Tue | Jan 21, 2020

Nadeen Matthews Blair | Grateful for the dawning of a new Jamaica

Published:Monday | December 9, 2019 | 12:11 AM
Nadeen Matthews

In 2009, I was contemplating leaving my job at McKinsey & Company in Atlanta. I was searching for work with more meaning, a more manageable lifestyle and possibly closer to my family in New York.

I had not lived in Jamaica for 20 years, but I had always wondered what it would be like to live and work in Jamaica. Based on that, a friend sent my résumé to four CEOs in Jamaica. I did not think anything would come of it and expected that I would likely end up working in NYC, where I would be closer to my parents. But that was not to be, as Patrick Hylton called me on the very same day he received my résumé, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I spoke to Patrick on an afternoon in November 2009 and I joined NCB on February 15, 2010, on a three-year contract. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would still be in Jamaica 10 years later. Many of my loved ones thought I was crazy for leaving a “good job” with my “good JPMorgan, Wharton, McKinsey credentials” and moving back to the “Third World”. Moving to Jamaica and choosing NCB has been fortuitous.

The Jamaica I moved back to in January 2010 was one of the most indebted countries in the world, with low growth and productivity, high crime and poverty, and poor infrastructure.

Fast-forward to today – Ocho Rios is less than an hour away on our new highway, and the infrastructure improvements continue. Jamaica has completed its economic reform programme, which has put us on a path to economic growth and sustainability. Unemployment is below eight per cent. Annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth, while still in single digits, is multiples of what it has been for the past 20 years.

The Jamaica Stock Exchange was the world’s best-performing stock exchange in 2018. The economic reform programme is a testament to the power that can be unlocked when there is bipartisan support and collaboration with the private and public sectors, civil society and unions on issues of importance for all citizens.

Notwithstanding all these improvements since 2010, significant challenges remain for our nation. We still have work cut out for us on crime and corruption, healthcare, and poverty.

A team member recently asked me what keeps me here. It was a great opportunity for a 10-year retrospective. In summary, I see how far we have come in the last 10 years. I am truly grateful for what has happened and hopeful for what is to come.

Jamaica is a beautiful place – but the sun, sand and sea landscapes are only part of its beauty. The real beauty of Jamaica is in its people. I am continuously inspired by our resilience and extraordinary accomplishments in the face of daunting challenges.

When we rally together to support our high schools at Boys and Girls’ Champs, our athletes at the Olympics, to help someone that has experienced a fire, to rescue someone from an overflown gully, or to feed someone even when we are hungry ourselves, our beauty shines through again and again.

RESILIENCE AND DRIVE

As the CEO of the NCB Foundation, I get to witness this resilience and drive to be extraordinary every day, and I also get to help, and for that I am humbled and grateful.

With one per cent of profits of the NCB Financial Group going toward the NCB Foundation each year, the funds available to the Foundation to build our communities also continues to grow as the group’s performance improves.

This Christmas, the NCB Foundation will continue its annual Grant-A-Wish programme, which allows us to assist some of Jamaica’s neediest organisations and people in the holiday season. We launched our season of giving in November with a gift of $25 million to The University of the West Indies to support the 2019 graduates who are struggling with student loan debt.

We will also be donating $12 million to children’s homes, golden age/nursing homes, organisations supporting persons with disabilities, and persons that do good in their communities during this year’s programme.

We are asking Jamaicans to lend a helping hand and help us to show gratitude for the work of these organisations by submitting your votes and nominations at gratitude.jncb.com. Voting concludes on December 16, 2019. Visit gratitude.jncb.com for further details.

Jamaica is on its way up, and the world is taking note. Our trajectory will continue to be positive, with a combination of the big and bold strokes such as the Economic Programme Oversight Committee collaboration, as well as our own daily acts of kindness.

Join me in gratitude for what we have achieved and in working towards continued growth for Jamaica this holiday season and for decades to come.

Nadeen Matthews Blair is CEO of the NCB Foundation. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.