STEP Cayman: Providing a global perspective

STEP Cayman hosted the “STEP Cayman Forum” on Sept. 7 at the Institute of Directors in London.

A key component of the effective operation and continued growth of the local financial services industry is the promotion of the Cayman Islands for what it is: a modern and sophisticated international financial center that is a key contributor to the global economy. For those in the wealth management sector, marketing on this front is a business imperative and obtaining the support of professionals located outside the jurisdiction is critical.

Recognizing this, the Cayman Islands Branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP Cayman) hosted the “STEP Cayman Forum” on Sept. 7, 2017 at the Institute of Directors in London. Focusing on wealth planning in international financial centers, the aim of the Forum was to provide an opportunity for leading figures in the trusts industry outside the Cayman Islands to discuss openly the challenges faced generally in the wealth management industry, while highlighting the Cayman Islands as a leading jurisdiction in addressing those challenges. The Forum attracted high attendance from industry professionals across London, the Channel Islands, and Switzerland.

The Forum began with a presentation by Timothy Ridley, former senior partner of Maples and Calder and current member of the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission. Ridley explained how the Cayman Islands has developed into an international wealth structuring center of excellence and responded to the current challenges faced by all international financial centers.

Richard Wilson QC, a leading silk from barristers set Serle Court, with extensive experience in international trust litigation, including appearances before the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, gave an informed view on the importance of an effective and reliable court system when selecting a private wealth jurisdiction. Wilson confirmed that the quality and breadth of expertise of practitioners in the Cayman Islands, which he has personally observed whilst litigating in the Cayman courts, is very high and that the jurisdiction compares favourably to its competitors in this regard. His presentation was followed by that of John Riches, a consultant with the leading London-based private client team of RMW Law. He provided the audience with an in-depth analysis of global transparency issues and the balance to be struck in respect of an individual’s right to privacy when considering the requirements now imposed by FATCA and the OECD under CRS, as well as the beneficial ownership registers which are now being implemented.

The Forum then moved into a panel discussion format, comprising the above speakers with George Hodgson, the chief executive of STEP who is responsible for managing STEP’s relationship with major external stakeholders such as governments, regulators and international organizations, including the OECD and the FATF. The panel was completed by Richard Hay, the head of Stikeman Elliott’s London-based private client group and counsel to the IFC Forum, who is a well-known speaker at international financial services seminars.

The panel was moderated by the well-known British television political commentator and journalist Andrew Neil. He took the opportunity to probe into the validity of perception of the Cayman Islands held by some members of the public, which he referred to as the “John Grisham effect.” All of the panelists were able to highlight the difference between this perception and the practical reality of their professional interaction with the jurisdiction. Members of the panel noted that the Cayman Islands could be considered a victim of its own success: arguably, had it not risen to become such a prominent international financial center, this perception would not have arisen in the first case or continued for such a prolonged period of time. The panel noted that although there is the continual tabloid reputation, professionals who use the Cayman Islands know and appreciate the compliant environment in place in the Cayman Islands, coupled with the expansive expertise of the professionals based in the jurisdiction.

What became clear from the discussions held during the Forum was the extent of the work which has been undertaken within the Cayman Islands to create a compliant and effective jurisdiction in which to establish wealth planning structures.

The Forum follows on from similar successful events held by STEP Cayman in previous years both in London and in New York. In addition to providing an opportunity for the promotion and marketing of the jurisdiction generally, the Forum allowed those Cayman Islands practitioners present to engage in discussions directly with their international counterparts about the issues surrounding trusts and wealth management globally. By growing these relationships and educating the audience about the ongoing evolution of the wealth management industry, STEP Cayman continues to play a key role in fostering a positive global perspective of the Cayman Islands.