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Celebrating 50 years

25 October 2023

As Fort Group marks its half century, Amanda Eulenkamp caught up with managing director, Jos Ensink, to find out what makes the business so special to him.

BORN in Amsterdam, raised in South Africa, Jos Ensink found himself in Guernsey in 1994 as he had a six week gap before starting a new job in Holland.

‘I thought I’d come to Guernsey, and I could not believe how many job offers and opportunities there were here at that time! I’d always wanted to join a small company, rather than a larger auditing, accounting or bank operation, because I had always believed in small enterprises,’ he said.

He started a job with Fort Group and has never looked back.

Founder Tim Blake was at the helm then, but was planning for his retirement. Jos was able to buy the company from him over a period of a few years and has stayed true to Tim’s original ethos and has kept the business local.

‘To me, Tim was like a very old-fashioned English gentlemen. The way he taught me was of a different time to now. It was all done on trust and a handshake. But I learned from him that it’s all about trust and giving the clients good service. That’s still core to the business.’

Growth and changes

Over time, Jos, a chartered accountant, has bought six books of business, including one in Alderney which currently has nine staff working there. Growth has been both through the businesses he bought as well as organic. ‘We’ve always been able to grow year-on-year and we are probably one of the largest independently owned trust companies in Guernsey now.’

He attributes the successful growth to having always concentrated on getting the integration of the new businesses right. ‘If you have six different books of business, with staff coming in from all of those, then you have to take time to make sure that you have the same culture throughout, the same operating systems. The staff are a key part to any business.’

Jos said that the Fort Group has very loyal staff – many of whom have been with him for years – with low staff turnover. There is even one lady in her 80s who is still ‘razor sharp’, according to Jos. ‘Why not employ older people? They have a fount of knowledge and if they still want to use it and are happy to work, why not? Our culture is people first.’

There are now more than 50 staff across the business (including the Alderney ones, where Jos has just bought a new building which is undergoing renovation and should be ready by the end of the year for the staff to move into).

The Fort Group is well-known in Alderney where it has been involved right from the beginning with the Alderney Gaming Commission. ‘We were there when the law changed and have done an enormous number of corporate services for that industry,’ said Jos. ‘Even to this day, we are probably the biggest provider of that service.’

The strength of the relationship he has with his staff is reflected in the way he interacts with his clients. ‘Some of the clients have been here for 50 years, we have very long-established client bases, with lots of family-type structures,’ he said.

In the nearly 30 years that Jos has steered the company, regulation and compliance has really changed. ‘Getting the policies and procedures in place is vital; after all, we are trusted with somebody’s wealth. You have to look after them, a little like a father looks after his family. There are a lot of responsibilities.’

Work practises have also changed, mainly driven by Covid and the work from home culture, although Jos said that around 95% of his staff (if not more) are back in the office full-time. ‘The only reason we’re finding that people are working from home is because it fits their lifestyle better, for example, young parents who have childcare commitments.’

Technological changes have also happened over the last 30 years, and Jos said that his key takeaway is to be open to change.

‘AI is going to be a massive game-changer – I don’t think anyone knows it all yet but there are huge opportunities. I accept that there are threats, but you need to look at what you can do with it; I see marketing opportunities, educational opportunities, lots of positives. In this industry, AI can help with policies and processes, but you still need humanness.’

While Jos has connections still in Holland and South Africa, he also has strong relationships with other corporate service providers based in Jersey, the Isle of Man, Switzerland and Mauritius. ’It’s all about relationships,’ he said.


The Fort Group has traditionally operated under the radar as far as blowing its own trumpet regarding community investments. Jos is keen to support sport and was a major sponsor of the Alderney team in the recent Island Games. They are also prolific supporters of wildlife projects as well as cultural ones, such as supporting film events and choirs.

Planning for the future

Just as Jos took over from Tim, he is planning for his own retirement. To that end, he has taken on Graham McCormack (formerly of Oak Group) as CEO.

‘My background has been working for a small business that only had six people when I started,’ said Jos. ‘That’s grown to over 50 and is continuing to expand. I recognise that, while I have the experience of growth, I don’t have the experience of what comes with a bigger business, and Graham has gone through that transition.

‘It’s looking at taking the business to the next level.’

Being independently owned helps with effective decision making, whether it’s a proactive decision or reacting to something globally.

Jos is still the majority shareholder of the Fort Group and all the directors have shares. However, they are working on a scheme whereby the rest of the staff can also have some sort of share and feel more involved. ‘I want their contribution to help them, not just the shareholders,’ he said.

On a personal level, Jos’s daughter is currently studying at university in Florida, so longer trips Stateside are on the horizon for him and his wife.

‘I will still have client contact; we are still acquiring businesses; we are very well capitalised. We don’t need any debt to finance our growth, which is also important. It’s also important that we continue to be independently owned. I think the future looks bright for all the independently owned trust companies – there are still a few of us left!’

This article first appeared in the October 2023 issue of Business Brief .

Photo Credits: Guernsey Press


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