Mariame McIntosh Robinson: a game-changer

Mariame McIntosh Robinson: a game-changer

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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In a country which boasts of having more than 50 per cent of its women in management positions but fewer than 25 per cent at the top, former management consultant at McKinsey and Company, partner at Portland Private Equity and 1998 Rhodes scholar Mariame McIntosh Robinson is determined to stand out as she leads First Global Bank (FGB) as president and chief executive officer (CEO).

Following the announcement last week of Audrey Tugwell Henry's appointment to the top posts at Scotia Group Jamaica and Scotiabank, McIntosh Robinson shares her thoughts with the Business Observer on the significance of half of the eight commercial banks in Jamaica being led by women for the first time.

McIntosh Robinson is FGB's second female CEO. The first was Maureen Hayden-Cater who served in the post between 2010 and 2015.

BUSINESS OBSERVER (BO): As of January 1, 2021, there will be four female heads of the commercial banks. As one of these women, how do you feel or react to this news. Also, how do you feel about the increasing participation of women at the executive and board levels, versus middle management?

MCINTOSH ROBINSON (MR): Firstly, let me congratulate Audrey Tugwell Henry on her appointment as president and CEO for Scotia Group Jamaica. She is a long-standing banker with a wealth of knowledge and experience and there is no doubt that she will thrive in her new role. I am elated when women continue to break down barriers, demonstrating that the sky is the limit on their potential. As women, we juggle a lot between our families and careers, so women continuing to increase their representation at all levels of corporate life, including the highest, with the associated accountability, bodes well for those looking on with similar aspirations. I firmly believe that a gender-balanced and diversified executive team and board result in better decision-making, culture, innovation and economic performance.

BO: Since joining FGB, how have you impacted the bank's performance?

MR: Since joining the FGB in 2016, I have focused on transformational growth and financial inclusion. A key focus has been on our people — putting people in the right roles; consistently driving employee engagement; strong frequent communication; and equipping team members with the right tools. We set our vision in 2017 to 'be the best retail bank with an enviable culture by 2020' and are pleased with our progress to date. Employee engagement in 2019 was highest, beating international benchmarks, while we steadily increased profits. As we strive to lead in financial inclusion, we expanded our reach islandwide, including rural areas, via satellite branches and bank agents, as the first commercial bank to launch agency banking in Jamaica. In 2020, with the onset of COVID-19, we opened the largest number of accounts for unbanked persons via the Government's CARE programme, totalling approximately 7,500. Performance-wise our loan portfolio has grown from $24 billion in 2016 to $29 billion in 2019. During this period, profits grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 37 per cent. We continue to be focused on innovation fuelled by technology. In the short term, we plan to launch an upgraded mobile app and online banking system with an improved look and feel, and host of new user-friendly features including fingerprint and facial recognition for mobile apps, opening of new accounts and term deposits online, transaction alerts for debits and credits to your accounts, and blocking and unblocking your debit and credit cards. While 2020 has been a challenging year as we lead through COVID-19, including unexpected additional provisioning, we have achieved good results thus far for 2020, as our strong team continues to support our customers and each other.

BO: Do you hold any other role(s) in the GraceKennedy Financial Group apart from the bank CEO?

MR: Yes, in addition to my role as president and CEO of the bank, I serve as director on the boards of GK Capital & Investments and Key Insurance Company Limited. I also sit on the executive committee for GraceKennedy Group. In addition, I am a director of United Way Worldwide [the largest global private charity, raising US$4.7 billion annually]; founder and director of TEACH Caribbean [a non-governmental organisation focused on improving access to quality education for rural high school students]; and a vice-president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.

BO: How do you see your role as a woman leader influencing the next generation of corporate aspirants who seek to reach similar levels of success?

MR: I am truly humbled by the notion that I'm influencing a generation. I benefited tremendously from other women leaders who came before me and helped to pave the way for us as current leaders. It is a part of my personal social responsibility to not only be a beacon of hope to other women seeking to succeed in their fields, but also to continuously strive to do well and to aptly represent the population of successful women. I also make myself available to coach and mentor as many young people as I can. It is important to note, though, that rising to the top of any industry, regardless of gender, does not happen overnight. A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work. Prior to being named CEO of FGB, I served in varying leadership roles in several other businesses. It was through these experiences I was able to hone my craft, develop my abilities and later position myself as worthy.

David Rose is a chemistry student at The University of the West Indies, Mona. You can find him on Twitter (@jcknight2) and his contributions on He is an analyst who also appears on Taking Stock, which is on YouTube.

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