Sun | Feb 18, 2018

Growth & Jobs | Finance is a Challenging Profession - Ramon Small-Ferguson

Published:Tuesday | January 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Ramon Small-Ferguson
Ramon Small-Ferguson with his research team members (from left) Kelsey Taylor, junior analyst; Karen Irons-Jolly, analyst; and April Walters, junior analyst.
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"Generally, I don't encourage persons to enter the financial field," says Chief Investment Strategist and Head of Research at JN Fund Managers Limited, Ramon Small-Ferguson.

At 25, he charts strategy for the deployment of over US$400 million in investments at one of the leading fund management companies in Jamaica. The chartered financial analyst also finds time to mentor university and high school students, as well as younger colleagues.

"I was lucky to find that finance was my passion from fairly early," he admits. "But, that path is not for everyone."

Most students make the mistake of studying a set of subjects in school; getting a job; and then sticking with that profession, although it may not be something they love.

"Originally, I wanted to be an accountant," he said. "I was good at it, but found that I lacked interest in the subject."

Raised in St Thomas by his mother, Shirley Small, a teacher, he attended Morant Bay High School and then spent one year in the sixth form at St George's College, before starting professional training in business at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) in 2008.

"In my third year at UTech, I chose to major in finance-linked courses," he explained. "In that first semester, I knew right away that finance was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

Upon graduating, he secured a job as an investment analyst at Jamaica National Building Society, now JN Bank, and was ultimately promoted to the post of portfolio manager. Last year, he was transferred to JN Fund Managers Limited (JNFM), a member company in the JN Group, where he took up his present portfolio.

 

VITAL TO ECONOMY

 

"I am in a profession that is vital to the functioning of the economy and the well-being of organisations and individuals," he stated. "Finance continuously challenges you; therefore, you can never say that you mastered it completely."

Professionals use their knowledge of finance, accounting, and investment to provide financial advice to clients, and it is that skillset which got his interest.

"On a day-to-day basis, I provide advice on investment strategies across all the JN Fund Managers business lines," he said. "I am, therefore, involved in structuring transactions and providing company valuations and and consequently, I am consulted about economic and market-related decisions. I love it," he admits.

'You can't plan as if you will die tomorrow.'

Ramon Small-Ferguson admires international financial wizards such as Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway; Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan; as well as Brando Hayden, the former general manager of JN Fund Managers, as major sources of inspiration.

"Mr Hayden showed me that when everything is going well, everyone looks good," he stated. "When you can earn your salt is when things turn negative. It is when the market is down and things are challenging that you will discover the true value of quality financial advice."

Quality advice means determining the appropriate investment strategy based on the client's risk profile and investment timeline.

"Many investors seek out the highest returns they can get," he said. "Their main focus should be to take risks they can afford to take. You can't plan as if you will die tomorrow."

Pointing to his own profile, with 40 years to go before reaching the legal retirement age, he said, "I can take a good bit of risk now; however, I will scale back my risk level over time."

He added that, "You need to recognise that you will lose sometimes, but you need to get it right more than you get it wrong ... and don't take your money and put it in one investment."

"You can never learn everything in the field of finance, and it keeps me constantly intrigued," Small-Ferguson stated. "I am very satisfied with my choice of profession."