Q&A: Living offshore with Jon Moulton

PE Manager revisits some of its best on the record interviews of 2013: With some GPs thinking about moving offshore if tax rates on the mainland become too high, in November we asked Better Capital founder Jon Moulton what it’s like to live and work in Guernsey.

What prompted the move to Guernsey?

I’ve done business there since 1985. I’ve had a house in Guernsey for about eight years and my wife thought I’d do a lot less work if I was there. Wrong. But nonetheless we like Guernsey and the pace of it. Obviously we [Better Capital] like the fiscal regime here but that really wasn’t dominant in the decision to locate to Guernsey.

It’s lovely and finite. Travel time is negligible. The people are good. Although it’s a small island, 60,000 or so souls, it’s quite a bright echelon that runs the place. You have got entrepreneurs around. It’s actually quite stimulating. I would say our social life is considerably more vigorous than it was when we lived in the Seven Oaks area.

I still come to London many times, believe me. Just recently I spent 45 minutes getting from between Knightsbridge and the office; I was longing to be in Guernsey.

What would drive a GP to move offshore?

It depends what you are doing. I’ve reached a stage in my career where I’m not actually doing much of the upfront on deals. I’m not charging around anymore. Because that is impractical from Guernsey. Chairing the investment committee, running the systems and looking after the investors is relatively easily done from Guernsey. I’ve got video setup in offices both here and in London so everything works quite easily. And just to put everything in context, I can still roll out of bed at quarter past six in the morning and be in the London office five minutes to nine.

Was it a difficult transition?

It was easy to make the switch. It’s not that isolated and anybody who lives in Brighton is just as isolated as I am. I’ve had quite a few phone calls from people asking me about making the switch; mostly from non-UK private equity firms (including the Swedes who are under enormous pressure to demonstrate offshore residence).

Could offshore jurisdictions do more to lure GPs to their islands?

There are already an awful lot of general partner companies in Guernsey. There is a lot of administration, fund management and investor relations. It’s quite a big industry – something towards 1,000 people or so working in private equity. In terms of putting your deal team here, it’s as good as anywhere else to put a pan-European team if that is what you are trying to put together. It’s a friendly fiscal base and has reasonable connections. But there is obviously very little in the way of local deals.

Do you ever miss the cut and thrust of London?

As a man who is used to having seven or eight hours of sleep a night, the inability to spend the early hours of the morning getting plastered in the disco holds very few attractions for me. I’m a noted early departure from black tie dinners anyway.

Quite genuinely it’s very lovely. The people are friendly; low level of crime; virtually no unemployment; people wave you out at junctions. My standard of life has certainly improved since I moved here. I have even gotten fitter.