An in-depth look at the ICF Forum

Grant Stein, global managing partner with Walkers speaks exclusively with The Journal.

Please give us some background as to the establishment of the IFC Forum – who was involved and how the format came about.

The concept for the International Financial Centres Forum arose from the growing view that greater cooperation between offshore jurisdictions would allow for a more coordinated response to the fictitious political rhetoric aimed at offshore financial centres. 
Following my initial discussions in early 2009 with several of the major offshore law firms it was concluded that by collectively forming the IFCF we would be able to better contribute to the global debate on IFCs. By showcasing the vast body of authoritative academic work on the subject and making key resources publicly available, the aim is to ensure that policy makers fully understand the positive contribution that IFCs make to the global economy and the potential consequences of restricting their activities.
The IFCF was officially launched in December by its founding members which include: Appleby, Conyers Dill & Pearman, Mourant, Ogier and Walkers, advised by Stikeman Elliot.

Why was it deemed necessary to establish such a forum?
While individual offshore financial centres have traditionally regarded each other as competitors and the principal centres have moved towards their own areas of specialisation, their interests are now clearly aligned at a higher level. In addition, we are seeing in our practice an increase in more complex, multi-jurisdictional transactions. This trend helped spur the development of the Forum as a way to promote more communication between IFCs.
By bringing together the industry’s key players and thought leaders into a forum, we can make a more meaningful contribution to the public debate as well as commission research and correct the many misconceptions surrounding the activities of IFCs.

How is it intended that the Forum will benefit jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands?

By bringing financial centres together to speak with one voice through the IFCF, benefits will accrue to all our jurisdictions, not least because working together helps to ensure that all market participants see and understand the benefits that IFCs bring to the global economy. We believe that any chance to help educate regulators, business leaders, and consumers about complicated financial issues helps everyone – onshore and offshore.
By virtue of their ‘White Listing’, the Cayman Islands – the British Virgin Islands and Jersey, where Walkers also practices –, are already recognised by the OECD as high quality jurisdictions for international cross border financial transactions and investment funds. The OECD’s Peer Review process and further regulatory changes will continue to put IFCs in the spotlight, so it is important for the Cayman Islands that international policy makers fully understand the pivotal role that IFCs play as conduits for global capital flows.

What will be the initial main focus for the Forum? And moving forward?
The primary focus for the Forum is to provide the facts about the important, positive role of IFCs in the global economy and create a central resource for balanced and authoritative information.  We also want to be sure that implications of any proposed regulations are clearly understood before actions are taken. Moving forward, the IFC Forum will commission research from leading academics on key issues such as transparency and information exchange and the contribution that IFCs make to both developing nations and G-7 countries.

From whom will the website be sourcing its articles? And how frequently will they be updated?
A rich body of work from world renowned academics and economists currently exists covering issues connected with IFCs which we have drawn from to populate the website with information. New research is being published all the time from which we will look to update the website.

Who is the Forum’s target audience and how will the Forum be marketed so that it has a broad reach?
Our audience is anyone who cares about the global economy. That includes international policymakers, business leaders, investors, the media, and students. The members of the Forum are working together with other groups to maximize the exposure for the information.

Anything else you may wish to add.
Offshore financial centres play a vital economic role in the global economy through enhancing the liquidity in international financial markets and offering neutral jurisdictions for investors that simplify the challenges of doing business with participants from multiple countries. Many companies – including major organisations such as aircraft manufacturers – would not be able to run their businesses if they could not employ IFCs. What’s more, the economic recovery has been aided by transactions that happened in these centres. It is important that these centres are able to continue to support global commerce and that they are recognised for the positive contributions that they make.


Grant Stein