Highlights from the ICSA conferences "Managing risk, leading change"

Last week we attended the 2018 ICSA Conferences in "Managing risk, leading change" in Jersey and Guernsey. The events both reflected the important role that the two offshore jurisdictions offer the corporate governance community, and explored hot themes such as GDPR, blockchain and Brexit. Below are some of the highlights.

Links to the events here and here.

A look into GDPR.

General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, will overhaul how businesses process and handle data and it will become law on May 25, 2018. Sara Johns, Partner at Ogier, the renowned legal firm, presented “GDPR: the CoSec’s Role” and touched upon how company secretaries and governance professionals can best prepare for it. She highlighted the pivotal role each Company Secretary plays in their organisation, saying:

“Company Secretaries have the influence, experience and then the knowledge.  You are a conduit for data flow, heightened visibility – why you have the data you have, how it can be treated, and how long it can be held for.  Also ensuring the board has the best information so they can make the best decisions.”

 
 

For those of you who may be interested, she advised reading the “very useful guidance” from Article 29 working party of the European Union on personal data breach guidelines. You can find it here.

Around definitions of consent, Sara also highlighted a local challenge to Jersey and Guernsey Company Secretaries in the grandfathering provision for 12 months which allows for consent previously given by Jersey and Guernsey residents.  From 25th May, however, those companies processing data from EU subjects, will need to provide fresh consent as they do not fall under the Jersey and Guernsey legislation.

About Blockchain...

Guernsey prides itself on being at the forefront of innovation in the financial industry keeping a close eye on new technologies that can usefully support and digitise local businesses. And blockchain is one of the hottest technologies at the moment. But, what is it? And how does it work?

Speaking of the tech and its application in the short term was Stuart Lawson, Product Manager at Northern Trust. The financial services firm, in collaboration with IBM and other key stakeholders, has recently launched the first commercial deployment of blockchain technology for the private equity market.

“Guernsey is the third largest private equity global market with $100bn of assets and an excellent reputation so blockchain is the perfect technology to improve that market.  Managing private equity investments and the ownership is inefficient, expensive and time consuming. Blockchain by using a distributed ledger is much more efficient” said Stuart.

Three are the main questions people usually ask about blockchain:

  • Is it secure?
  • Is it legal?
  • Will it work?

YES to all said Stuart. And at Cygnetise we fully support his view. We have received significant interest from the private equity sector and we recently signed up our first PE fund administrator client in Guernsey.  They join a growing community of pioneering adopters, which include PwC and Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management.

 
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But not all were enthused, as a Co Sec after the session was overheard “Oh I switched off after a few minutes with the blockchain stuff.  I know I should pay more attention though but it goes over my head”. We sense there’s some further education and engagement required there then!

Brexit and Business.

As the path to Brexit gradually unfolds, what does it mean for Guernsey? Big business was generally in favour of the UK remaining a part of the EU but with the decision to leave firmly made and under way, businesses must get to grips with the challenges and opportunities of Brexit. Catharine Barnard, Professor of EU Law at Cambridge University covered the topic.

 
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How are you preparing for GDPR? And what do you think of blockchain technology? We are interested in hearing your comments and thoughts, so do get in touch.

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