VIDEO: It's Byles!

Sagicor chairman is Observer Business Leader 2017

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Richard Byles, chairman and former CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica, was last night named Jamaica Observer Business Leader 2017, topping a field of 12 of the island's top chief executive officers which Award Selection Committee Chairman Moses Jackson described as “an embarrassment of riches” and which gave the committee a tough time to arrive at a decision.

In fact, so difficult was the selection committee's task that they first had to select a top four, then narrow the choices to a top two, using a series of key performance data of the companies run by the nominees.

“All 12 nominees for the Business Leader: Corporate Steward Award not only meet, but far exceed the most fundamental rule for consideration for this singular accolade — that first and foremost they must be the steward of a company or companies that have produced sustainable profits over time,” Jackson said in his report to the packed Jamaica Pegasus hotel ballroom.

Jackson reported that in order to effectively manage the selection process, he directed the committee members to each name their top four executives. “The nominees who polled a plurality of support from the committee members are those who made it into the final group of four from which the Business Leader was named,” Jackson wrote.

He explained that return on equity, return on assets, profit, and its trajectory over time were the quantifiable data considered in the committee's attempt to separate the candidates.

“Other important tangible and non-tangible factors were brought to bear on the decision. These considerations were distilled through a series of questions that the chairman posed to committee members to focus their collective minds,” Jackson added.

The questions were:

(1) Who among the nominees has assumed the most assured sense of ownership of his or her institution both internally and within the public square?

(2) How has the institution been transformed under the stewardship of the nominee in terms of its range and scope of business activities, and the way in which these services and products unavoidably touch the lives of Jamaicans?

(3) Who among this group of excellence has demonstrated the keenest instinct for risk-taking, the confidence and foresight to drive shareholder value even while maintaining a firm grip on risk management?

(4) Who, within this extraordinary group, stands out above all others for his or her deep and wide footprint within the organisation for which he or she is executive steward?

(5) Who among the quartet of high-achievers has stamped, with the greatest assurance, his or her own values, sense of mission and bold entrepreneurial spirit to shape the direction of the organisation he or she leads?

Jackson pointed out that because of this “searching disquisition”, the decision remained a wrenching one for the committee. Therefore, to bring urgency to the matter, each committee member was instructed to make a number one and a number two pick for the winner of the award.

“At this stage, two candidates floated to the very pinnacle — Patrick Hylton and Richard Byles,” Jackson's report stated. “Both Hylton and Byles received two votes as the number two picks of the committee members. But importantly, one of them received three votes as the number one pick of committee members; the other received four votes. In other words, one of the two contenders secured five votes overall, while the other received six votes.”

Jackson reported that “the closeness of the vote count reflects the challenge of separating two executives of extraordinary and demonstrable accomplishments. But, in the end, the committee was up to the task.”

Byles, in his reply, thanked the Observer and Jackson for the prestigious award. He also thanked his wife and son, who were in the audience, saying that they had supported him over his many years at Sagicor and at PanJam previously.

“To the 11 other nominees I am truly privileged to be named among you, and any one of you could have been the winner of this award,” Byles said before singling out Hylton whom he invited on stage for a handshake and hug. The gesture elicited loud applause.

Byles supported Observer Deputy Chairman and CEO Adam Stewart's optimism for Jamaica's future expressed just before the announcement of the award.

“I am optimistic for many reasons, Adam enumerated many of them a while ago, but I'm particularly encouraged by the maturity that I see in our political system more and more, that we can transfer a difficult and challenging situation from one party to the other. It happens seamlessly and Jamaica continues [on] its development path,“ Byles said to more applause.

“We all have a contribution to make; it's not all up to Government, it's up to the private sector too, it's up to everybody in Jamaica, and I'm always happy to play my part, and I think that if we can get everybody together, put our shoulders to the wheel, Jamaica can be the star of the Caribbean and a rising star in the world,”Byles said.

Earlier, Finance Minister Audley Shaw received the Chairman's Award from Observer Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart for being a friend of the business community and for his “outstanding stewardship of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service”.

Stewart also named Shaw Jamaica Observer Man of the Year 2017.

In addition, Stewart presented Jamaica Observer Lifetime Achievement awards to Donna Duncan-Scott, group executive director of culture and leadership development at Jamaica Money Market Brokers, and Charles Johnston chairman of Jamaica Fruit and Shipping Company Limited, Jamaica Producers Group Limited, Seaboard Freight & Shipping Co Limited, and TS Crane Services.

The other nominees for the Business Leader Award were:

• Marlene Street-Forrest, managing director, Jamaica Stock Exchange;

• Christopher Williams, president and CEO of PROVEN;

• Gary Peart, CEO, Mayberry Investments

• Patrick Hylton, CEO of NCB Group;

• Jeffrey Hall, CEO, Jamaica Producers Group;

• Sharon Donaldson, managing director, General Accident Insurance Co Ja Ltd

• Don Wehby, CEO, GraceKennedy Group;

• Earl Jarrett, CEO, Jamaica National Group

• Odetta Rockhead-Kerr, country head of Sutherland Global;

• Josef Fortsmayr, managing director, Round Hill Hotel; and

• Peter Moses, retired head of Citibank in Jamaica.