May 6, 2021

CEC: “We initially thought we would close companies in three months”

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CECIMG_1430 1Part 4

This is the concluding part of the interview I had last month with Charlie Kirkconnell, Chief Executive Officer, and Hilary McKenzie-Cahill, Vice President of Marketing at Cayman Enterprise City (CEC).

Hilary McKenzie-Cahill took over most of the final few minutes of the interview as it involved her main area of expertise – marketing.

She said CEC used two different marketing plans, one outbound and the other inbound. The outbound was global and their target was 55% whilst inbound was North America and 45%. They had six different websites each geared to attract different markets and industries.

CEC would visit targeted areas and Silicone Valley in San Francisco, New York and London was mentioned. These visits would be coordinated with local law firms such as Walkers and Harneys who would do presentations alongside Charlie Kirkconnell and/or a CEC business manager. They would try to sell Cayman as a jurisdiction for positive business with attractive benefits jointly.

Initially, Dubai was the main thrust but that did not work so Chicago, Cambridge and Harvard along with Silicone Valley became the bulls’ eyes. The East Coast of the USA was considered preferable to the West because Cayman was easier to reach with fewer plane changes. They had also found the East Coast States were more open to Cayman and not so negative as the West from the tax haven labeling and movie portrayals as Cayman being a haven for white collar crooks. Cayman Islands Department of Tourism also has an office in the East Coast – New York.

CEC also sponsors a number of conventions and they have just sponsored the PDAC Conference (The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada) in Toronto. Sponsoring events like PDAC generates interest, Hilary said.

At the moment CEC has 250 potential clients for the Special Economic Zone in the pipeline, but it takes time to finalise a deal.

“We initially thought we would close companies in three months,” Hilary said but in reality it is a huge decision for a company to make and this especially applies to large companies.

Even when you have reached out to a vice president of a large company, it can take at least another six months before you reach up to the real decision maker. If that person likes the idea then and only then will it escalate.

With the larger companies they have to worry about their senior staff relocating to a foreign destination. If this staff have children, that is another problem – education for instance is a major concern for them.

“It is difficult,” Hilary explained, “and it takes time. On an average it is only 25% who finally say ‘yes’.”

CEC does have a high client satisfaction rate within the companies operating in the Zone.

“Obviously,” Hilary admitted, “there are periodic complaints but no one has said it wasn’t what we thought it would be. Our clients have often commented they have been surprised just how sophisticated it is here in Cayman, especially regarding schools, healthcare and restaurants. Most thought they were coming to a third world country.”

CEC wants to sign up at least ten clients a month. In the original business plan it showed 40-60 companies a month and that soon turned out to be unrealistic.

Charlie said, “We are making good progress. We had a great year in 2013 with 69 new companies. Our goal is 120 -150 companies signed up at the end of 2014. We have set realistic targets and we will aggressively go after them.  Aggressive, but not unrealistic.  We may not reach them but we will work like hell to get there!”

Hilary proudly said that CEC is 100% Caymanian owned and Charlie said it is gratifying to see how CEC has grown.

His final words were a message to Cayman:

“I would like to communicate and let you the public know how committed the owners and the managers are to this project in making it a success; because it is our home and it’s our children’s future and your children’s future.”

He left out one word that sums up both Charlie and Hilary – “Passion”.

They are passionate about CEC. If I was a betting man, I would place my money on them succeeding in their goal of signing up 150 additional companies at the end of this year. It might even be more.

 

 

 

 

 

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