Careers & Education

Byron Leslie steps into GM post at JIIC

BY DENISE DENNIS Career & Education staff reporter dennisd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 26, 2012    

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YEARS of hard work, humility and patience are all factors Byron Leslie credits for his recent appointment to general manager (GM) of the Jamaica International Insurance Company (JIIC).

"I am elated. Years of hard work have paid off," he told Career & Education. "At JIIC, promotions of this nature are managed through a process of succession planning that involves dialogue and preparedness. However, although you go through this process, there are no guarantees. So when the great news was communicated to me, I was ecstatic and very pleased."

On June 1, when his promotion became a reality, Leslie took on duties that put him in charge of 55 staff members, with four people reporting directly to him. His new responsibilities include ensuring the development and implementation of JIIC's strategic objectives and promoting the company as the insurer of choice in all the territories wherein it operates.

Leslie explained that he is also expected to proactively identify and resolve challenges while maintaining a productive and positive environment for the company's internal and external customers. His new job description, he said, also includes the provision of leadership within the management team and the staff to develop programmes and policies.

Leslie's new position is one he has embraced wholeheartedly, confident in his ability to perform at his optimum.

"Throughout my career, I have focused on performing at a high standard, remaining humble while contributing to the success of my organisation," said the insurance executive, who describes himself as a driven individual with high standards.

It has been a long road up the ladder of success for the 45-year-old Cornwall College alum. He began his career in insurance at Dyoll in a clerical position, before becoming a junior assistant to the vice-president of underwriting and claims.

Between 1987 and 2000, Leslie moved through the ranks from trainee underwriter to underwriting supervisor and assistant underwriting manager before being named underwriting manager.

In 2000, he joined JIIC as underwriting manager and steadily made the climb to his current position. Along the way, he has been a business development manager, risk and reinsurance manager, and, more recently, assistant general manager.

In 2009, Leslie was placed on a formal succession plan for the general manager position. As a result, he benefited from training and developmental programmes designed to ensure he would effectively fill the role of general manager.

In addition to his own performance, he said the work of team members also helped to cement his promotion.

"Working with team members that do great work effectively and efficiently, and having the commitment and dedication to getting the job done right [played a role]," Leslie said.

He brings 24 years of experience to the position and is convinced that his wealth of technical insurance knowledge will significantly impact how he carries out his duties. According to Leslie, he also brings to the table his ability to work well with people at all levels, team-building skills and the capability to motivate others, along with well-honed negotiating and listening skills.

While he admits it is too early to definitively say what difference he has made since taking up the position, the JIIC boss said his areas of priorities have been to provide leadership, coaching, development, and succession planning for workers.

"The results so far are positive, and we are trending in the right direction," said Leslie, who holds a diploma in marketing from the College of Arts, Science and Technology — now the University of Technology (UTech) — and a bachelor's degree in business administration, also from UTech.

Leslie is also a chartered property casualty underwriter, with an insurance degree from the American Institute of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters. Now also a part-time lecturer of insurance courses at UTech, he said he has done a range of leadership and technical courses in the field of insurance, both locally and overseas.

Leslie has lectured, too, at the College of Insurance and Professional Studies.

Meanwhile, he insisted that behavioural skills coupled with academic or technical skills help to ensure a promotion at work.

"Persons must have the right attitude and be prepared to learn why things are done; to be curious with a drive to understand, and probe accordingly," he said. "Persons are to put forward their positions and be prepared to defend their positions."

At the same time, he advised workers seeking to secure a promotion to distinguish themselves at the workplace.

"Be visible, not a number," he said. "Try to see the business as your own and to make decisions accordingly. Having that mindset also facilitates innovativeness and competitiveness. Also, commit to being reliable and always operate at a high standard."

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