On the 13th January 2011 the Guardian newspaper circulated within its pages The Report, a supplement featuring Gibraltar (http://www.the-report.net/features/gibraltar). This report publicised that the brand for Gibraltar's Finance Centre is "Rock Solid". The message communicated by this brand is that "reputation" is what Gibraltar sells and what sells Gibraltar. This message was reinforced by The Report highlighting the Chief Minister's view that Gibraltar's main economic asset is its "reputation".
There is no doubt that reputation is a very important factor taken into consideration by anybody viewing Gibraltar as the jurisdiction of his choice for doing business in, from or with. I am not sure about the wisdom of making this factor the central plank of a campaign to promote Gibraltar's Finance Centre. Reputation should be a given. Gibraltar has it already. It should not be brought into question or spearhead any promotion. A finance centre that does not have the necessary reputation will not be even on the starting block or in the consideration of any serious person. Using "reputation" as a unique selling point simply achieves equating the jurisdiction as a whole to its lowest common denominator on the scales applied to judge reputation. The lowest common denominator is that entity that last gets into trouble.
It is a given that massive effort is made to maintain reputation, as the Chief Minister put it:
"... people who want to come and do business in and with Gibraltar ... must instinctively appreciate that through our policies and actions, our regulatory regime, they will be coming to a place where their own corporate reputation will not be placed in jeopardy by association. We have worked to limit access to our own markets to reputable, established companies that value this as much as we do."
But Gibraltar is not a corporation. It is a jurisdiction with many distinct entities engaged in Finance Centre activities. In a corporation there is direct and immediate control of all its component parts, employees and agents. There are direct lines of communications and decisions funnel up to the senior employees, managers and boards. Even then, things go wrong which have an adverse effect on a corporations reputation.
In a jurisdiction "... policies and actions ..." and :... our regulatory regime ...", whilst significantly reducing risk, do not eliminate risk to reputation, nor do or can these factors impose the disciplines and controls that circumscribe and control activity within a corporation. The chances of one individual entity (or a small number of entities) engaged within the field of financial services going wrong and so affecting reputation are much greater within a jurisdiction than within a corporation. If reputation is made to be perceived as Gibraltar's main economic asset such failure of an individual entity has a greater chance of impacting on the entire jurisdiction. Avoiding such a view of Gibraltar allows it to retain the ability and wherewithal to contain and limit the adverse effect of such individual failures, not that I fool myself that anyone getting into trouble has no adverse effect on Gibraltar.
On the 7th January 2011 in my piece "New Years Message" or "State of the Nation Speech?" I wrote:
"The reality is that for Gibraltar to succeed economically, it has one valuable natural resource. I call it leverage, fiscal leverage, jurisprudential leverage and regulatory leverage are examples. Fiscal leverage is the ability to have a direct and indirect tax system that makes Gibraltar an attractive jurisdiction. Jurisprudential leverage is ensuring appropriate laws to make Gibraltar an attractive jurisdiction. Regulatory leverage is not having a less strict regulatory regime in all areas (including gaming) but having a fast, efficient and easily accessible system. All these are always capable of improvement. On the whole, the GSD government has got it right."
My list was not intended to be and is not exhaustive. Gibraltar has more attributes and attractive features. In the context of the Finance Centre, fiscal and jurisprudential factors are what any government of the day should be emphasising, as well as all the other attributes that Gibraltar has. It is then for each individual entity to be convincing of and sell its individual abilities and reputations, which is what can be reinforced and supervised by what the Chief Minister has referred to as being policies and regulation.