New direction, old path ... Robert Drummond returns to consultancy

Published: Sunday | February 3, 2013 Comments 0
Robert Drummond ... has headed FGFS since November 2008. - File
Robert Drummond ... has headed FGFS since November 2008. - File

Marcella Scarlett, Business Reporter

Robert Drummond has quit his job as president of First Global Financial Services (FGFS), ending eight years of employment with the GraceKennedy conglomerate to be his own boss.

His departure is effective in two months, on March 31, having headed the financial firm for four years. The conglomerate's financial arm, GraceKennedy Financial Group, has tapped no one to replace him and is currently recruiting publicly to fill the position.

Drummond said his time with FGFS has been "fulfilling" but he now plans to return to consulting.

"I feel really pleased that I have made a positive impact at GraceKennedy," said Drummond in an interview with Sunday Business last Thursday.

"I made a difference in terms of the strategic direction of the company, I have made a difference with several specific projects and I have been very instrumental in terms of strengthening FGFS in terms of positioning it in the market," he said.

FGFS holds a small share of the securities market, approximately seven per cent, about the same as it did when Drummond took over as president in 2008. But he said the company has over that time diversified its revenue stream and reduced its dependence on interest income from repurchase agreements.

"With a market largely dominated by repos in government securities, one has to be very careful about how you grow because you might not want to be exposed to one particular entity too much," he said.

Drummond said his departure was decided several months ago but that his exit was timed to coincide with the execution of an IT project - a new platform called Flex Tube.

"My decision to leave had to coincide with when we go live; otherwise I would have had to stay but I had no doubt that it would have happened," he said.

Facilitate business transactions

The platform, which is designed to increase risk management and facilitate business transactions across both the investment arm and the bank, has been operational at FGFS since January 1, 2013. The system is also to be commissioned at sister operation, First Global Bank, in September.

"I am not sticking around to see the bank because my responsibility is really FGFS," said Drummond.

Drummond, a Harvard MBA, was parachuted into the job as president of FGFS in November 2008 to replace Sandra Shirley but had been GK's go-to guy since 2005 on the execution of new ventures being tested by the conglomerate. At that point, he had several years of management consulting experience in Jamaica and the United States.

With his expertise, which included mergers and acquisitions and strategising, Drummond worked with GK Investments from 2006 to drive new business and deals. The year before his FGFS assignment, he was reported to have led the integration of First Global Trinidad and Tobago, then known as ONE1 Financial Ltd before its rebranding into the First Global Group.

Don Wehby, the current group CEO of GraceKennedy, called Drummond a "great strategic thinker", while complimenting the job he has done on Flex Tube and other GK projects.

Wehby told Sunday Business that the job opening has sparked several inquiries and that he expects to find a replacement soon.

Drummond said he has already identified several projects in Jamaica and overseas that he will pursue as a management consultant, and that his business will be a "one-man show". He also intimated that he plans to invest in different ventures.

"I will be setting up a business that will help companies in a traditional way. It will be a company that will be fundamentally about providing management services to both large corporations and smaller ones that are emerging," he said.

He will avoid, he said, getting involved in running the companies he advises.

"One of the things I am good at is project implementation and pulling people together with the same goal. I want to do that," he said.

"It will be really different because in corporate settings, operations is really where the job is. On my own it will be natural not to get involved because I will be looking at new developments, pulling new partners together which will be different from somebody who is on the ground."

Drummond said he plans to negotiate equity stakes in the deals he brings together, "but you don't want to be in a position of managing those businesses that you have the equity stake in," he said.

He said he cannot think of anything that he would change about his time at GK highlighting heading FGFS and preparations to launch Medicus in 2005 as two of many high points during his time with the group.

"I had gotten the chance to work on some strategic projects for half the time and then give the opportunity to run one of the subsidiaries for the other half is an eight-year career that was just perfect."

"I wouldn't have scripted it but in hindsight I can't think of a better experience for my life or my career."

marcella.scarlett@gleanerjm.com

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