BFSB and Bahamas Millennials Society Plan Future Leaders Forum
When the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) launched the Bahamas Millennials Society (BMS) late last year it appreciated that the goals of the society met an identified human capital development need, but it did not realize just how welcome the initiative would be to young persons engaged in or seeking to enter the financial services industry. In just the first few months the Society has attracted 4 corporate sponsors and, of course, it is seeking more. Membership also is open to individuals within member firms who do not have the employee numbers to justify corporate sponsorship and to students studying in a degree related to financial services, law, accounting or real estate.
BMS will hold its second event on March 18 at the Balmoral Club. This will be a half day “Future Leaders Forum” during which there will be a discussion on some of the skills that millennials need to master to be successful in an increasingly competitive environment. BFSB CEO Aliya Allen says of the forum, “It’s an opportunity to spark a discussion on personal and professional development utilizing cross-generational perspectives. The dialogue that will occur should serve to give a generational reality check – the priorities, issues and outlooks that are held by different generations can be surprisingly different but there are ways to manage those differences without making value judgments.”
Another focus of the forum will be on “soft skills” and relationship building with a highlight presentation by international guest speaker Lisa Chau, the Founder of Alpha Vert, a private consultancy focused on social media and cross-platform marketing. Ms. Chau, who spent five years working for her alma mater Dartmouth College, was an assistant director of alumni affairs and assistant director of PR for the Tuck School of Business. She also has taught at MIT, and guest lectured MBA and undergraduate courses in e-business strategy at Baruch College and The New School. In reflecting on her own experiences in an article published on the Huffington Post, Ms. Chau writes “I now realize the invaluable skill of networking. That is, fostering a positive culture of interpersonal relationships built on a foundation of solid work. Focusing on one or the other does not work.” Ms. Chau has written extensively on the power of networking to help advance careers and business objectives.
Also featured will be reflections of industry leaders Atul Lele, Chief Investment Strategist of Deltec International Group and Jane Siebels founder of Green Cay Asset Management. Mr. Lele and Ms. Siebels will share advice with millennials on what it takes to succeed with the benefit and hindsight of their own experiences. Before joining Deltec, Mr. Lele was formerly a Director and Head of Strategy and Economics with Credit Suisse, based in Australia, and was the #1 Rated Strategist in Institutional Investor Survey and Peter Lee (formerly Greenwich) Institutional Equities Survey over multiple years. Ms. Siebels is Chairwoman and CIO of the investment firm she formed in 1977, and which oversees $300 million in assets for institutions and high net worth individuals.
A third panel discussion will focus on how and why the spirit of entrepreneurship should be encouraged in the financial services sector and in the broader economy. The panel highlights two Bahamian entrepreneurs in beverage manufacturing and culinary tourism – Mervin Sweeting, CEO of Switcha Bahamas and Alanna Rodgers, Founder of Tru Bahamian Food Tours and Hands for Hunger – and one Bahamian involved in business development for a financial services entrepreneurial business, Khalil Braithwaite of Leno Corporate Services.
Mr. Sweeting started his company in 2007 in his kitchen, and is aiming to go public in 2-3 years’ time to raise the capital necessary for a planned $15-$25 million Andros expansion as well as international growth plans. Alanna Rodgers is a young Bahamian social entrepreneur with a passion for transformative community engagement. She started the food tours in 2012 on a mission to connect visitors with Nassau’s most beloved culinary treasures and the local artisans, chefs and entrepreneurs preserving these traditions. CEO Allen notes, “While it may seem that there is a tenuous link between financial services and these particular industries, we believe the lessons to be learned on taking risks, hard work and creativity are fully transportable. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy and financial services entrepreneurship can be especially difficult but we want to plant a seed.” The third panellist, Mr. Braithwaite, has been intimately involved with the introduction and successful implementation of pension plans for several companies in various industries.
The final session will be a cross-generational roundtable discussion involving millennial Dr. Iyandra Bryan, Managing Director, Lyford Tree Legal; Gen-Xer Kevin Burrows, Senior Vice President of CFAL and President of the CFA Society; and Suzanne Black, Founder of Black & Associates. Dr. Bryan, not yet 30, has held various roles in the financial services industry, achieving a Doctor in Jurisprudence at age 23 from the University of Florida Fredric G Levin College of Law and a Doctor of Philosophy at age 26 from the University of London under the supervision of Professor Barry A K Rider, a world-renowned expert on financial crimes, and Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge. Yale and Cambridge University alumni Kevin Burrows is a noted analyst with 20 years of experience in the finance industry, including an international posting as Director and Chief Investment Officer of London-based Nedgroup Investments. Suzanne Black is an industry veteran and is considered a trailblazer as she was the first woman and Bahamian to head an international bank branch and The Lyford Cay Club.
This first major event of the year will kick off a busy calendar for BMS. “BMS is a bit of a passion project for me and indeed the entire steering committee”, says CEO Aliya Allen, herself a millennial. “When I started out I found it quite difficult to navigate professionally because I thought there was some pre-defined route to career progression. I had a very rigid way of looking at personal and professional success. Connecting with senior figures across and outside the industry changed all of that and gave me the confidence to accept greater leadership roles at a fairly young age”.
This is one of the reasons that BFSB hopes that the BMS mentorship program in which mentors from the industry and mentees will be “matched” on the basis of background and goals and priorities, will be a success. “We must place a greater focus on succession in the industry,” says Ms. Allen. “There is no vision for The Bahamas in 30 or 40 years that could leave out young people who comprise the industry right now. These are the future leaders and some, we are very proud to say, are leading right now.”