Maxine Cowan: On a mission to lead
MAXINE Cowan is the branch manager for JMMB Bank, Mandeville. She sat down with us for a look into her life, and leadership.
Q: Describe your early years growing up in Jamaica.
A: I grew up in a sugar cane belt in Jamaica, in the community of Thornton, St Elizabeth, which is in close proximity to the world famous Appleton Estate Rums. I came from humble beginnings, but never lacked the basic amenities, love and care. I attended Thornton Basic School, where my journey came to an abrupt end due to a burning incident which kept me out of school for several months. I then moved on to Thornton Primary School and later Aberdeen All-Age where, having been successful in the Grade Seven Achievement Examination, moved on to St Elizabeth Technical High School. Here, I was a stellar performer, proudly topping my class each year, with the exception of one term in Grade 10 when I came second. I was also named valedictorian of my graduating class. I served as prefect and deputy head girl in my final year. Always one to pursue academic excellence, I hold a MBA in finance from the Northern Caribbean University (NCU)and I am currently pursuing a PhD in Education – Leadership, also at NCU.
Q: How would you introduce yourself to the world?
A: I am a tenacious, hardworking and ambitious person who has overcome many challenges, which has shaped the person I am today. I am also straight forward, God-fearing and family oriented.
Q: What was your first job and how did that propel you to where you are today?
A: I started working during the summer in my last two years in high school at Appleton Estate and as a telephone operator for the first three months after graduating high school. My first real job came in the form of a counter clerk at a financial institution in Santa Cruz, following my stint at Appleton Estate. The intention was to work for a few years to save towards pursuing medicine at the University of the West Indies, Mona. This, however, became my introduction and immersion into the banking sector, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. I fell in love with the field, realising that I have a passion for serving others and a natural inclination for numbers. My career since then has seen me climbing the corporate ladder and gaining experience in lending, sales, business banking, business development, quality assurance, credit administration and general branch leadership, in addition to providing business support services to SMEs to growth their businesses. During my more than 30-year tenure in banking I have also copped numerous awards including Most Outstanding Business Banker and SME Region of the Year Awards. The client-centric and solution-oriented foundation laid in my early years served me well during my career and has helped to propel my growth.
Q: How important is leadership in achieving success?
A: Leadership is very important in achieving success, not only for self, but for those we lead. I believe in servant leadership, and my role is to champion my team to success by helping them to believe in themselves and to put in place all the variables in their control to achieve the desired outcome and create something beautiful.
Q: Describe a typical day for you.
A: A typical day for me as a branch manager is centred on ensuring resources are in place to meet the demands of the day, whether it is addressing client matters, or mitigating risks and security issues. Additionally, I usually take the time to interact with and assist clients where necessary, while interfacing with the other stakeholders internally and externally. A key part of my role is also to provide coaching and guidance to team members to support their growth and development and provide support as needed in resolving issues. I am always happy to engage with my team in this way.
Q: What would you say is your best career achievement to date? Any particular person who you’ve impacted, whose story you remember?
A: My best career achievement to date is being able to triple the loan portfolio in two years with the same resources, double the deposit portfolio, and helping to train and develop team members to achieve their personal and professional growth in my capacity as branch manager at another financial institution. I am particularly honoured to receive the periodic check-in from a former colleague who is now a branch manager and whose performance and achievements have been extraordinary over the last five years. I am touched to know that my impact as her branch manager then had a ripple effect, and I am grateful to have been allowed to share in her growth.
Q: What do you love most about your work?
A: I love serving people and finding solutions for clients, even in seemingly impossible circumstances. I am grateful for the opportunity to develop people in my capacity as a team leader, and see the joy and confidence they exude after accomplishing a feat. I am proud to play my part in helping them to realise their greatness. It is not always easy to get out of our comfort zones; however, once the resistance phase has passed, then the outcome is beautiful.
Q: What would you say is the root of your resilience?
A: My resilience stems from my faith and a firm trust in God, understanding that He wants the best for us and will never takes us where His grace cannot sustain us. Against that faith I pursue my goals and push through even in the face of obstacles. I am also an intentional person who outlines long-range and short-range plans that I review frequently to determine my progress. Where I am on track, I use that momentum to move me forward, and in instances where I am behind, I craft new plans to get back on track.
Q: What is your advice to young people who are looking to pursue a career in your field?
A: The financial sector is a highly esteemed career path that can be very rewarding personally and professionally. For persons interested in pursuing a career in the financial field it is important to get formal training, constantly build yourself in the field and understand and act in accordance with the fiduciary responsibility that comes in such a profession knowing that your expertise and skills can help to shape people’s lives and help them to build generational wealth.
Q: What is one myth about financial management/ budgeting that you would like to dispel?
A: One myth about financial management that I would like to dispel is that a budget is not required to successfully manage your money. A budget sets a solid foundation for your money management, as it creates accountability and serves as a guide to keep you aligned to your goals.
Q: What does self-care/unwinding look like for you?
A: Reading a book is my go-to to unwind, usually motivational or religious in nature, or watching a movie. I also do enjoy shopping. I also love to cook, and I am a home-maker at heart, so time spent with my family and loved ones is how I relax.