Kevin Donaldson: The motivational leader

Sunday, April 29, 2018

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KEVIN Donaldson, young executive at Sagicor Group Jamaica, seems to have been destined for his current role as the Chief Executive Officer of Sagicor Investments.

In fact, from as early as 10 years old, Donaldson made his first stock purchase, which set him on the path to becoming a financial analyst, his dream job at the time. The lad, with guidance from his father, purchased shares in Jamaica Broilers, Berger Paints and Caribbean Steel during their initial public offerings.

“That's when I caught the investing bug, as well as started researching and understanding the inner workings of the business and business leaders to fully grasp how investing worked,” Donaldson said.

With a passion for helping and mentoring young people, Donaldson encourages people to get an early start in investing, by understanding from an early age the concept of investment.

He's, however, not just all about work, crunching numbers and watching stock markets; he is an avid music lover of all genres, who from the age of 15 was busy planning events and other activities.

“As a youngster I was very active, I enjoyed playing music, sports and loved being outdoors,” he recounted.

But even while having fun, the proud Wolmer's old boy was determined to make his mark professionally. Using a personal axiom to describe his journey so far — “pressure produces diamonds” — Donaldson reflected on his personal growth and development over the years.

“Throughout my life I have had challenges; different things would come up that would want to derail my plan, but everything that has happened has resulted in me being a better person. So no matter what happens in your life, depending on how you take it, it may add to your character and cause you to come out shining like a gem,” he said, adding that he takes each obstacle as a stepping stone to move higher.

One stumbling block he recounted was not being immediately accepted to study at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona upon his first application. Because of this delay, he enrolled in a computer programme, which eventually aided him in landing his first job in general insurance, managing risk. Donaldson was successfully accepted a year later to The UWI where he earned his first degree in economics.

“I am where I am because somebody saw it fit to help me and the positivity they poured into my life I want to share and pass that on to others,” he said.

He reasoned that it is important to inspire others to believe in themselves and display confidence in their abilities, noting that the competition is never between individuals but rather the individual and himself.

He often quotes Jamaican National hero Marcus Garvey, “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.”

After his tenure in general insurance, Donaldson transitioned to Manufacturers Sigma Merchant Bank in 2003, to kick start his career in investments, a job he believes he received because of his experience in insurance. He stayed with the company for eight years, which later through a series of mergers became PanCaribbean Financial Services. In 2011 Donaldson moved on to the GraceKennedy Group, where he was involved in capital management, corporate finance and analysis and major projects, mergers and acquisitions. Two years in at GraceKennedy, he was seconded to the company's overseas subsidiary to manage Strategy and Corporate Planning. Fast-forward to 2016, he returned home and secured the position as vice-president — Capital Markets and Fund Management at Sagicor Investments, a position he held until he was appointed CEO.

A firm believer in national and youth development, Donaldson believes that helping others is the reason we were created. He shared that his is passion for helping others started from his involvement in Youth for Christ and at Portmore Church of God, which has contributed to framing his outlook on life.

Even with very packed days, the busy CEO ensures he makes the time to offer solid words of advice to those around him, always encouraging colleagues to remain positive and strive to be the best version of themselves.

“I enjoy seeing people happy, doing well and achieving their goals,” he said.

This is one of the many reasons Donaldson noted why he loves what he does, as investment is a platform through which people can accomplish and realise their dreams.

“By helping people to self-actualise through achieving different goals, whether it is to buy their first house or car, getting an education, taking their dream vacation, whatever that dream or goal, it is a great feeling to know you have helped someone to achieve something great,” he said.

Michael Williams, client relationship officer at Sagicor Investments, shared that Donaldson is a motivational leader who succeeds in making his team comfortable.

“He is an unbelievably down-to-earth person who is very relatable and genuinely cares about his team members. He is also usually the life of the party,” Williams said.

For Racine Mesquita, business support associate at Sagicor Investments, Donaldson is a “very humble leader who is very good at communicating and interacting with his team; he makes us feel like we're all equally important and a part of the team”.

An active member of the Wolmer's Old Boys Association, Donaldson currently serves as its treasurer and hopes to continue serving and giving back to the school's development by positively influencing and impacting the students' lives.

“We are trying to build something sustainable that will help the students,” he said, highlighting that the association is supporting a scholarship programme through the school's student council to assist students who may be facing financial challenges.

“Eventually our plan is to set up an endowment fund which would benefit future generations,” he said.

With four months under his belt at the helm of Sagicor Investments, having been appointed on January 1, 2018, Donaldson believes his role at Sagicor has provided him with a platform to contribute positively to Jamaica and build its economy. But finding the right balance is just as important to the married father of one, who lives by the mantra, “family first, as everything I do is for them”.

When not crunching numbers, the down-to-earth and confident CEO enjoys physical activities and exploring the great outdoors.

“One of my favourite spots to chill with my family is Hollywell; it is a beauty to see the sunrise from that vantage point,” he said, noting that he also enjoys a good lyme with his friends and relaxing with his family. He is also a big sports fan, particularly basketball and football, and exercising forms a part of his daily routine.

“The key to success is to know your craft so you can be the best at what you do. Reading is also essential to your personal and professional growth as well as learning from great leaders before you,” he said.

“My advice is to be diligent, read, and try to absorb as much as you can, and most of all just be humble — you can learn something from anyone. Sometimes the most life-changing influence can come from somebody you least expect,” he said.

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