One of the most remarkable aspects of Grand Cayman’s experiences
with Hurricane Ivan was how quickly businesses and particularly those
in the financial services industry were back up and running.
Less than five days after Ivan’s tropical storm winds subsided,
Cayman’s commercial banks were open, as were many of its law firms,
insurance companies, accounting firms and fund administration
companies. As impressive as the feat was, many of the businesses were
opening under less than ideal conditions. Ownership and upper
management learned many lessons as a result.
Over the past five years, most of Cayman’s financial services companies
have put in place measures to help deal with another Ivan-like storm,
if it were to occur again.
Some of the changes have to do with personnel safety, while others deal
with matters like business continuity, data storage and asset
PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, has created a Contingency
Committee since Ivan to deal with all types of potential threats, said
Director Audit and Assurance Services Jaslyne Bridges.
“Each June we offer a preparedness session for all staff, which is
well attended since we often have so many new staff who are not
familiar with hurricanes.”
Bridges said only about a quarter of PwC’s staff was living in the Cayman Islands when Hurricane Ivan hit.
Like several of the bigger firms, PwC staff members can take part in a
plan that arranges for a charter evacuation flight when there’s a
hurricane approaching Grand Cayman.
The Dart Group have also established some new personnel safety
procedures since Hurricane Ivan, said Communications Manager Lynn
Dart hired Derek Haines as a senior manager responsible for health,
safety, environment and security, which includes critical incident
“Derek has produced a comprehensive hurricane response plan for the
company that is regularly updated and refined and he has also produced
a handbook for employees,” Smith-Moore said. “All employees are briefed
on the plans and encouraged to have a personal plan for themselves and
In the years immediately following Hurricane Ivan, the Dart Group had a pre-storm evacuation plan, but it no longer does.
“Pre-storm evacuation… is not now a consideration as the buildings at
Camana Bay are on a raised elevation and are hurricane rated,” said
Smith-Moore. “Also, the southern multi-storey car park can easily be
converted into a hurricane refuge and is fitted with hurricane screens
and emergency toilets and showers.
“The refuge is available to all Dart employees, tenants, residents and their close relatives.”
In addition, some 40 Dart employees have completed first aid training.
Another large firm that offers employees shelter during a storm is Appleby, said Managing Partner Huw Moses.
“As a result of significant physical improvements made to our buildings
since Ivan, we offer a safe shelter for those who might otherwise feel
vulnerable,” he said. “When [Hurricanes] Dean and Paloma approached, we
sheltered close to 100 staff, their family and friends, plus a large
contingent of animals.”
Moses said Appleby has also introduced protocols to try and ensure it
can account for all of its staff members after a storm has passed and
to assist them with any special needs.
Scotiabank & Trust (Cayman) Ltd. Managing Director Freddy Sulliman
said a lot of the bank’s policies for personnel safety were already in
place for Hurricane Ivan, but the storm has had an effect on people.
“Ivan has created a greater sense of awareness among all staff and the
meetings at the beginning of the Hurricane season serve to ensure a
pro-active approach to managing the process,” he said.
After Hurricane Ivan, many of Cayman’s businesses realised how critical
it was to get their operations running again as quickly as possible.
Sulliman said the commercial banks were some of the first businesses to reopen after Ivan.
“We saw it as necessary and urgent to get funds into the hands of our customers for emergency uses,” he said.
Despite that success, Scotiabank recognised ways of improving.
“The business continuity plan has been changed post-Ivan,” said
Sulliman. “The plan is now available on an Intranet website allowing us
to update or change it quickly and provide for staff – local and head
office – to easily obtain emergency contact information.”
Scotiabank’s business continuity plan now assigns specific tasks to specific job descriptions, with back-ups, said Sulliman.
“The plan also now incorporates [LIME’s] call diversion option as well,” he said.
Moses said Appleby has constantly revised its business continuity plan over the past five years, leading to some changes.
“Most of our fee earners and management team now use laptops and
docking stations rather than regular PCs,” he said. “This gives them
access to our systems via encryption technology from anywhere in the
Moses said Appleby’s offices in other jurisdictions are now geared up
to receive Cayman staff members should it become necessary after a
hurricane or other disaster.
“We have also taken out business continuity insurance to ensure that in
the event that the office has to actually close, we have economic
In addition, Appleby has invested in satellite telephones to ensure communications after a disaster.
At PwC, the business continuity plan calls for some staff to
pre-evacuate to one of the company’s offices in another jurisdiction,
said Ms Bridges.
“Most staff will remain on island, with core staff being equipped to work remotely from any location if necessary,” she said.
Sulliman said that electronic data is stored offsite so it is not much
of an issue with Scotiabank, but improvements have been made in data
“Ivan… emphasised the importance to have a hot site with updated
back-up site agreements, and a solid data retrieval plan,” he said.
Scotiabank also now has new warehouse facilities that provide
off-the-ground storage for physical records to prevent flood damage,
The Appleby global group has expanded over the last five years, and it
has invested heavily in global infrastructure and communication
systems, Moses said.
“One such investment has been in our MLS network that enables us to
back up all critical data in almost real time to our central data
storage centre in Jersey,” he said. “We also have the ability to back
up data between our two buildings, giving us some on-site recovery
capacity in the event of significant damage to only one of our
Moses said Appleby, like most businesses, was relatively unprepared for what happened as a result of Hurricane Ivan.
“We had a building that was not [Category 5 hurricane] rated with
regular windows and no shutters,” he said. “We had one 5K household
generator and a few large fans and lights and no dedicated hurricane
That has all changed.
“Now we have Category 5-ready buildings with hurricane-rated windows,”
he said. “We have two standby generators, one capable of supplying
power to both buildings for a week, and one smaller generator that now
operates as an additional back up for our IT room, which has its own
independent environmental controls.”
Moses said Appleby now also has a back-up water supply, a large
storeroom full of dedicated disaster recovery supplies “and a team of
tried and tested professionals that can prepare the business and
operate a shelter”.
Moses said Appleby has enough standby water to enable the firm to
operate restrooms, a kitchen, showers and even a small laundry facility
in the event of disruption of the regular water supply.
Appleby has also invested in some items aimed specifically at physical asset protection, like flood bags, said Moses.
“Although physical assets are important we have insurance for our
contents and our focus tends to be more on our people as they are our
most important asset,” he said. “It sounds like a cliché, but for a law
firm, physical assets take second place to our human assets.”
The next hurricane
Smith-Moore said the Dart Group would be ready if another Ivan-like storm were to hit Grand Cayman.
“Dart is fully prepared for such an emergency and there is a strong
belief that recovery will be swift and the effects of such a storm less
taxing both on individuals and on property,” she said. “We have planned
well and the level of preparedness is high, both very important factors
to survival and recovery.”
Bridges at PwC said the firm takes the hurricane season and every approaching storm very seriously.
“It unfortunately consumes a lot of time and resources, but better to be prepared than sorry.”
Bridges also believes Grand Cayman could rebound more quickly in the event of another hurricane.
“I think the Island in general is better prepared, she said. “We are
equipped to work remotely – whether from homes or off island if
necessary – but we are dependant like everyone else on essential
services like electricity and water for the comfort of our staff.
“Ultimately we will all rely on the preparedness of our fellow service
providers to keep the economy active after such an event.”
Moses said he believes that those who went through Ivan will always
have a sense of apprehension when they see Cayman in the path of an
“Certainly the atmosphere as Dean and Paloma approached was tense, but
there was also a feeling that we were better prepared for what could
happen than ever before both on a national and firm basis,” he said.
“[At the time of Ivan] we did not know what to expect; now we do. It
makes all the difference.”