“Faces” is a component of the Financial Centre Focus (FCF) initiative coordinated by BFSB and the Professional Industry Association Working Group to profile role models within the financial services sector. It is produced in collaboration with Guardian Business, with profiles appearing in the Monday edition of the Nassau Guardian each week.
INDUSTRY POSITION: President & Managing Director, The St. James Bank & Trust Company Ltd. and its subsidiary, W & P Fund Services Ltd.
What attracted you to the sector, and how long have you been engaged within in?
I was offered a job at an offshore bank when I graduated from high school at the age of fifteen. My younger siblings were still in high school, so the ability to earn my own income and contribute to the family expenses was a motivating factor.
I decided to pursue the Associate of International Banks and Trust Company Diploma program that was done in conjunction with the College of the Bahamas. I was hired initially as a filing clerk which, even today, I consider the foundation for my success in banking. I became attracted to the many facets of banking and was desirous of learning more. The managers constantly asked me where to locate documents and specifics on clients and files, and I knew the answers. They would say, “Just ask Debbie, she knows….” This motivated me more and I wanted to know as much as I possibly could about the organization I worked for and the banking industry in general. Ultimately, it led me to pursue a Bachelors Degree in Finance and a Master Degree in Business. Additionally, I have pursued studies in the securities industry, human resource development and, most recently, in leadership and innovation studies at Harvard University. There are many career opportunities in the financial sector.
To date, I have spent a total of twenty-seven years in the financial services. In fact, my entire career has been in the financial services sector in various job capacities including Fund Manager, Investment Manager, and Operations Manager -- leading to my current position as President and Managing Director.
What keeps you motivated?
I love challenges! I am motivated by the challenges that my job presents. I am a ‘yes I can’ type person, and the more challenging the task at hand, the more enthusiastic I become. I am motivated by knowing that I can bring efficiencies to my organization and that I can empower my team members and meet the expectations of my clients and board members.
I believe in and I am motivated by excellence and strive for it each and every day.
Why do you think you have been successful?
A number of things have led to my success. I feel that I have been successful because I believed in the advice my parents and grandmother gave to me as a child, which was ‘hard work pays off’ and “anything worth doing, is worth doing well”. I think that innately I am a knowledge-seeker and I am a ‘people’s person’.
These attributes have led to my success in the industry and in my life. I set very high standards for myself and I do not seek only to meet these expectations, but to surpass them. The invaluable support of my husband, two daughters - Alexandria and Alecia - along with the rest of my family, is my foundation.
Did mentoring play a part in your success?
Mentoring absolutely played a part in my success. I started working at the innocent age of 15, and I had mentors from the very beginning who took me under their wings and showed me what the industry was all about. In fact, I had mentors at every stage of my career with whom I could share and lean on; mentors who taught me, believed in me and helped me to map out my career within financial services. I’ve had mentors inside and outside my organization and the industry.
Likewise, during the course of my career, I have mentored others along the way. It is truly rewarding when you see someone that you have mentored come into their own and become successful.
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
Certainly, educational qualifications are important and are requirements in disciplines from accountancy to math to science. Today, in some disciplines a Masters Degree is the entrance requirement. However, there are other more qualitative qualifications such as being a free thinker and a knowledge seeker that are performance boosters. I have worked and mastered many aspects in the banking sector. This, along with many years of experience and educational qualification, equipped me to perform in the sector.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career? How did you overcome it?
Although, a ‘people’s person’, I would say that dealing with people is the biggest challenge throughout my career. Sometimes you would have clients that are upset over a transaction or perhaps because they do not understand regulatory guidelines. Therefore, you have to find a way to ensure that the client understands the parameters in which we do business here in The Bahamas, and at the same time, make the client feel that you are giving the very best service possible. Likewise, the human resource aspect of the business can at times be challenging, but at the same time I recognize and value that my success has been attributed to the awesome team that I am privileged to work with. And of course when you need to overcome any type of challenge, one must simply pray.
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
My advice to young people just starting out in the industry would be to work and study hard; keep an open and honest mind; develop a positive attitude; strive for excellence; be a risk taker and be a critical and free thinker. To young persons starting out in the industry: I encourage you to be professional and the very best you can be at whatever level you may be at.