Career & Education

Heart of Gold

Sagicor senior VP treasury more than a manager

Sunday, February 25, 2018

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If ever there was an expression to describe Donnette Scarlett's climb up the corporate ladder, it would be Napoleon Hill's declaration that, “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success”.

Scarlett was recently promoted to the position of senior vice-president, group treasury and asset management at Sagicor Group Jamaica, one of the Caribbean's largest financial conglomerates. That makes her a member of the organisation's 10-member leadership team and one of only three women.

Her journey in finance started in Old Harbour, St Catherine, where she grew up.

It was there that she got her feet wet shortly after completing high school. She had applied to study law at The University of the West Indies (The UWI) but was accepted for another programme. Scarlett placed her tertiary education on pause and opted to work instead, securing a job as a teller at a commercial bank.

Scarlett later studied economics and management at UWI Mona, after which she pursued the requisite courses to become a chartered financial analyst.

Now, with over 20 years of financial experience under her belt, the Glenmuir High School alum said she has had no regrets about the route she chose and believes all good things come to those who wait. Prior to her recent promotion, Scarlett was vice- president for treasury and investment services at Sagicor Investments.

Scarlett's Sagicor journey began in the early 2000s in the days of Manufacturers Sigma Merchant Bank, which was later subsumed through a series of mergers and acquisitions into what is now Sagicor Group Jamaica.

In the new role, she manages the assets of Sagicor's business lines and ensures that “the different entities do not take on too much risk in any one area”.

“I spent a lot of years trading and I love the interaction, the market discussion I have either with the internal team or the external persons I trade with. Volatility is what makes the market and unfortunately, that can put a strain on you, but I like coming in and being able to anticipate market movements and being able to make the right decision based on that,” she notes.

But Scarlett is not all business and crunching numbers.

The newest senior vice-president and her husband Merrick ensure that members of their community, especially the youth, are offered opportunities to excel and reach their potential.

“It's a combination of things,” she says in reference to the ways in which the duo reaches young people.

“Mentorship does come into play, but it is just helping. So, if someone is having a challenge with school, whether physical challenges to get the work done or financial challenges, we try to help them,” she says.

Scarlett explains: “We've had people approach us who want to do something and they don't have the financial start-up. Sometimes people want you to write a business plan for them; they want to bounce an idea off you; some require financial output, but not always.

“I had one friend who wanted to do a development in Jamaica, a farming development, so for that one I assisted with the business plan because he needed a business plan to take to the financing institution,” Scarlett recounts.

“We've had young people who just wanted to buy raw materials or equipment to start up a new business and they just needed someone to help them finance the purchase, and it feels good to be able to assist young people who are trying”.

The mother of two, a 33- year-old son, and a daughter, 25, explains that she is moved to help people because it is something she grew up seeing her older sister doing. Scarlett, the last of seven children, was raised by her sister who is 13 years older than she is, after their mother immigrated to the United States of America when she was 10 years old.

She recalls that her sister, who is now a caterer, always tended to the many children who would flock their home. “There is always food left to share no matter how many persons stopped by the house,” says Scarlett.

That experience, Scarlett says, is so ingrained in her psyche that she cannot help but lend a hand when she encounters individuals in unfortunate circumstances.

“I love children and I know first-hand that with a solid foundation everybody has the potential to be something great. And it doesn't have to be in academics, you could be skilled with your hands, but it is for everyone to find their niche,” she says.

Now at the height of her career and a shining example of hard work being recognised, the chartered financial analyst is encouraging young professionals to commit to hard work, show initiative and pursue something they love.

“There must be something that you're looking forward to at work because you're going to spend at least eight to 10 hours there, depending on the department you're in, so you need to like it. The world has changed. So, fortunately, there are a lot of options if you do not love your nine-to-five; you don't have to leave it but do something that you love that will supplement it,” Scarlett argues.

Noting that today's generation is different than when she started working, Scarlett added that patience is still a key ingredient necessary to succeed.

For a woman who analyses risk daily, she takes a gamble at succeeding at her hobby, gardening.

She jokes that though she loves the activity, she has been relegated to supervising and delegating as her husband does the work. Her attempts at gardening, she said, usually end in disaster.

“I am very good at planning out how the landscape should look and what plants should go where, and which plants I want; then my husband does all the work, so he ensures that it's done. I'll plant, but I also love to weed and I sometimes weed the wrong stuff,” she said.

Scarlett is also an avid traveller who enjoys visiting interesting places around the globe. Her travels have taken her to different parts of the world, to include the United States of America, Canada, England, Spain, Italy and France.

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