In this new feature, International Investment is highlighting some of our stand-out Q&A sessions and interviews taken from our recent Virtual Events programme and video interiews.

In this transcript taken from this forthright and revealing interview - originally broadcast live from II's Middle East Forum on November 17, 2020 - International Investment editor Christopher Copper-Ind speaks to Simon Pickering, head of insurance and pensions at the Isle of Man Department for Enterprise.

CCI: First off, how important is the life sector for the Isle of Man? It seems to play a major role both locally and internationally. Could you say a little about why that is?

SP: It's extremely important to the island, forming 16.5% of our annual GDP. And the life sector employs locally just under 2,000 people which when you look at the overall employment in financial services on the Isle of Man, one in six work in one of our life insurance companies.

In fact we have the laragest cluster of life companies than any other financial centre. So it is extremely central to our economy. And as a government we look to support the sector as much as we can. 

CCI: I see you're in the office there on the Isle of Man. I'm quite envious given most of the rest of us are working from home. How has the island coped with the pandemic?

SP: Very well. It's obviously a very strange year for us all, and these are unprecedented times. But our government made a very quick decision to close our borders in March, which I think was clearly the right decision. We've been back in the office since the third week in June. So apart from no travel as such, life here is just about back to normal. We've largely kept the disease out of our community.

All our restaurants, shops, banks, gyms and clubs are open as usual. The key word that kept being repeated was "resilience". Because we are an island and we all helped each other, and this has been seen in the life industry too where it's been largely business as usual. 

CCI: Given our focus in this forum on the Middle East, and the UAE in particular, could you tell us more about the Isle of Man's links with the region? How did they come about and why do they remain so important today?

SP: Absolutely, yes, the Middle East is very important to us. We get a lot of good solid business from the region and have done for more than 20 years now. The majority of our life companies have offices out there, and an awful lot of local Isle of Man staff have relocated there to work.

It's business we're looking to grow. Dubai, in particular, is important to us going forward, and we are looking to expand our links with other areas beyond life insurance, including funds and fintech and family offices. 

To view all of the sessions from the recent II Middle East Forum click here.