Sun | Dec 17, 2017

From corporate To coffee - Jacqueline Sharp eyes new role

Published:Friday | October 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill
Jacqueline Sharp
Jacqueline Sharp
Jacqueline Sharp, president and CEO of Scotiabank Jamaica.
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A career change is a natural life progression, and many studies show that the average job seeker will change careers (not jobs) several times over the course of his or her lifetime. Jacqueline Sharp, the president and chief executive officer of Scotia Group Jamaica Limited and regional head of the Caribbean Central and North Division, will be embarking on a new journey come October 31.

After making significant contributions to the banking sector and the community for more than 20 years, Sharp, one of the most respected leaders in the financial sector in Jamaica and the Caribbean, will trade in the corporate setting for the rugged outdoors as she joins her family's coffee business.

With her family being involved in agriculture for generations, along with her husband, Jason, and his brother, Richard, Sharp will be adding her expertise to take the business to a higher level. She believes that with her years of experience in the financial sector, spanning finance, administration, banking, and insurance, she is well placed to add value and support the growth of the business.

"Richard started growing coffee on the family farm in the Blue Mountains in 1985. This is when the coffee journey started. The business has grown over the years into what is now a fully integrated coffee business, which is currently run by Richard and Jason. They have driven the growth in the business, and Coffee Traders Limited is now the largest exporter of Blue Mountain coffee in Jamaica," Sharp said.

AGGRESSIVE EXPANSION PLANS

"With 40 per cent market share and growing, we are also the largest coffee roasters in the English-speaking Caribbean. The company now has aggressive expansion plans in all areas of the business, including farming, processing, roasting, and wholesale and retail sales, and the CafÈ Blue coffee shop chain, as well as expansion into other areas of specialty foods," she added.

According to Sharp, with age and energy on her side, she will join the company as a director and chart the way with strategic directions, with the added benefit of spending more time with her family.

"With the expansion plans, the timing is right to support the future growth of what I feel is a high-potential industry, with a premium-branded product that is internationally recognised: Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee," she said.

Sharp's Scotia journey

Sharp joined Scotiabank in 1997 as a management trainee and was promoted up the ranks over the years before taking over as country head. Her regional promotion happened in May 2016 and was heralded as history-making.

She was not the first woman appointed to head a country operation in Scotiabank's regional ecosystem as she came behind appointees like Minna Israel, who once headed up the Bahamas operations, and Anya Schnoor, who currently manages Trinidad, both of whom are Jamaicans. Sharp was, however, the first female to manage the 128-year-old Jamaica banking group.

"I took over as CEO at a very challenging time, right after the second debt exchange, which had significant impact on our profitability as our interest income was cut dramatically overnight. So it was critical for us to execute a strategy of transforming our business to become more efficient and reduce our operating costs, while at the same time grow our core business volumes and revenues, Sharp said.

REAPING FRUITS OFLABOUR

With her team, Sharp said that she executed an aggressive transformation strategy including restructuring and outsourcing to get leaner and more efficient.

"Today, we can see the fruits of our hard work and sacrifice. Our productivity has improved significantly over the last four years, and we were able to achieve this with little disruption in our business," she said.

"We also focused on growing our core business, and executed various initiatives to ensure that we had competitive offerings. Again, this bore fruit as we saw solid growth in all our core business lines, but, particularly, in the areas of lending, deposits and payment services," Sharp added.

Prior to her appointment,

she was the executive vice-president and chief financial officer for the group, with responsibility for financial and regulatory reporting, financial risk management, strategic planning, legal, compliance, and oversight of the Systems Support Centre.

Sharp, who holds a bachelor of science degree with honours in accounting from The University of the West Indies and who is a chartered financial analyst charterholder, also acquired a wide range of experience in the group.

"There were many highlights spanning my career at Scotiabank. I assumed increasing responsibilities over the years in different areas of the organisation, which not only allowed me to learn tremendously, but also to work with some of the most energetic and passionate team members I have ever known," Sharp said.

Under her tenure, the Private Banking Unit was established, and she successfully led Scotia Jamaica Life Insurance Company Limited from 2003 to 2008. During that time, she also successfully completed the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examinations and the Ivey Executive Programme at the Ivey Business School (University of Western Ontario).

"I am very grateful for that opportunity and for the support given to me by the entire team over the many years. I had to take risks with my career and take on challenges in roles that were very new to me, and that stretched me. I would say that those risks paid off, and I would encourage more women to be confident about taking risks. You just have to believe in yourself, take the leap, and then give it your all," Sharp said.

Perhaps Sharp is not quite done with the corporate world entirely as she has indicated her willingness to play a role in various associations in the private sector to contribute to Jamaica's growth agenda.

"I am also going to have the time to support UWI, my alma mater. I recently took on the role of president of the alumni association, with the goal of engaging our alumni to play a more active role in supporting the development of UWI," Sharp said.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com