The Cayman Brand

| 04/09/2009

Our recently published “Bankruptcy” and a subsequent proposal for property taxes put the integrity of the Cayman Brand in jeopardy. Fortunately our LoGB has now come out with a definitive “No Property or Income Tax” statement.

But the fact that it was considered, however briefly, indicates that under stress our leaders behave erratically. Anyone thinking to domicile wealth here will take this into consideration. Ironically offshore entities already have tax defensive structures in place and we never see that money. The money that we do see is primarily invested in real estate and second homes. So we threaten the only offshore investment that directly benefits us with this resent proposal for property tax. Additionally since government business is not managed prudently the threat of taxation could very well reappear in the future. Branding is all about whom we trust and whom we don’t.

Cayman’s brand was built on integrity: A guarantee of privacy, freedom from taxation and the strict enforcement of the rule of law. We touted our connection to a protective mother England and our stubborn resilience to foreign influence. The Cayman Islands had an enviable reputation as a smart, tough and safe country that provided good stewardship of the assets of its stakeholders, both local and offshore. Our message was simple: Honest, law-abiding individuals and business would find a safe home for theirwealth both tangible and intangible in the Cayman Islands. Cayman demonstrated its integrity and the financial world, trusting us, flocked to our Island and we prospered.

Retaining integrity is a constant battle of building trust. Brand owners must believe in the value of their product, constantly protect it, grow it and manage it for the future. As a brand matures it defines itself and becomes something magical, a force bigger than anyone would have imagined. Its owners and band managers have to constantly find ways to reinforce the truth and principles that underline the integrity of the brand.

Positive customer experience becomes trust and then expectation. Fulfilling expectations is a full time job. Fortunately, satisfied customers become passionate evangelists, spreading the word to their friends and business acquaintances. The profit from owning a world-class brand is huge. Brand management is not about advertising and marketing campaigns; it’s about creating evangelistic clients who promote the brand for free.

Now we need to ask ourselves how are we doing on the integrity side of our brand management responsibility. Are we believers in our own brand? Or was it all a lie? Have we proven to be good stewards of a world-class brand that took so long to build or are we about to tell our friends and clients that our promises of no tax on the wealth that they placed in our care is inconvenient when we overspend. That their tangible wealth, land and homes that can’t be move quickly to our OFC competitors will be our first breach of trust, but we promise that it won’t happen again and that their other form of their wealth are sacrosanct. So trust us, we are the Cayman Islands.

Like a folded corner on a page in a book, you can smooth it out later, but the crease will always remain and mistrust is the most damaging crease of all. Our reputation for good fiscal management and integrity is on the line and the loss of our brand is at stake.

Raw steel repetitively hammered and forged in red-hot coals eventually become tougher, stronger and with careful polishing sharper. This is our chance to prove to the world that out of adversity will emerge a stronger Cayman. We will be forgiven for being over extended and making tough choices in hard times but integrity is about keeping promises, especially when the going gets tough.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    An excellent piece Mr. Smith.

    It is an unfortunate truth that our leaders (and not just the current ones) have been prone to adopt the "Fire Ready Aim" approach for a number of years now – it was just not as obvious given that the course of the economy was consitently upward. The principal hope that Cayman has at the moment is that new handlers/advisors/consultants can be found for the LOGB to replace whoever it was that wrote Minister Bush’s speaking notes and put into motion the ill-fated meeting at the Ritz. I gather that the current ones are being a fortune, with no apparent value for money.