Cayman government’s youngest CFO eyes top jobs

| 17/01/2018
CNS Local Life

Joel Burke

(CNS): The chief financial officer for the community affairs ministry, Joel Burke, who is not yet 27, is one of government’s youngest ever CFO, and he has eyes on an even bigger role one day. In the short term, Burke aims to strengthen his twelve-member staff making them a “top notch team within core government”. But in the long term, his goal is to become accountant general or the financial secretary. Given what officials described as his meteoric rise so far, his  impressive aptitude for the job, long work hours and a steely work ethic, he appears to have realistic goals as a rising star in government accounting. 

Teresa Echenique, the acting chief officer in the ministry, said it was an honour to work with him. “He is hardworking, knowledgeable and overall an asset to our ministry and the entire government,” she said. “It is persons like CFO Burke that will contribute to us being a world-class civil service. I look forward to continuing to work with him and seeing his brilliant contributions to our country.”

Burke is one of an army of government accountants who are currently in the midst of their busiest time as they pull together the government’s 18 month accounts for 2016/17  in readiness for audit. At year-end it is his signature on the annual financial statements, annual report and audit schedules.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to join a dedicated and professional team,” he said. “The ministry, by its very nature, has a strong commitment to social justice and this spirit is evinced by many of my colleagues.”

Burke earned his certified public accountant (CPA) qualification when he was 21 years old, and his master’s in business administration just a year later. Achieving so much, so quickly, has marked him out as someone to watch. He has experience in audit, internal finance, client accounting and funds and the skills to match the complexity of his job. He first worked with government as a deputy chief financial Officer in the tourism ministry when the finance team there produced its first-ever “clean audit”. Burke then moved in the private sector, as a hedge fund manager for a niche financial services firm.

Recently enticed back to the civil service, he sees the CFO’s post as a way of making a qualitative difference in the lives of the greatest number of people in a way that working for a handful of high net worth clients did not. As the ministry’s principal financial adviser on strategic and operational matters, his duties are complex and wide-ranging. The job involves monitoring performance in every aspect of the ministry and its entities, culminating in preparing the entity and executive budget.

Burke is part of a new generation of CFOs who scrutinise the entirety of the ministry’s operations. He is just as likely to be found off-site, at a residential care homes talking to senior staff about expenditure, as sitting in on high-level finance meetings. This hands-on approach keeps him in tune with all branches of the ministry and helps in assessing the viability and scope of its affairs.

“My responsibilities on a daily basis are dynamic and can range from review of ministry’s financial activities to providing advice to the directors of the departments,” Burke said. “My work ethic never allows me to quit or lower the quality of work which I, or any of my teams, produce. I am still actively striving to find that work-life balance but when you have staff, especially a deputy CFO who works as hard as you do – it pushes me to always give my best.”


Category: Civil Service

Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Yikes! He’s a CFO and the same age as your typical audit senior. Only in Cayman.

    This isn’t a reflection of his ability, it’s a reflection of insane civil service hiring decisions where people are hired regardless of experience.

    Is it any wonder the govt accounts are a mess?