Audrey Tugwell Henry: Scotiabank's unstoppable change leader
TUGWELL HENRY...the matter ofgender equity andequal opportunitiesfor advancementfor women must bea key area of focusfor both businessand governments(Photo: AdrianCreary)

Although Audrey Tugwell Henry now overlooks the Caribbean Sea from the Scotia Group Jamaica's (SGJ) corporate headquarters, which just underwent a $1.5-billion renovation, the 'change leader's' journey started out as a teacher at Church Teachers' College in Mandeville.

It is also from these beginnings that the now president and CEO of one of Jamaica's top commercial banks unlocked her iconic traits which have followed her throughout her 34-year banking career.

Notwithstanding her start as an English and physical education teacher, the astute Tugwell Henry discovered her spark for finance over a conversation with a friend who informed her about a vacant teller position at the Mutual Security Bank.

“I was very young and I thought I could do anything that I wanted to do. I was very open to entering uncharted waters. There were no barriers or obstacles that I could foresee and if there were barriers, I figured I could overcome them,” said Tugwell Henry on the career switch.

Within a year of starting her new role, she decided to further her education in business and took on the challenge of completing a degree in management studies at The University of the West Indies (UWI). She later completed a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programme at the Mona School of Business which further equipped her to take on what would become an extremely competitive industry.

After spending some time with Citibank working in risk management, Tugwell Henry entered the Scotiabank Jamaica arena where she quickly made her mark as she moved from her initial role as a product manager to general manager with oversight for retail and electronic banking.

At that time, electronic banking was new for Jamaica, but was an area that eventually exploded with Tugwell Henry at the helm as senior vice-president. Under her leadership and guidance, Scotiabank rapidly expanded its automated teller machine (ATM) fleet across the country and rapidly accelerated the use of debit cards at point of sale (POS) and ATM channels.

This did not limit her scope of change as she would later be part of Scotiabank's ATM expansion across the country and Jamaica's introduction to transaction migration with passbooks.

Though heavily focused on growing her own career, Tugwell Henry still also made time to mentor and impact dozens of bankers, who now hold several critical roles across Jamaica's commercial banking system.

“I'm a transformational leader. So, I engage the staff in the process of the change. I'm also very empathetic and I have an inclusive leadership style. I'm not looking for people who will just tell me, 'yes,' and do everything that they think I want them to do or that I want to hear. I like people who challenge me and who challenge the status quo, who are desirous of change.”

The final lap of Tugwell Henry's journey to the “C-suite” began when she returned to Scotiabank, after a nine-year stint at another institution, in September 2017.

This time as vice-president of retail banking for Scotiabank Jamaica and VP for the Caribbean Central and North.

Within three years of her return, Tugwell was promoted to her current role which left her in complete jubilation not only for what it meant for her personally, but also for women, in particular black women, from humble beginnings.

On this point, she also notes that the environment at Scotiabank has always been very keen on fostering diversity, gender equality and the inclusion of female leaders at every level of its operations across its global footprint. In fact, Tugwell Henry now chairs the Bank's Diversity and Inclusion committee for the Caribbean region.

Her love for people and influencing their advancement has also seen her volunteer time as an adult literacy teacher. Always a teacher at heart, helping others improve their literacy is something she takes quite seriously based on the impact she knows it can have on the lives of people she encounters in those sessions.

“I think that we are obligated to support persons who want better for themselves and those who are choosing to do so in the right way. If I can help someone, boost their self-esteem, and change the way they feel about themselves by teaching them to read, I am enabling them to change their life for the better,” said Tugwell Henry.

Another avenue that Tugwell Henry uses to influence and impact others is through the UWI Mentorship Programme where she often volunteers as a mentor for tertiary students.

Always beginning every task with the end in mind, Tugwell Henry has already mapped out her plans for her first year in office which includes a customer-first strategy and digital transformation to improve the service of Scotia — a full-service financial fortress which boasts a $556.3 billion asset base. This will be her 18th year as an executive for any banking entity.

On her priority list for the bank for 2021, is the growth of the core banking business, boosting customer experience, supporting financial inclusion and taking a greater stake within the capital markets space.

In closing out her story, Tugwell Henry looks forward to Jamaica emerging stronger from the COVID-19 crisis with a focus on nation-building in an ever-changing world.

Scotiabank Jamaica's role has been critical as its loan book (second largest in Jamaica) forms part of the growth plan for individuals and businesses across the country by providing access to well-needed credit.

“My hope for Jamaica is that we will take some of the lessons learned during COVID and apply them to life after, particularly the value of digital as a key enabler for government and business success. We have seen how through the use of digital technology our consumers have been to be able to operate almost seamlessly within the context of a significant disruption such as a global pandemic.”

For Tugwell Henry, Jamaica must use this crisis to comprehensively examine what needs to be prioritised and recommit to a transformation plan that involves changing the way we prepare our people, especially our young people, to be successful in the 21st century.

As the world focuses on women's achievements with the observation of International Women's Day today, Tugwell Henry also shared her view saying, “Women have always and continue to impact the global economies. We have continued to break barriers and drive change. The matter of gender equity and equal opportunities for advancement for women must be a key area of focus for both business and governments.”

The Jamaica Observer celebrates International Women's Day with a special feature inside All Woman, with 21 women who #ChooseToChallenge gender bias and inequity.

Joan DaCosta Dixon, a customer rep at Scotiabank, took the moment to snap a selfie with Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the official re-opening of Scotiabank Centre at the corner of Duke and Port Royal streets in Kingston last year while Tugwell Henry looked on.
By David Rose Observer writer

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