps changing and it will still again this year.

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So I think just the way that you go with your investments is you diversify. You don’t put all your eggs in one basket; you diversify so you create options and you create some security.

And yes, absolutely, with some worrying indicators from South Africa and otherwise elsewhere on the globe, I think it’s more important than ever to move quickly and to make sure you are considering all of these things, and that you are creating the best structure possible for you to be able to deal with those headwinds when they come.

JIMMY MOYAHA: Well, we’ll leave it at that, Cecilia, thanks so much. That was Cecilia Albertyn, the business development consultant for South Africa within the Isle of Man, on her latest appointment as business development consultant and the role that the relationships between the Isle of Man and South Africa play in global trade, as well as in improving business relationships globally.

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