Since its inception, the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants had been run by volunteers. In March, the largest professional organization in Cayman appointed a chief executive officer for the first time. The Journal talked to CEO Sheree Ebanks about her role and objectives.
It is no surprise that an organization as large as the Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants would employ a chief executive officer. With nearly 1,000 members and about 70 licensed practitioners, CISPA is playing a growing role in regulating the profession, monitoring the quality of accounting practices and promoting the professional both locally and internationally.
CISPA not only has regulatory responsibilities in the Cayman Islands around the accounting and auditing services, it also is a full member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), which carries a number of responsibilities in terms of meeting member obligations and reporting, says Ebanks.
“CISPA has evolved into being much more than the social membership club of 40 years ago. It involves a great deal of work that now needs a full time office as it became increasingly difficult for council members and volunteers to continue to find time to deal with legal, regulatory and membership matters,” she says.
The role of the CEO is to operate a professional body in coordination with the council, ensuring that the profession complies with the relevant laws and regulations not only in the Cayman Islands, but also globally, and maintains a code of ethics as set out internationally through organizations such as IFAC.
In addition, the chief executive has to develop relationships and partnerships with other like-minded organizations such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACCA, AICPA, ICAS and others.
Ebanks’s immediate objectives are to start work on CISPA’s Strategic Plan for the next three to five years and build from that an operational plan.
Member communication is another focus.
“Our members are very important to us, so we will be endeavoring to engage with them through communications and networking opportunities. In addition, we will work on continuing to build on our excellent relationships with our international partners, as well as work with our own regulators and other associations,” Ebanks says.
In the long term, it is CISPA’s vision to be recognized as a valued leader in the Cayman Islands by ensuring the credibility and sustainability of organizations, financial services and the economy, she adds. To achieve this objective, the organization will pursue a multi-pronged approach through its role as regulator, through partnerships with local and international organizations and through member development and support.
“We will continue to play an important role not only in the development of the accounting sector in the Cayman Islands, but we will play a key part in supporting the financial services sector through collaboration with CIMA, the Auditors Oversight Authority (AOA), the Cayman Islands government and a host of other local and international bodies,” she says.
“We will also work to enhance our membership proposition and continue to evolve into an inclusive and progressive accounting and leadership society.”
The main challenge that CISPA will face along the way, Ebanks believes, is the rapidly changing environment in terms of the global economy.
“CISPA has to be seen as a dynamic global organization which works to ensure the credibility and stability of the profession in the Cayman Islands, specifically, while also working to safeguard legislation which remains relevant and proportionate.”
In this context, the dialogue and cooperation with partner organizations such as Cayman Finance is important, but Ebanks advocates that CISPA should also find its own distinct voice in the Cayman Islands financial services industry.
“I certainly look forward to working hand in hand with Cayman Finance in ongoing participation in groups such as FATCA, AIFMD and commentary on consultations whether it be from the private or public sector. However, CISPA does have a need to continue, with ongoing development, our own dialogue with CIMA, AOA and government on matters that are specific to CISPA and the accounting profession,” she says.
This means that CISPA must be an active and engaged participant in the conversation around the Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction and in the accounting profession. As such, the organization “has huge potential to really drive the discussion on the sustainability of the financial services sector in Cayman.”
“We aim to create leadership that is inclusive, and that we keep pace with what is happening both globally and locally. We will look to provide thought leadership through contributions to relevant media outlets, events and conferences.”