Tricia Nicholas stands by governance and compliance

IT may not have started out as her dream, but law called out to Tricia Nicholas and since then she has not looked back. Getting her heels wet in the working world back in 2005, with secretarial and accounting firm Mint Management and Finance Services Limited, Nicholas developed a love for corporate governance.

Her experience in the area developed quickly and she had the opportunity to lead her department. Nicholas worked closely with her boss, a chartered secretary, and was granted the opportunity to manage the company’s largest client portfolio which was a publicly traded company on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE)and Trinidad & Tobago Stock Exchange. Wanting to expand her experience, after almost seven years she took the opportunity to work at the law firm Nicholson Phillips, where she managed the Corporate Governance Department and was able to develop her expertise and expand in both commercial and litigation law as a legal secretary for over eight years.

Such a shining star, in the first year of her employment, she was awarded Employee of the Year and later, team leader. As a self-sacrificing person she took up the initiative and played an integral part by extending herself to managing more than just law — she was handling the administration and human resource activities of the firm.

“Law became a sense of satisfaction for me when clients are left smiling because the effort to pushing through their matters of either starting their own business, owning a home, or finalising the administration of their loved ones’ estate had greatly impacted the drive and love I had for the job,” Nicholas said.

Though the pandemic brought negativity for all, a beacon of hope came in the form of an opportunity to join the Dolla Financial Services team as its paralegal and executive assistant in June 2020. In her capacity, she also acted as the company’s recording secretary and worked closely with the company’s CEO Kadeen Mairs and the board of directors.

In January 2021, Nicholas represented her company as a moderator at the JSE 16th Regional Investment & Capital Markets Conference. It did not come as a surprise that due to Nicholas’s consistent commitment to the company she was promoted to corporate planning manager and paralegal in March 2021 and led the growth committee team with the implementation and updating of most of the company’s policies and procedures.

By January 2022 she was promoted to governance and compliance manager at Dolla’s as she worked very closely with the executive team and the board to ensure good company governance and compliance. Essentially, she is responsible for ensuring the board of directors, management, and employees follow the rules and regulations of regulatory agencies, that company policies and procedures are being followed, and that behaviour in the organisation meets the company’s internal standards of conduct as well as professional and international standards and accepted business practices.

As the recording secretary, she is also responsible for the preparation, collation, and distribution of agendas, meeting information packs, minutes, and monthly management reports for the board and committees for both company and its subsidiary. Given her role in the company she also acts as the nominated officer and paralegal that provides legal support and administers the registration of mortgages for the company. This is a lot of caps for one person to wear, but she manages to balance seamlessly.

“Some of the important skills required for the position are communication, organisation, critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, confidentiality, and having high integrity. It is also important to maintain a continuous knowledge of AML [anti-money laundering] and CFL regulations, company law, and corporate governance,” Nicholas explained.

“For someone looking into the field, I would advise that they first ought to ensure that they do have the love and passion for the job because it can be onerous at times. Nevertheless, I believe that it is a satisfying position, and so there is no room to be bored. To start a career, I believe a legal foundation in company law is essential. This will allow you to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the set-up of a company which thereby provides you with the basis for why a company needs to be compliant and maintain good governance practices. In addition, maintaining continuous learning and knowledge is important to be on top of your game, so I would encourage joining a governance and/or compliance association so you can be part of their membership programme to benefit from their seminars, workshops, and resources provided,” she added.

Compliance means simply adhering to rules, while governance is the systems and processes which are implemented to provide direction and control. They both work hand in hand and are imperative to the running of a good business because, while governance governs the business practices and risks, compliance ensures they are in line with external rules and regulations. Failure to be compliant and having good governance practices will result in legal penalties, threats of risks, and financial forfeiture, just to name a few.

“My mantra in life is to always say, “Trust in Jehovah girl...you got this!” This helps me to remember my favourite Bible verse, so I’m motivated knowing that I’m not doing this thing called life alone. My biggest support is the Most High, Jehovah God. I am married with one son, my pride and joy. I can’t believe it, but my son T-Andre is a new high schooler and working full-time with a PEP [Primary Exit Profile] student. Remaining spiritually inclined has allowed us to pivot through the difficulties and develop a balanced lifestyle.”

Born in Riverton City, Kingston, Nicholas moved to St Thomas to live with her wonderfully strict grandmother after the murder of her mother.

“Our spirituality was very important, so every morning we got up we had to read our daily text, a Bible chapter, and prayer. I did not understand the importance then, but now I feel uneasy if I don’t carry out this routine. My educational background has been a struggle as a motherless and fatherless child with a grandmother who worked hard to fit me into her family while being a single parent. At around age 15, I left Happy Grove High School. Having that drive to always do better for myself, around two years after I enrolled myself in the College of Agriculture & Science to do their ASc in business administration. I was so happy I got accepted, but with no money or little to no financial support, I did not allow that to stop me. After struggling to make it through, unfortunately, that dream fell through for me because trying to send myself to college by working on just the JAMVAT [Jamaica Values and Attitudes] school programme was just not enough, so I was not able to complete my final exams due to the lack of funding,” she said.

In spite of this setback, she packed a bag and moved to Kingston for a better opportunity.

“With some assistance, I was able to work and complete my ABE Higher Diploma in Business Management.”

After several years of struggling and making ends meet, Nicholas was able to get back on track with schooling and begin to pursue a law degree with the University of London while continuously improving her knowledge as a member of the International Compliance Association.

“How my life started out was not one with a bright future, but I always bear in mind that despite the numerous challenges life may throw at you, there is always someone worse than you. Therefore, remaining grateful, humble, and patient throughout the years has brought little me outstanding accomplishments, not necessarily financially but that peace of God which is mentioned in Philippians 4:7.”

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