Offshore firms sails into uncharted City Waters

Cayman Islands practice Maples & Calder is establishing an office in the City in a highly unusual move for an offshore firm.

The practice will operate as Maples & Calder Europe and will be headed by Anthony Travers, one of the senior partners at the Cayman Islands firm. He will be assisted by three associate lawyers.

Travers said that although firms from other tax havens such as Hong Kong and the Channel Islands have established offices in London, it was the first time a practice from the Caymans, Bermuda, the Bahamas or the British Virgin Islands had done so.

Maples & Calder Europe will operate as a separate firm from the Cayman Island parent for tax purposes. It will open in September and practise exclusively Cayman Islands law.

Travers said his company was setting up in London so it would be closer to its European clients.

“By setting up an office in London we will be able to easily meet and talk to our European clients,” he said.

“This has been a problem in the past because of the time zone difference. A London office will inevitably improve client service.”

Maples & Calder set up an office in Hong Kong for similar reasons two years ago. “We now have Asia, Europe and America covered for our clients,” said Travers.

The firm's clients are almost exclusively large law firms representing big institutions in the Caymans. Travers said these included many top law firms in London and the US.

He also said that his firm hoped to change the opinion held by many UK firms of the Cayman Islands.

He claimed that, contrary to opinion, the Caymans' legal system was “heavily-regulated”, but “poor and inaccurate” press coverage failed to recognise this.

“A good deal of offshore legal business from the UK goes to the more highly thought of Channel Islands or Isle of Man because of the Cayman Islands' poor reputation,” said Travers “We aim to set the record straight.”

But Ian Boxall, senior partner at Ian Boxall & Co – Maples & Calder's Cayman Islands rivals – expressed surprise at the firm's move to London.

While conceding that the move was unique for a Cayman Island's firm, he said that he could not see why it was necessary. “With modern communications being as advanced as they are it is much cheaper and easier to stay put,” he said.