Region Focus - Cayman Islands
In the Region Focus series of articles we focus on different regions of the world and provide tips for auditors thinking about working in these areas. If you have a particular region you would like us to investigate, please let us know here.
We have so far covered Russia, Greece, France, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Spain and Australia. If you would like to know more about working in these regions, please see the appropriate articles.
Region Focus - Cayman Islands
It is usually the lure of a tax-free salary that leads most people to consider opportunities in the self-governing British territory of the Cayman Islands. Compensation packages range from about US$65,000 to around US$75,000 for newly qualified accountants, US$90,000 for Audit Managers and US$120,000 plus for Actuaries. Salary levels aside, there are plenty of other reasons to move to the Cayman Islands. The finance community is lively and extremely international, with expatriates making up nearly half of the island’s population of 45,000.
As employment contracts usually last only 2 years, the community is continuously renewed and replenished. Additionally, the majority of those who make the move experience a better quality of life than they do elsewhere. Whilst you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the island isn’t hard working, there are plenty of opportunities to explore life outside work. Commuting distances are small, which means more time for other activities, most of which revolve around sport.
You may be surprised to learn the Cayman Islands is actually the world’s fifth largest financial centre, and as such, has an ongoing demand for accountants, actuaries, IT specialists and other finance professionals. Those with experience in financial services, fund accounting and banking will be welcomed with open arms, but it should also be stressed that employers regularly recruit qualified accountants with limited or indeed no previous relevant sector experience. Many of the larger companies provide extensive training and fill any gaps in the specialist offshore work environment.
As you would imagine, the ‘Big 4’ have a strong presence on the island, and in additional to seconding existing employees, they regularly recruit externally. Those who wish to find opportunities will be well served by any number of job boards that cover the region and there are also many recruiters on the island who will be able to provide you with additional assistance.
Contact with potential employers is handled primarily by phone and given the distances involved you should not be unnecessarily alarmed if you complete an interview process without having met your employer. Naturally, for more senior roles you should expect to fly there, but most would agree that it’s a highly enjoyable way of completing an interview.
However, whilst candidates find that the interview process moves quickly, the visa process does not. It can take as long as six months from first applying for a position to the first day of your new job, which needs to be considered when trying to time your application and any number of personal considerations. All job offers are conditional upon a work permit being issued by the Immigration authorities, although you will be pleased to hear that it is the employer’s responsibility to apply for the work permit. Providing the employer has followed the correct procedure, the visa is usually a formality.
However, just before you dash off to pack your snorkel and sun cream, there are a couple of potential pitfalls you need to consider. First, and hopefully without pressing an obvious point with too much vigour, you will be a long way from your home country. If the experience does not go according to plan it can be difficult to repatriate yourself. Whilst you may have an exceptional CV, most employers in the UK will exhaust all their domestic options before starting an interview process with someone in Cayman. Whilst the interviews you had to get the job in Cayman may have been handled over the phone, UK recruiters tend not to hire in such a way. You will be forced to return to the UK without a job or bear the expense of the flight.
Also, whilst the experience you gain in Cayman will provide a useful learning experience, it is not instantly applicable to other sectors and employers. Fund accounting experience may guarantee you a lifetime’s employment in Luxembourg, Jersey or any number of offshore centres, but it’s less useful if you’re planning your relocation to Newcastle or Cardiff.
As with everything, do as much research as you can before making the move. Take advice and tips from those who are there. Whilst there are a couple of risks involved in the move, these can be mitigated relatively easily and the experience of the vast majority who go there is positive.
Written by CareersinAudit.com and featured on AccountingWEB, August 2008.
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