Although the Cypriot financial sector took a bashing during the crisis, this did not extend to the professional services market, which proved more than able to weather the storm. The sector’s resilience means Cyprus remains rightly proud of its reputation for accounting and legal services.

“The events in March had an adverse impact on the credibility of Cyprus,” says Evgenios Evgeniou, chief executive of PwC Cyprus. “But companies that use Cyprus as a base are still intact and the fact that we’ve had two positive reviews from the Troika [the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which are supervising the country’s adjustment programme] is helping confidence to return. Professional services firms did a good job of keeping clients abreast of developments as the events were unfolding.”

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As the backbone supporting foreign investors in Cyprus, the country’s professional services firms report frustration at the scale of the inaccurate and negative reports that have surfaced in the international media over the past year. “We’ve been accused of money laundering or facilitating it. In my opinion, this is a joke,” says Christos Mavrellis, senior partner and head of the company and commercial department at law firm Chrysses Demetriades. “Despite the fact that all the investigations by EU institutions have demonstrated the opposite, nothing has been published to counter this negative publicity.”

Common law connection

According to the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, the island continues to be one of the leading jurisdictions used by blue-chip companies and corporate planners for structuring investments into Europe and the world’s leading emerging markets.

“One of the main contributors to our success story is that Cyprus is a common law country,” says Mr Mavrellis. “Our Company Law is almost a copy of the [UK’s] 1948 Companies Act, so it is easily understood in many other parts of the world.

“Some international organisations investing in former [Soviet] countries structure their investment via Cyprus because they can get better securitisation structures. They know where they stand and they’re entering a legislative regime that is understood by Western lawyers.”

Global reputation

The Cypriot legal sector now has more than 2500 registered advocates and 160 limited liability law firms. Most of its practising lawyers studied or qualified in the UK.

Accountancy on the island also enjoys a good global reputation, with more than 120 limited accounting firms and 40 partnerships, plus more than 3500 active English-speaking registered accountants. It also follows International Financial Reporting Standards.

What is more, Cyprus is the first country in the world to be selected by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants to train UK chartered and certified management accountants outside the UK, as well as to organise the training of UK-certified accountants.

“In terms of quality and value for money, we have an advantage over other European jurisdictions,” says Mr Evgeniou. “We have excellent professionals and our cost base and pricing are competitive compared to other EU countries.”

Cost considerations

Cyprus’s professional services sector looks likely to benefit from activities in both the film industry, where the island’s sun, scenery and local talent could prove big attractions, as well as the energy sector. As Mr Mavrellis says: “The energy sector is attracting people to Cyprus. As time goes by there will be more companies establishing here needing professional services.”

Mr Evgeniou is also upbeat: “My advice is to come to Cyprus to see for themselves. After what happened in March, it is essential that investors gain an understanding of the situation on the ground.”

Mr Mavrellis adds: “Cyprus has managed to retain its clientele. Clients have done their investigations and they say the best place after the Cyprus of today is the Cyprus of yesterday. They realise they get better services at lower prices and they have learned they can trust our people.”