Barita to break ground for construction of new HQ
Barita Investments Founder Rita Humphries-Lewin (right) and husband Karl at an event

Barita Investments Limited is set to break ground on a new head office to be situated on Lady Musgrave Road extending onto Argyle Road, St Andrew, with construction expected to begin within the next 18 months, the company said in a news release on Friday.

The head office will be built in honour of the company’s founder, Rita Humphries-Lewin, who has contributed significantly to Jamaica’s financial sector’s growth and development over the last five decades.

The company said it was a natural decision to honour Humphries-Lewin given the role she has played in the company’s success over the years, as well as her sterling contribution to the country’s financial sector.

Founder, president, and CEO of Cornerstone Paul Simpson noted that the company is pleased to continue to honour Rita, as “she built an extraordinary organisation with a strong heritage, and it is vital to safeguard her legacy especially as we continue to build Jamaica.”

Humphries-Lewin devoted her life to building Barita Investments and was the first woman to establish a stockbrokerage in Jamaica. Humphries-Lewin also holds the distinction of establishing one of the first stockbrokerage firms in Jamaica and being the first woman to chair the board of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE).

During her tenure she spearheaded the establishment of the Jamaica Central Securities Depository Limited (JCSD) in 1998 and the development of electronic trading on the JSE in 2000.

“Rita is an extraordinary person and a great pioneer for Jamaican and Caribbean women. The financial industry, in many ways, stands on her shoulders. I am eternally grateful for Rita’s confidence in the team to carry on the legacy she built over 44 years,” said Simpson.

“We will continue to honour her in any way that we can and were extremely happy to dedicate our new headquarters to her in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to the development of the island’s financial industry and her steadfast leadership over the years,” he added.

Karl Lewin, husband of Humphries-Lewin and former managing director of Barita Unit Trusts Management Company Limited, said, “When Paul approached Rita and I about Cornerstone’s desire to acquire control of Barita, a big part of what he promised was ensuring that Rita’s legacy would be preserved as they took the company forward. So far Cornerstone has lived up to all that was promised, to include expanding the Barita Foundation and increasing its impact on Jamaica, especially the nation’s children.”

The groundbreaking is part of the company’s Barita 45 celebrations, which mark the company’s 45th anniversary. Aside from reaching this significant milestone, the company’s recent three and a half years have been particularly memorable, with the majority of its shares being purchased by the Cornerstone Group in August of 2018.

Since that acquisition, the brokerage company has become a major player in the investment banking and asset management space and is now the fifth-largest company on the JSE by market capitalisation and the largest securities dealer by shareholders’ equity in Jamaica.

In addition, the company has grown its operational base, and increased its client products and partnerships as a result of a series of fund-raising operations. This has resulted in Barita significantly bolstering its capital base by over 10 times over three years to $36.2 billion resulting in an industry leading capital adequacy ratio of 52.7 per cent as at its last fiscal year end.

Barita reported net profit of $4.1 billion in financial year 2021, up from $364 million the year before the acquisition.

Humphries-Lewin became a shareholder of Cornerstone in September 2021. Cornerstone Financial Holdings Limited and Cornerstone United Holdings Limited are investment holding companies of two regulated operating entities — Barita Investments Limited & Cornerstone Trust & Merchant Bank Limited.

According to Cornerstone’s Chief Investment Officer Jason Chambers, “the Cornerstone entities have a combined book value of US$549 million, or US$8.11 book value per share as reflected in the group’s last audited financial statements for the year end September 30, 2021.”

Commenting on her investment in Cornerstone, Humphries-Lewin said, “Karl and I are very comfortable with Cornerstone, and we are quite impressed with how they have transformed Barita since taking over. I am so proud when I see Barita everywhere I go. I am especially satisfied with the continued and expanding work of the foundation which was always my passion.”

Karl Lewin added, “Seeing Cornerstone’s excellent performance with Barita so far and with the diversification the investment offers, its interests in banking, and the expansion plans overseas, I am looking forward positively to seeing the results of this new investment in her portfolio.”

“In our time, we have had many supporters as well as many detractors who would have tried to thwart the success of the business. We therefore learned very early that there will always be detractors but how we dealt with it was just to ignore them and remain focused. We have asked Paul and his team to adopt a similar approach as resistance is a given once you have set out to challenge the status quo,” Karl Lewin said.

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