Guernsey: a great base for business

Stephen Lansdown moved to Guernsey in 2010 and became part of the island’s business community, whilst maintaining his interests in the UK and further afield. Swoffers were intrigued to find out what impact moving here has had upon his life.

Stephen Lansdown CBE is co-founder and former chairman of Hargreaves Lansdown PLC, the UK’s biggest independent private client brokerage and a member of the FTSE 100. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Stephen was presented with Honorary Degrees from Bristol University and the University of the West of England in 2012. He was awarded a CBE in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to business and the community in Bristol.

Since moving to Guernsey in March 2010, Stephen has become a firm supporter of local business, the third sector, culture and sport. Shortly after arriving on the island he set up his family office, Pula, which has many business interests including sport, aviation, sustainability-focused investments, and lodges in Southern Africa. Stephen’s interests in, and love of, Southern Africa are complemented by his conservation work, which focuses mainly on alleviating human wildlife conflict and facilitating wildlife corridors.

With Pula’s extensive business portfolio, it’s clear that Stephen didn’t come to Guernsey to put his feet up. ‘We lived in Bristol and I had business interests there – I still do – but I wanted to step back from them, not to retire as such but to do other things,’ he explains. ‘And I knew if I stayed in Bristol then I’d get drawn back into the office, so I had to move away. And then my wife and I started thinking about where to go and we looked at the Channel Islands and the tax benefits here. You can’t hide away from the fact that’s one of the attractions of the place. We’d always liked Guernsey when we’d come on holiday with the kids so we came to look at some properties and decided this was the base for us.’

Although the Lansdowns didn’t move permanently to Guernsey until 18 months after buying their house, they found the process straightforward: ‘It was nice and simple. I think Guernsey’s got it right for people who want to come to the island, it’s easy to come in and set your boots down here,’ says Stephen. He and his wife soon became part of the community. ‘People were very friendly and welcoming, and we fitted in nicely,’ he adds. ‘Life’s quite simple here at times and therefore more enjoyable. The fact that people will let you out at junctions when you’re driving, and will say good morning to you when you’re walking by, it’s like Britain was 25-30 years ago and that’s pretty good.’

Stephen doesn’t feel that the couple has had to compromise by living on a small island, not least because they have their own plane. ‘There’s a great social life here and plenty of things going on, like the balcony gigs. Of course, if you want to go to a cup final at Wembley or to a big concert you need to go to the UK or France or somewhere else. Transport off the island is fairly easy for us because we just jump on a plane and go. It sounds a bit blasé doesn’t it, but that’s what we do!’ The pandemic caused everyone to stay put, but Stephen has always appreciated Guernsey’s natural assets: ‘The thing I really noticed early on here was the air quality, which is so strange when you’ve lived in a city. Suddenly you’re breathing fresh sea air, and in the city we overlooked properties all around us, whereas here we’re on the coast and we look out over Sark, so it’s completely different.’

Not that Stephen has much time to sit and enjoy the view. ‘Someone asked me yesterday what I do in my spare time – well actually, work is my spare time,’ he says. ‘The pandemic proved to us all that we can do a lot of things without having to travel, and the reality is that being in Guernsey means you can work the same as you can anywhere else in the world, so don’t be put off by the fact that it’s a small island so you might be cut off from the rest of the world – we’re not.’

Although tourism operations in Botswana and Mozambique take him to Africa, where work is combined with pleasure, and Pula’s sport-related interests are in Bristol, Stephen has also made an impact in Guernsey. He recently retired as chairman of Ravenscroft but remains the investment company’s majority shareholder; he is also overseeing the rebuilding of La Grande Mare, which he hopes will become a high-class golf resort and events, business and social centre. This is currently a source of frustration, since Stephen is battling with planners. The hospitality and tourism sector suffered during the pandemic, and Stephen believes that more needs to be done if it is to recover and thrive: ‘Guernsey is a lovely place to visit but that’s not enough, you’ve got to have an event or a destination and the whole thought process behind the Grande Mare was to create a high-quality golf course and facilities which could then attract people to come on golfing holidays and so on. So I think Guernsey should focus on providing a reason for people to come across, whether it’s business events art exhibitions or something of that nature, on an international scale that attracts people in.’

What advice would Stephen give to anyone considering a move to the island? ‘Come and embrace it. When they’re thinking of somewhere like Guernsey, I think a lot of people see it as a sort of bolt hole, but we came here and we immersed ourselves in the community. That’s not to say that we’re out every night – we keep ourselves to ourselves quite often, but it’s great to be part of it. The island’s got a lot to offer in that way, and we’ve made a lot of friends. We’ve been here 11 years now, and it’s flown by.’

 


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