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Chris Duggan, CAIS

Cayman Alternative Investment Summit: Davos for alternative fund managers

The fourth annual Cayman Alternative Investment Summit (CAIS), scheduled for 15-17 February in the Cayman Islands, will convene leading thinkers and decisions makers from across the industry as they explore this year’s theme, “Defying Gravity: The Future of Alternative Investments in Exceptional Times.” 

In a change of venue, CAIS 2017 will be held at the brand new, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, which is owned by Dart Enterprises, the host sponsor for CAIS. 

The Cayman Islands, with over 11,000 regulated funds, has long been a home for the alternative industry. So it’s no surprise that CAIS regularly draws some of the top speakers and leaders in the industry.

The 2016 event, “Alternative Investments: Supercharged”, was a huge success and explored how the industry could drive innovation and covered issues surrounding globalisation, regulation, and state-of-the-art business models.

Talking to Hedgeweek about next year’s theme, Chris Duggan, Director of CAIS and VP of Community Development, Dart Enterprises, says there are so many forces working against fund managers that in order “to successfully chart these turbulent waters one effectively needs to defy gravity to overcome them.” 

“Every year we like to have a novel theme which all of our speakers can centre around, and we thought defying gravity would be an appropriate theme for the 2017 event.”

In keeping with this, two confirmed special guests for CAIS 2017 are Captains Mark and Scott Kelly, retired US Navy Captains and much-vaunted NASA astronauts. The identical twins embarked with NASA last year on The Twins Study, a series of 10 investigations to study the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth, with Scott living on the International Space Station. 

“The idea is to further our knowledge of how to send someone to Mars. Can a human being sustain prolonged exposure in space?” says Duggan.

As part of that theme, CAIS formally announced the event by literally launching an invitation into space:

“The alternative industry is now at an inflection point. Its past success is certainly not enough to guarantee future growth and it needs purposive actions that raise the bar and take the industry to its next level of success. The purpose of CAIS is to do exactly that – to raise the bar. As the host sponsor, Dart Enterprises has a vision of a vibrant industry that meets the needs of millions of people across the globe engaged in retirement planning. We want to see an industry that delivers decent, consistent returns cost effectively, and that sits at the heart of the newly emerging asset allocation models,” says Duggan.

Unlike other conferences, CAIS keeps attendee numbers within the 500 to 600 range. Great emphasis is placed on striking the right balance of investors to managers to service providers, and also between industry-focused panel sessions and non-industry speakers. 

“We don’t want delegates to feel like it’s a sales pitch. We want there to be meaningful interaction, meaningful discussion, and meaningful takeaways to push for positive change in the industry,” says Duggan. “One leading industry professional has said that CAIS is quickly becoming ‘one of the premier events on alternative investments around the world’ which is exactly what we aim for CAIS to be.”

The following is an amuse bouche of confirmed speakers, with plenty more to be confirmed over the coming weeks:

  • Pippa Malmgren, Founder of DRPM Group and an American policy analyst
  • Nouriel Roubini, Co-Founder & Chairman of Roubini Global Economics
  • Mark Yusko, Founder, Chief Investment Officer & Chief Executive Officer of Morgan Creek Capital Management
  • Valerie Sill, President & CEO of DuPont Capital Management
  • Mark Okada, Co-Founder & Chief Investment Officer of Highland Capital Management

There is an inclusive, collegiate feel to CAIS (having attended CAIS 2016 in person); it is, without doubt, the perfect location to meet with industry peers and share ideas on how to shape the industry. 

One can think of CAIS as being to alternatives what Davos (World Economic Forum) is to economics. 

“Delegates like to hear different points of view from different professionals. Healthy debate is great for coming up with new industry solutions. We’ve got a strong line up of industry and non-industry speakers and overall we expect it to be an even stronger line up than CAIS 2016. 

He says that four big risks are stalking financial markets today: subpar growth in the global economy, the rate hike cycle in the US, credit explosion in China and Brexit.  

“Brexit and a possible hard landing in China have added yet more layers of uncertainty for investors, who are braced for yet more market moving events,” says Duggan. “It is hard for them to distinguish an event that causes periodic volatility from one that is a game changer. Investors are now in a low return-high volatility era.” 

With the latest negative interest rate on the 50-year Swiss sovereign note, end-investors are pushed to the extremities of asset price distortion.  At the same time, the regulatory changes under the Dodd Frank Act in the U.S., and MiFid in Europe have severely undermined liquidity in bond markets.

“CAIS 2017 will focus on these risks and the responses they require. Its aim will be to identify the ways in which the alternative industry can turn the challenges into opportunities for its end-clients.”

As a leading developer on the island that employs hundreds of people, Dart Enterprises wants to do all it can to continue to grow the jurisdiction. With Cayman still regarded as the industry’s leading offshore fund jurisdiction, Duggan says it is important for Dart, as the host sponsor, to help promote the industry even further. 

“So often we hear about how important the industry is to the Cayman Islands but the Cayman Islands is equally important to the alternatives industry. The hedge fund industry is not a core part of our business but we recognise it is a core part of the Cayman Islands’ business. And we want to do whatever we can to continue to promote the jurisdiction and the alternatives industry that it supports.” 

“The Cayman Islands are an exceptionally well regulated, politically stable jurisdiction. It’s important that CAIS showcases how Cayman is a great place to do business.”

CAIS and Dart both actively promote social and economic development on the Cayman Islands. For example, Minds Inspired is a Dart-funded series of educational initiatives that provide scholarship and learning opportunities to on-island high school and university students. Dart is also the founder of Growing Communities, a park initiative to build and improve public community parks in the Cayman Islands. CAIS, meanwhile, is structured as a not-for-profit.  

“Unlike many industry summits, CAIS is a not-for-profit and we really like to focus on how businesses can positively impact society through our ever-popular philanthropic panel on the final day,” concludes Duggan.

Registration for CAIS 2017 is now live at with early bird prices available until 30 November, 2016. For more information on CAIS, please visit

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