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In January 2018, IFAC released a new publication, Focusing on Performance, which is designed to raise awareness of the importance among PAOs of good corporate governance practices and principles. This new blog series features stories from professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) across the globe as they reflect upon and highlight the importance of adapting governance arrangements to drive performance while considering their current and past governance arrangements.

Although CIIPA was first established in 1970 by a small group of early pioneers in the public accounting field, CIIPA’s evolution truly ramped up in 2013 when it progressed to an IFAC Full Member after its initial admission as an Associate. With this achievement, CIIPA‘s Council shifted gears to focus on regulatory and operating environment initiatives. It became apparent that CIIPA needed to further build its capacity in order meet its public interest mandate and that a greater balance was needed between Council’s responsibilities and those of the institute’s staff. To reach this balance there were essential staff management positions that would need filling to ensure that the institute continued to be relevant to both members and stakeholders.

Balancing Responsibilities to Achieve Performance

For these reasons, in 2014, the institute moved forward with the search of its first CEO. After a lengthy recruiting process, I was thrilled to have been appointed the first CEO of CIIPA. Together, the Council and I developed the organization’s vision, the overarching goal of “Establishing Our Position”, and five key strategic objectives. Empowered by the immediate and constant support of the Council to forge ahead, I began working on execution strategies, and building capacity within the office—driving the vehicle that Council worked to create.

First and foremost, I was able to fill those ‘key staff’ positions such as Head of Operations and Communications; and a Member and Events Liaison Officer. The support and ideas of the new staff helped steer CIIPA into the fast lane and secure our relevance within the national, regional, and global levels of the accountancy profession by being more people- and performance-focused in a new regulatory environment.

In 2016, a new Accountants Law was passed which helped attend to conformance issues—such as licensing and registration requirements and the establishment of quality assurance and investigative and disciplinary systems—and strengthened CIIPA’s position as a regulator of the profession. While legislative support is essential, staff and Council also recognized the need to focus on the tangible benefits and opportunities created by the accountancy profession. Shortly after the passage of the new law, CIIPA’s communications team launched the “We’re Here” campaign which highlighted individual success and impact stories of Caymanians who are employed in the profession. The campaign allowed CIIPA to communicate the legislative changes in a positive manner by illustrating that qualifications not only create opportunities with large audit firms, but also in areas such as human resources and marketing and could be relevant and impactful to society as a whole.

The hiring of the additional staff also enabled the institute to establish and support several committees whose volunteers add further value, manpower, expertise, and champion the institute’s strategic objectives. For example, a new Public Sector Committee has been created that consists of members in the private sector and representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Financial Services, and the Auditor General’s office. The committee works to address training needs and provide a platform for international consultations relating to public sector.  An International Relations committee was also started in order to forge closer ties with other international bodies.

These changes are but a few of the initiatives that have been achieved through a cultivated and communicative partnership between the CEO, the office, and Council over the past four years. The partnership is based on a trust and mutual understanding of the institute’s purpose. The Council brings its expertise in the industry, while the management team provides leadership and guidance to execute the strategy. There is confidence that the institute is being well-managed by a strong, strategic leader supported by a capable and efficient team.

Looking Forward

CIIPA plans to further build capacity and its ability to serve members and stakeholders. This includes reviewing the strategic plan and utilizing the Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants’ (CAPA) Maturity Model to self-asses and identify opportunities for development and improvement. In order for the institute to remain relevant, CIIPA must meet member needs while continuing to fulfill its obligations at the jurisdictional, regional, and international levels. In order to achieve this, the right governance arrangements must be in place: the institute must be agile, the CEO and employees empowered to execute, and its Council members strategically engaged. With this right combination, CIIPA will keep driving onward and upward. 

Have more questions? Is your organization at a similar growth stage and seeks further guidance on balancing Board and executive management responsibilities? Please comment below, contact the author, and/or explore in more detail the good governance principles and practices in IFAC’s new publication!

Does your PAO have experience driving corporate governance reforms to enhance performance? Let those at IFAC know—we would love to showcase your work in action!

Sheree Ebanks

Sheree Ebanks has been a member of the IFAC PAO Development & Advisory Group since January 2020, a nomination she received from the Cayman Islands Institute of Professional Accountants (CIIPA).

As the CEO of CIIPA, Mrs. Ebanks brings over 40 years of experience in banking, wealth management, and governance. Her expertise has been pivotal in advancing the accounting profession and the financial services sector in the Cayman Islands. With a strong understanding of the industry's opportunities and challenges, she is committed to promoting high standards of ethics, education, and excellence among accountants while fostering collaboration and innovation among stakeholders.

In addition to her role at CIIPA, Mrs. Ebanks serves as the Chairperson of the Caribbean Utilities Company and the Public Service Pensions Board. She is also a Board Member and Audit Committee Chair of the Royal Bank of Canada (Cayman).

Mrs. Ebanks’s previous experience includes a notable career with one of Cayman's largest banks, where she was the director and Head of Wealth Management. In this role, she oversaw trust and fiduciary services, asset management, and fund administration, contributing significantly to strategy and profitability. She retired from the bank in 2013 after 33 years of service.

Mrs. Ebanks's academic credentials include an MBA from the University of Liverpool and an Accredited Director designation from the Chartered Governance Institute of Canada. She is also a certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMLS). In 2022, she was awarded with the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour in recognition of her substantial contributions to the financial services sector.