Clearly, the hot topic right now in the Cayman Islands business community is the U.K. government forcing its overseas territories, Cayman included, to provide a public registry of beneficial ownership by 2020. I believe that Great Britain has behaved very poorly in this regard because it has chosen not to include its Crown Dependencies, i.e., Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, in this change of legislation, which shows the agenda is disingenuous and is a redirection of business, effectively doing little more than to cast aspersions on offshore jurisdictions.

Harmful to the economy

The Cayman Islands derives much of its revenue from being a tax neutral environment and generates sufficient revenue to be pretty much self-sufficient financially, without the need for financial support from Britain. Impacting Cayman’s financial services industry in this way will surely be to its detriment and will almost certainly damage this important pillar of Cayman’s overall economy.

As far as its impact on Cayman’s local real estate industry is concerned, I believe ultimately that there are a number of reasons why people use companies to hold assets for completely legitimate reasons, including privacy, as a lot of people do not necessarily want others knowing what they own, and also protection from liability. I believe that this is a fundamentally important aspect for investors in Cayman and without it the result will be that people realize that if their property ownership is not kept private then there really is no point in having a company in Cayman at all other than for protection against liability.

I believe that if investors can get over the above issue and accept the fact that their beneficial ownership is being made public, then they will still go forward with their property transactions and the effect will be minimal. But I see a secondary and more impacting effect of the U.K. legislation. If the financial services industry as a whole is impacted detrimentally then there will be a knock-on effect on the real estate industry. The financial services industry and property ownership go hand in hand in my opinion – either people who own property here then use our financial services industry, or people come here for our financial services industry and then end up purchasing property.

But the overall knock-on effect will reach further than just our financial services industry; I believe it will spread to all our industries, with local buying power in general being affected by this U.K. legislation. Local residents have invested heavily in their properties over the past 15 to 20 years, whether those properties at worth $200,000 or $5 million and the industry has been particularly buoyant in recent years, but taking away important business will no doubt impact local home owners.

No reason for change

The Cayman Islands has led the charge when it comes to allowing access to our beneficial ownership information, having introduced a centralized register last year. If a country or regulatory authority has issues with a particular beneficial owner then they have the mechanics to find the owners using qualified legal channels, the results of which will be provided to them within a speedy time frame. While this register is not open to the public it allows for the access needed to deal with problems and at the same time prevents fishing expeditions.

In my opinion, this legislation does nothing to prevent fraud and just mimics the U.S. with FATCA and other KYC legislation whereby criminals can still open bank accounts in the U.S. and also the U.K. with ease. I also fail to see why it is that everyone seems to need to know everyone else’s business. Cayman’s current regulatory framework more than adequately allows for the investigation of problems while balancing the legitimate rights of people seeking privacy and protection when it comes to their investments.

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James Bovell
James has been a part of the real estate industry in the Cayman Islands since 1991. Born in the Caribbean and educated in the UK, he has achieved great success in listing and selling many of Cayman’s choice homes, waterfront condominiums and developments, land parcels and investment opportunities.  James has received many of RE/MAX International’s awards including The Circle of Legends, (the highest career achievement within the RE/MAX international network with fewer than 200 inductees to date).
James Bovell
Broker/OwnerRE/ MAX Cayman Islands
PO Box 30189 Grand Cayman
KY1-1201 Cayman Islands
T: +1 (345) 945 4000 E: [email protected] W: www.bovell.ky 

RE/MAX

RE/MAX, which stands for 'real estate maximums', was founded in the 1970's by Dave & Gail Liniger in the United States of America. They developed a unique franchise system that allows real estate agents to maximise their potential by having the security of a franchise and at the same time having the individual freedom to run their own business. Today the RE/MAX network comprises over 6,000 offices with around 90,000 associates in 85 countries.

RE/MAX Cayman Islands is such an independently owned and operated office within the real estate network of RE/MAX International and RE/MAX Caribbean/Central America. The office at 7 Mile Shops on West Bay Road unites 21 real estate professionals and 9 administrative staff under one roof. All our associates and administrative staff are highly experienced and constantly expand their knowledge with ongoing training. Within the office, our associates use the synergy potential. Not only synergies within the office are important but we also work closely with RE/MAX offices all over the world as part of our international referral system.

Locally and internationally we are dedicated to maintain a high degree of visibility which will benefit our highly valued customers and clients as well as our Sales Associates. A comprehensive marketing strategy across all media including print and internet ensure our consistent exposure.

We are well established in the Cayman Islands real estate market as a strong office, capable of producing outstanding results. Referrals from satisfied buyers and sellers are a proof of it as well as the many awards the office has received. 

Physical address:
Seven Mile Shops
215B West Bay Road
Grand Cayman

Mailing address:
PO Box 30189
Grand Cayman KY1-1201
Cayman Islands

www.dreamfinders.com