My Island Network

I have lived in Guernsey for more than a decade now, but it felt like home from the day I landed here, writes Bex Goater, director and financial adviser at Network Insurance & Financial Planning

Our island charmed me with its warm weather, safe surroundings, and of course, the endless beautiful sea views. I also loved the fact that everyone seemed to know everyone. It took me a while, but now when I walk down the High Street, I too say hello to a number of people on my travels.

However, there is one thing about Guernsey that can be a challenge upon moving here, and that is the differences compared to the UK. Not that it is challenging to get used to island life; rather to find out what you need to know.

I think many non-islanders (or even new islanders) are aware that our tax system is not the same as that in the UK. But there are other differences, such as the structure of the government, our healthcare system, pensions and benefits system, and of course, the filter in turn (which is wonderful). It was also a shock to discover there was no McDonald’s!

While much of the information is available online once you know where to look, it isn’t overly easy when you first get here, particularly in relation to financial differences. One challenge I faced at the start of my career as a financial adviser was finding out Guernsey-specific information. Not the headline rules that apply to all, as these are relatively easily found; but the niche ‘applies to one client every five years’ kind of information.

Online research of any topic will generally lead you to details and information relating to our mainland friends, which makes sense since said rules apply to around 67 million people. Our rules apply to only 63 thousand people, and even inserting ‘Guernsey’ in the search function doesn’t always yield results.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I have realised the importance of our local advisers to those who are new (and old) to the island. Such advisers have built up a wealth of Guernsey-specific knowledge – gathered from government resources, case studies, industry contacts, and even the asking of many questions over the years.

Having now worked in financial advice for a decade, I can answer most questions I get from any newcomer straight away, and I also have a pack of information that I know is immediately useful for all newbies, about topics that they may not even have considered when relocating.

I still recall when I moved to Guernsey that I was told there was no NHS, and to me this translated to no public health service at all. I imagined dramatic events unfolding, similar to those US based medical dramas where patients were forced to leave hospital, or trade a kidney to afford care. I now know that this is not the case, and most secondary health care IS provided by the States including excellent and inclusive maternity services. That said, with one hospital on the island, private health insurance is generally worth considering for those who can afford it.

Our different tax rules can impact upon ongoing suitability of investments and bank accounts, so these should be reviewed when moving to the island. While some UK investments may remain an option, there may be offshore-based investments that are much more tax efficient for a non-UK resident. In addition, some insurance products (including life insurance), that may have been purchased when living in the UK, may not be valid to Guernsey residents. It would be sensible to check these to ensure any future claim would be valid and consider new policies if not. Pensions also need to be considered, both in the short term and longer term, and it is likely that contributions into non-Guernsey pensions should be ceased after a while, or they become tax inefficient.

Although these are just some of the areas that differ, there are of course many other considerations. So, what would I recommend to a new island resident? Well, I would suggest initially visiting an independent financial adviser and insurance broker. They will be able to review your financial situation and existing plans holistically, and then, if required, assist with making changes or setting up new plans suitable for the new island….I still miss McDonald’s though!