Chamber Vice President Diane de Garis is a passionate advocate for all business but particularly SMEs. Here, she explains why they need effective and efficient systems to help them.

When I started my own accountancy practice in 2014, one aspect that I hadn’t considered was how big a part systems would play in my new world. Initially we would work with all systems, and provide accountancy and outsourced finance director services to our clients regardless of the system. Early on though we found Xero, and its eco-system of add-ons, and had our lightbulb moment.

Suddenly we were working with systems, not in spite of them or against them! Having worked in the finance industry for approximately 20 years previously I had certainly done my time of finding system work arounds. Now I was in a new world where I could easily find a system solution for clients, starting with Xero, potentially adding other systems to create a bespoke “app-stack” that was changing how our clients operated for the better. We were providing the tools, seamlessly integrated, to improve efficiency, flexibility and indeed the management information they needed to grow their business.

We did the same for our own business, creating our own app stack that meant from the point of a client signing our online engagement letter, everything was set up for us (from jobs to billing to collection of fees) allowing us to concentrate on servicing the client. For fee collection we embraced GoCardless direct debit system. It is truly beautiful software, not only collecting the outstanding amount, but reconciling the receipt in Xero for us and allowing instalment payments etc.

Soon though we saw GoCardless start to turn down Guernsey companies, then advising us that was their new policy. They had grown into a bigger company themselves, updated their processes, and advised they would not accept new Guernsey companies. They cited the fact they could not automate the onboarding or ongoing due diligence on the Guernsey companies, like they could for UK companies via an API via Companies House, as the key reason at that time.

We looked for alternatives, but sadly so many payment platforms took a similar approach, potentially for a variety of reasons.

Having joined Chamber for all the usual benefits, I started to attend events to seek support with this problem. To engage with others who wished to find solutions, and to lobby for support to address the issue.

A few years on I am now the VP at Chamber, and still trying to progress the issue, which has worsened.

It is an issue members have raised with Chamber many times, and recently we carried out a wide-reaching survey to gather the data. The survey confirmed that Guernsey businesses are hampered by the lack of availability of global payment systems, and more than half of the businesses which responded reported issues with the lack of major international market leader payment systems such as Stripe and GoCardless. It further identified these were the key platforms that were ideally required by local businesses, due to their universality and integration with other platforms and systems as market leaders.

So payment platform issues were the driver for my becoming so involved with Chamber, and a key issue I would love to see addressed. That said my concern is this is no easy task, and Guernsey is not an easy jurisdiction for these platforms to expand into.

It is though pleasing to see real engagement from the committee for Economic Development on this issue this term, and hopefully at last we will be able to make some traction.

Guernsey should be an amazing place to do business from, but the reality is barriers such as this exist making entrepreneurial life hard for Guernsey businesses, whatever size the business.

To take the words from a Locate Guernsey brochure:

“Guernsey has an entrepreneurial history, from ship building and quarrying to horticulture and fisheries. Innovation continues to be a key part of Guernsey’s success. Today, government and industry are working together to develop the island’s FinTech and digital sectors.”

We must therefore act together now, to ensure there are no barriers to these developing sectors, and at the same time also help all the established local businesses who also wish to be able to easily collect payments online and trade on a level playing field with businesses across the water.

The latest edition of Contact Magazine can be obtained for free from Waitrose, or from the Chamber of Commerce’s Offices in the Inner Market.

The Spring 2021 edition, from which this article is taken, is available for online viewing here.