Keisha Forbes: JMMB's ball of fire
Who would believe that a good ol' country girl could conquer and be a major influence in a male-dominated industry? From riding bicycles, climbing trees and spending days at the beach, Keisha Forbes had big dreams, but copping the position of chief executive officer of Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) Limited was not one of them.
At the age of 13, Forbes had set her mind on becoming a paediatrician, as she was always the babysitter for the family and loved spending time with children. Though she was not a fan of the sciences, Forbes had always dreamt of being involved with children - but God had a different plan for her life.
As Flair sat down with the confident and persistent 40-year-old, it came as a surprise that a woman of such stature could be a ball of fun and enthusiasm. Born in St Andrew and growing up in Discovery Bay, St Ann, Forbes was the eldest of three girls and the tomboy of the family. She took pleasure in making fun of her siblings and being a bit of a troublemaker.
After completing second form at the St Hilda's Diocesan High School, Forbes' family was propelled to relocate to Kingston. Being the eldest, Forbes was the first to move. With the drastic change in environment, and no longer having trees to climb, Forbes focused on her studies at the Holy Childhood High School.
Change of Plans
Faced with the decision of choosing her path of study at the end of third form, Forbes easily chose the sciences, to chase her dream of becoming a paediatrician. One day as she sat in her living room, Forbes overheard a conversation between her father and uncle that would change her life forever. She recalled hearing her father say he wished she had chosen business because he really thought she would be better business as a person.
With her father being one of her biggest motivators and influence, Forbes granted her father's wish and switched to business the next day.
"I went into the business pool and I liked it, but I still could not decide what my career in business would be," Forbes shared.
After graduating from high school, Forbes attended the Institute of Management and Production, hoping she could figure out her place in the business world. Two years later, she obtained an associate degree in business management.
Still at a crossroads, Forbes turned to the career section of the newspaper, hoping to find a job that could help her choose the path best for her.
"Flipping through the pages, every job I was interested in required two years' work experience and a bachelor's degree. At this point, I remember going home to my parents and worrying how I would gain two years' work experience when I'm trying to get my degree - wanting to work and go to school at the same time," Forbes explained.
Researching a number of programmes, Forbes discovered Nova Southeastern University, which later became her saviour in allowing her to work during the week and attending school on the weekends. Though this would be a major task, Forbes was ready for the challenge.
Journey to JMMB
Driven by her determination to work, Forbes began to send out applications - adding JMMB to her list of places of interest. Whether it was luck or fate, Forbes was called for interviews by JMMB and the National Commercial Bank (NCB). Going to both interviews, Forbes was optimistic, and with her passionate and loving attributes, she was presented with a job offer by both companies.
Taking us down memory lane, Forbes happily shared with Flair the reason she chose to be part of the JMMB family.
"When I got through with both jobs, I called a number of persons, including my parents. My parents thought of NCB and shared that NCB have been around for years. I also spoke to my friend's mother, who knew someone working at JMMB and who highlighted some important points. She spoke about the vibrancy that exists in the JMMB, their acceptance of young people, and she believed I could learn a lot here," Forbes expressed.
In October of 1997, Forbes decided to start her journey at JMMB as a trading assistant. Placed on the traders' floor to type letters and understand the art of trading, she realised that she had found her place in life. With that, she was focused and driven to learn more about the industry.
After three years, Forbes was rewarded for her hard work and promoted to a junior trader in December of 2000. From there, she progressed to a senior trader, and in 2007, Forbes reserved the title of trading and treasury manager.
"I grew up in JMMB. I always say that JMMB took a chance on me straight out of school; so for that, this company means everything to me and it is a big part of who I am today. The people here were willing to teach me everything they knew, encouraged me to ask questions, and keep focused. I never felt intimidated though I'm in a male dominated field," Forbes explained.
Balancing School and Work
"There were days when I was working until 10 at night. I mean, it was exciting and my department had a great vibe to work with, but on a Friday, I had to mentally prepare my mind for school. During the week, I still had projects and schoolwork to do. What I had to do was be smart about the process and have good time management," Forbes shared.
In 2000, Forbes received her bachelor's degree in business professional management, and with a push again from her father, she went after her master's in banking and finance at the University of the West Indies. By 2003, Forbes had completed her studies and was ready to chase after her goal of becoming the best of herself and producing the best for JMMB.
Happy with Bigger Plans
After almost two decades of growing with the company, the ball of fire arrived at her destination - head of investment services and CEO of JMMB Limited in November of 2014. Though Forbes is described as an energetic, approachable and easy-going boss, Forbes admitted she can be aggressive when it comes to getting the work done. She is target-driven, honest, outspoken and a force to be reckoned with.
Forbes is in a happy place now as she loves spending time with her family and building a future with her fiance. Though she has dreams of getting involved with children, she also has dreams of JMMB Group being international and providing holistic solutions to clients not just in the Caribbean, but globally.