The Tree of Life

2017 has been a year of growth for both PEA and Guernsey as a jurisdiction. Nothing symbolises steady upward growth as well as a sturdy Oak, a Eucalyptus or Californian Redwood. As it’s Christmas, James Orrick explores the cultural significance of trees.

With the loss and revival of its foliage each year, roots reaching deep into the soil and branches extending into the sky, the tree is a powerful symbol of growth. Growth is what PEA is all about. We are rooted in the growth of our clients’ investments and the tree symbolises many aspects of our business and the development of our staff.

This year PEA’s Guernsey branch has grown from a team of 8 to 11. Our modern yet organic approach to our business is very attractive to potential staff as we encourage them to take on more responsibility and really add value to clients.

Trees are significant in many of the world’s religions and have been given deep and sacred meaning throughout the ages. The image of the Tree of Life occurs in many mythologies. The Banyan and the fig tree are sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and there is the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’ in Judaism and Christianity. In folklore, trees are often said to be the homes of tree spirits and The Egyptian Book Of The Dead talks of sycamores ‘where the soul of the deceased finds blissful repose.’

It is unclear exactly when fir trees became Christmas trees and an entire industry was born. But, because evergreen trees remain verdant throughout winter, they have sometimes been considered symbols of eternity, immortality or fertility. Pope John Paul called the Christmas tree “a symbol of Christ”, the supreme gift of God to humanity.

The truth is that the evergreen fir tree has been used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice as it made them think of spring while the Romans used them to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia.

The first Christmas trees came to Britain in the 1830s and became very popular when Victoria and Albert had one set up in Windsor Castle. Now many towns and villages have their own Christmas trees with one of the most famous being the giant specimen in Trafalgar Square, given to the UK by Norway each year as a ‘thank you’ for the help given in WW2. The White House in the USA has had a big tree on the front lawn since the 1920s.

PEA has offices in Guernsey but started in Allerød in Denmark and Stockholm in Sweden. Trees feature heavily in Swedish and Danish culture as they cover over 50% of Sweden and around 11% of Denmark where ‘friluftsliv’ or ‘free air life’ is a unique philosophy. It is deeply rooted in the soul of the people – a way of living close to the beautiful landscapes of these countries.

There are many wonderful Scandinavian Christmas traditions that make a December visit worth braving the cold weather for. While all the Nordic countries may share some seasonal customs, we all have individual beliefs and our own unique ways of celebrating the holidays.

In Sweden, Christmas trees must be as straight as possible, which can become a bit of a task for those who live outside the cities and fell their own trees. According to the Swedish tourist board, many Swedes believe that their legal right of access to the countryside allows them to fetch a tree from the woods wherever they like, with an axe, a saw or, as in western Värmland, with a shotgun!

Like a tree in a forest, PEA has grown tall and straight in our market. Our business has grown by re-launching existing structures and winning new business. We’ve taken on funds with different asset classes and more private wealth structures, illustrated by our incorporation of 23 entities this year.

Our growth has been aided by improved communication of our value proposition. The market now has a better understanding of PEA as a boutique fund administrator with dedicated staff, and systems easily tailored to act as an extension of the fund manager’s back office.

In terms of the industry, the statistics for the first half of the year speak for themselves with the NAV of funds under management increasing by 9.6%. The Guernsey Registry has reported 55 companies migrating to Guernsey during 2017 up to the end of Q3.

Investment managers recognise that Guernsey is politically stable with good quality service providers. We have certainly seen a “flight to quality” that is spoken about in the media. The excellence of Guernsey’s finance industry was highlighted recently with two different awards for services; the island was named the best centre for fund administration at the 2017 Investment Week Fund Services Awards and the best non-EU domicile at the European & UK Captive awards.

As in all industries, conditions can sometimes get rough and there can be turbulence. So what better symbol is there than a tree? It is strong but flexible, it bends with the wind but once the storm has dissipated – it stands tall and proud again.

 James Orrick holds a Masters in Corporate Governance from Bournemouth University, a BSc (Hons) in Accounting and Finance from the University of Essex, is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.

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