*This blog post was written on 3rd July but not posted until 4th August. It formed part of the The REIGNITE 2020 Report but in the final edits I decided to take it and post separately. Whilst it has not been updated since writing, many of the points remain relevant. The post was written for discussion purposes and not designed to be exhaustive, detailed or rigorous.
As attention turns to recovery and rebuilding through the States of Guernsey’s Revive And Thrive Strategy, the challenge for the private and public sector will be in using the crisis as an intentional opportunity to boldly rethink ambitions, and adapt and execute quickly and creatively in the post-pandemic world. This is also especially important as the need respond with agility to future relapses will be likely as Guernsey balances economic recovery with health and safety.
A key risk for the future of Guernsey is that this opportunity is lost as people, firms and government simply return to ‘old’ ways of thinking, working and operating. The benefits of excellent health risk management in Guernsey may have unintended consequences, but only if local leaders and policymakers fail to take up the new call to action.
Whilst the data from 335 Guernsey leaders and business owners surveyed in The REIGNITE! 2020 Report indicated significant impacts for many Guernsey organisations, others have been able to respond with new offerings and ways of working, and accelerated investments into new technologies and processes.
We used this ‘impact’ data to categorise patterns and themes of impacts for Guernsey at large. Whilst by no means exhaustive (with many applicable globally), a few of these include the following:
First Order Impacts
- Reduction of in-bound and outbound business and leisure travel
- Increasing shift to online business development and sales
- Increased e-commerce and local delivery needs
- Increased demand for flexible and remote working
- Increased home office improvement needs
- Shifting social and psychological contract for workers and consumers
- Increasing focus on mental health, wellbeing, worker and customer safety, trust
- Office rationalisation due to safety measures and demand for flexible working
- Smarter, frictionless offices with more automation, smartphone ID, facial recognition and refit for more experiential work e.g. client meets, collaboration, workshops, creativity, training
- Increased demand for more use cases beyond shopping for contactless payments and frictionless ordering e.g. restaurants, cafes
- Commercial real estate, higher education and executive training, and hospitality models upended
Second Order Impacts
- Trust, safety, culture differentiator for certain workplaces in areas
- Potential migration away from over-populated major cities (e.g. UK) into second cities, regional or coastal areas
- Universities unlikely to open meaning a significant number of ‘gap’ years for 18 year olds
- Existing older leaders aim to cement positions and hold on to ‘power’ or a changing of the guard for new perspectives
- Changing mix of workforce with more comfort for a ‘talent anywhere’ model
- Requirement for more flexible resourcing with demand for more specialised contract and freelancers
- New sectors developing hybrid on/offline business models for smarter, more relevant customer experiences e.g. education, gyms, training, retail
- More public and private infrastructure development
- Talent anywhere to hire the best wherever they are
- Smarter, frictionless, reconfigured offices which may be provided as a perk
- Smart phone use cases in-store increase e.g. digital ID, office access, ordering in-store
- Privacy issues around any contact tracing services
- Retail high-streets and commercial workplaces continue to transform with more residential housing
Opportunities for Guernsey
Based on the survey data and analysis, the following non-exhaustive list of opportunities were identified. All will require smart, fast-moving and collaborative government to accelerate existing initiatives (e.g. Green Finance) and to think and act creatively, boldly and collaboratively on new initiatives to maximise economic development across a variety of areas:
- Guernsey Vision: Agree a refreshed shared, common vision for the future of Guernsey in light of the new world and Guernsey capabilities, and accelerate initiatives to implement
- Safety-As-A-Service: New business opportunities for existing or a new set of service providers to help businesses to set-up, maintain and ensure ongoing COVID-19 health and safety compliance
- Safe Haven: Position Guernsey as a safer destination for UK/Jersey/France travellers or any individuals, families or businesses looking to relocate from overseas to Guernsey, especially when UK and other nations’ travel restrictions loosen;
- Staycations: Hospitality to create new, tailored and segmented packages, experiences and integrated offerings to attract the spend of local Guernsey residents which traditionally goes off-shore
- Cross-Placements: Another strategy for acquiring talent is cross-placement, which involves finding hidden talent from other industries that can be redeployed for your company.
- Public Works: Fast-track known public expenditure projects (e.g. Seafront, Airport etc) and encourage new public-private partnerships to upgrade, regenerate, and redevelop areas plus provide employment, create new businesses, and support existing businesses (e.g. hospitality)
- Centre(s) of Excellence: Whether this is in Fin or RiskTech, Green Finance or other areas, Guernsey has untapped potential and needs to build up an ‘innovation cluster’ of capabilities in close collaboration with the private-sector (or new unit), and firmly commit, invest, enable, and market these unique capabilities
- Entrepreneurship: Accelerate investor incentives (e.g. EIS) and other measures to encourage start-ups or scale-ups with increased flows of early-stage capital
- Commercial Property: With many vacant properties sitting idle – which is now likely to increase- encourage owners to off-load properties and/or provide more flexible planning and incentives to allow new investors, generations, and alternative business uses to thrive
- Corona Corp: Create a ‘Guernsey Corp’ of school-leavers or university students who now may not leave the island to start or continue University to work on Government COVID-19 rebuild initiatives e.g. apprentice schemes
- Government Automation: Rapidly increase the online self-service capabilities of Government departments, transform across the back-end and front-ends, and experiment with new solutions (e.g. Digital ID)
- Regulatory: Regulators will take a lot of lessons from how the financial sector performs during the COVID-19 lockdowns, both in terms of finding out what existing processes and tools worked best plus new technologies, but also identifying vulnerabilities that need to be addressed by future standard-setting.
- University: It is highly likely that despite parents wanting to ‘off-load’ their teenagers from the house, many Guernsey students may not go back to the UK due to COVID uncertainty and risks. Whilst COVID will cause many UK universities who offer Hyuandai-quality certifications for a Mercedes price to push harder into online learning (or offer diminished campus experiences), this will happen against a backdrop of increasing deferral rates, supply challenges for mid-tier schools without a deep wait-list, and an inability to cut costs. Many mid-tier universities and colleges will close whilst others too reliant on international students and without strong business and financial models begin a slow death-march. Perhaps this presents an opportunity for Guernsey to facilitate, improve the offering of an existing higher-education provider, partner, or build a University-type solution, skills academy or certification provider in a ‘safe’ local environment to develop the most locally relevant skills to support both the FS and wider sectors. This is a critical component for Guernsey’s future competitiveness especially in a COVID world. If these conversations and plans have already been discussed, they should be fast-tracked.