Cayman Islands: Cayman Finance Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The concept for the creation of a unified voice of the Cayman Islands financial services industry was first born in 2003, when directors of the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, Eduardo D'Angelo P. Silva, Eric Crutchley, Ben Gillooly and Charles Farrington, first realised the need and formed the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association. Since then it has grown in stature to become an influential leader both locally and internationally. 

Pressure begins

Back in 1998 the OECD published its Harmful Tax Competition paper, launching a fierce and relentless campaign against offshore jurisdictions. This was quickly followed by its issuance of a blacklist of countries the organisation said were non-compliant with OECD tax practices. Through a tremendous amount of hard work behind the scenes by both the public and private sectors, the Cayman Islands managed to avoid appearing on the blacklist; however, notable blacklisted countries included some of Cayman's main market competitors: Jersey, Guernsey, the BVI, the USVI and the Bahamas.

By 2003 the pressure was still unrelenting and the misunderstanding and misconception surrounding the vital work offshore financial centres played in the complicated world of global finance was increasing. Following on from the OECD's stance, tremendous pressure was then placed upon offshore jurisdictions by other entities such as the FATF, the G20 countries, the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, and the Financial Stability Board.

As a result, directors of the Cayman Islands Bankers Association realised it was important an umbrella organisation, called the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association (CIFSA), be formed that would speak loudly and clearly in strong support of the entire financial services industry, dispelling the myths, cutting through the misconceptions (of which there were many), and standing up for the truth.

Former CIFSA Chairman Eduardo d'Angelo P Silva explains:  "CIFSA was created because the private sector felt the need to have a unified and consistent voice to explain the importance of the Cayman Islands' financial industry to the world and to respond to the negative, biased depiction of offshore centres being disseminated by the mainstream media." 

Media campaign

Thus began the formidable task for CIFSA of lobbying for the Cayman Islands through media campaigns targeting some of the biggest publications in the world, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The New York Times, The LA Times and the Times.

In December 2007, the Association launched its successful Business Luncheon series, which brought well-respected journalists to Cayman to allow them to familiarise themselves with how the Cayman Islands financial services industry operated and also to share some of their insight with members. Journalists such as John Fund from the Wall Street Journal and Washington lobbyists Jack Quinn and Manuel Ortiz from the firm Quinn & Gillespie (the lobbyists employed by CIFSA on behalf of Cayman's financial services industry) have spoken to CIFSA members.

In 2009 CIFSA changed its name to Cayman Finance; a move that board member Dan Scott at the time said was "to help reinforce the identity of the industry's main protagonist". At the same time attorney Anthony Travers was appointed as chairman, and from that point onwards, the association became increasingly vociferous in its defence of the jurisdiction, particularly within the international press.

The pressure on offshore financial centres remained constant, with European leaders (including Britain's prime minister) talking loudly about imposing sanctions against what they termed "tax havens" such as the Cayman Islands. The OECD placed the Cayman Islands on its grey list, along with around 30 other countries, because it said the country did not meet specific requirements on the exchange of tax information that it had specifically laid down. If such countries signed at least 12 tax exchange agreements with other countries they would be removed from the grey list and so began an intense period of signing of a number of tax information exchange agreements (TIEA) to comply with these new rules.  During this time Mr. Travers on behalf of Cayman Finance continued to defend the Cayman Islands, stating: "if we have more treaties than any other offshore jurisdiction with OECD countries, there is no doubt in terms of the current concern, we shall prevail."

Later that year Cayman was moved to the OECD's compliant countries white list.

Nevertheless, pressure has still remained constant in recent years, and the need for a defender of Cayman's financial services industry has been just as important in recent years as it was when the association was first formed.

In February 2011 Richard Coles took up the chairmanship of Cayman Finance, continuing to steer the organisation along its path; and in 2013 Gonzalo Jalles undertook the new position within Cayman Finance of Chief Executive Officer.

Looking forward

Since his appointment in January, Mr Jalles has spoken with many local and international publications on a variety of Cayman-related financial service industry topics.  Mr Jalles also recognises the importance of working alongside the public sector to promote Cayman as the domicile of choice for investors.

"Having a strong, united presence by both the public and private sectors of Cayman's financial services industry means we are able to present a fully rounded offering to investors."  stated Jalles.

Cayman Finance joined forces with the Ministry for Financial Services to attend the Brazil Hedge Fund Forum in March and City Week Financial Services Forum in London in April, and both organisations spoke at the Offshore Alert conference in Miami in May.

Following the Government's announcement that it would adopt a Model 1 intergovernmental agreement (IGA) in response to the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Cayman Finance moved quickly to develop a plan for a FATCA seminar – a briefing of particular interest to those who have responsibility for regulation and compliance within their respective organisations.  The seminar will be held on 27 June 2013 at the Westin Resort Grand Cayman.

Over its ten years Cayman Finance has grown to be a formidable voice of the Islands both locally and internationally. It has continued on its mission established back in 2003 to speak with a unified voice on the important role the industry plays within the world economy and to loudly defend the jurisdiction from the misconceptions that have surrounded it.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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