Cayman 21st in global index

The Cayman Islands has moved up four places to 21st position in an index comparing its competitiveness with other financial centres worldwide.

The City of London’s September 2008 Global Financial Centres Index ranks 59 major financial centres in terms of competitiveness, based on assessments by financial services professionals and instrumental factors including objective evidence of competitiveness.

Mark Yeandle, who created and published the GFCI, described Cayman’s 21st place ranking as ‘a very strong position’.

London was in top position, followed by New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Zurich, Geneva, Tokyo, Chicago, Frankfurt and Sydney, in that order.

Cayman is ranked ahead of Washington DC, Dubai, Amsterdam, and British Virgin Islands.

Among the factors that dictate the success of a financial centre’s competitiveness is how it brands and markets itself, said Mr. Yeandle at a luncheon presentation hosted by the Cayman Islands Financial Service Association on Monday.

He told the assembled guests from Cayman’s financial services industry that while Cayman’s brand as a successful and reputable financial centre was in good shape, ‘getting the message across affects people’s perception and that’s absolutely fundamental’.

While Cayman is regularly ranked as the fifth largest financial centre in the world, the CFCI index supplies a predictive model of a centre’s competitiveness.

When asked to assess only the centres with which they were familiar, Mr. Yeandle said respondents posted far more assessments on the Cayman Islands than any other centre – 440 compared to the next nearest, Jersey, which was assessed 383 times.

He said this meant that those who had done business with Cayman or come to the islands had liked what they had seen and rated it highly. ‘A lot of things are clearly right here,’ he said.

The factor to which respondents referred most was the business environment, with niche centres such as Cayman, Jersey and Guernsey scoring well in the index partly due to their low or neutral tax environments, Mr. Yeandle.

When it comes to stability, Cayman proved to be middle of the road because its performance in a variety of areas remained consistent.

When assessing a financial centre, one of the biggest factors taken into account by respondents to the survey was people, Mr. Yeandle told the luncheon gathering at the Ritz Carlton.

He said that some respondents had raised concerns about the difficulty in employing people from overseas to work in Cayman and to keep them here.

A mini index of responses showed that New York was a fan of the Cayman Islands when it comes to competitiveness and performance, and respondents from the Big Apple ranked Cayman higher than anyone else. Other offshore centres also ranked Cayman highly.

Responses from financial sector professionals in Cayman were low, Mr. Yeandle said, and he urged a large participation in the next index, which is due to be released in March next year.

Some of the positive comments received in the survey regarding Cayman included: ‘Being in the asset management industry, the Caymans and Zurich are extremely competitive for me,’ and ‘The Cayman Islands – very user friendly – open for business attitude.’

Other comments read: ‘The Caymans – genuinely keen to encourage business. Good tax environment and ‘All the main players in financial services and supporting professional services are now well represented in the Caymans.’

Asked how Cayman could better market or brand itself as a financial centre, Mr. Yeandle said he hoped to be able to address that later this week following a series of meetings and workshops with industry members.

One example of how a centre’s reputation and branding can affect business was given when a member of the audience asked if Mr. Yeandle had any views on why some clients were opting for Zurich rather than Cayman.

Mr. Yeandle said Zurich had a reputation for being particularly good at looking after clients’ personal details and ensuring anonymity. ‘Whilst there are no examples of personal data escaping from here, Switzerland does have a reputation for being particularly good at this,’ he said.

Managing local and international perceptions of Cayman as an offshore financial centre is one of the major roles of CIFSA.

CIFSA chairman Eduardo Silva said the association had to act as ‘a strong and central voice to the work on behalf our industry in refuting the false and inflammatory allegations that are so recklessly thrown in our direction.’