Thu | Dec 7, 2023

NCB rings in changes as more top execs move

Published:Friday | September 29, 2023 | 12:10 AMNeville Graham/Business Reporter
Vernon James, outgoing head of NCB Financial Group’s fintech company TFOB 2021 Limited.
Vernon James, outgoing head of NCB Financial Group’s fintech company TFOB 2021 Limited.
Steven Gooden, outgoing CEO of NCB Capital Markets.
Steven Gooden, outgoing CEO of NCB Capital Markets.

The process of ‘delayering’ and ‘reset’ at Jamaica’s largest bank, the National Commercial (NCB), is well under way as two more top executives under the NCB Group have departed.

Steven Gooden, chief executive officer of NCB Capital Markets, and Vernon James, CEO of TFOB 2021 Limited, operators of digital wallet Lynk, have resigned. The Gleaner understands that more departures are on the cards in coming weeks.

James stepped down in the aftermath of a staff cut at Lynk just days ago. Lynk covers a programme to introduce a digital wallet under the Bank of Jamaica’s digital currency, JAM-DEX.

The departures of James and Gooden are part of a growing list of separations since the abrupt exit of NCB Group CEO Patrick Hylton and Chief Financial Officer Dennis Cohen in July.

In a statement, Gooden, who joined NCB Capital Markets in 2009, indicated that he is stepping down to explore new opportunities.

“My time at NCB Capital Markets has been incredibly fulfilling, and I am immensely proud of the achievements we have collectively made. It is with mixed emotions that I step down from my role as CEO, but I am excited to embark on new ventures that will continue to drive innovation and transformation within the financial industry. I look forward to exploring opportunities that will contribute to the growth and development of our region,” he said.

Earlier this week, Septimus ‘Bob’ Blake announced his departure, which comes after more than 20 years at various levels of the bank and the last five years as CEO. His last day in office is today, and he told a hastily called press conference late Wednesday that he was not pushed out but that he was leaving NCB of his own volition, a sentiment that was echoed by chairman of the NCB Group Michael Lee-Chin. Blake said he had no regrets and thought long and had about the decision.

“It’s something that came after much contemplation. I’ve enjoyed the years spent here at what is a good bank with sound numbers to back it. I’ve told the staff that since I came here I’ve tap-danced every day coming in to work and I’ll do that until my last day here,” Blake said, adding that he was convinced he should give Lee-Chin a free hand for a full reset at the bank.

Former Scotiabank CEO Bruce Bowen will act as interim CEO for NCB, effective October 1. This is the third time that Bowen has had to step in as CEO at a time of transitioning. Between 2004 and 2008 he served as CEO of Scotiabank de Puerto Rico with a mandate to drive expansion and capture market share. By 2008 he was brought back to Jamaica after the retirement of then CEO William ‘Bill’ Clarke. Bowen served in that position until 2013 before capping his 26-year career with Scotiabank with a three-year stint as senior vice president for the Caribbean, which ended in 2016.

Asked about his latest assignment, Bowen said the main order of business is to settle the 2,600 staff organisation and develop a laser focus on implementing the Efficiency, Governance and Customer Service Programme (EGC).

“That’s job one right now; in another month or so we can start looking at getting another CEO to continue the transition and change but now we have to push ahead with the programme,” Bowen told The Gleaner.

Meanwhile, the NCB Financial Group Limited (NCBFG) announced additional leadership changes as part of efforts to streamline the organisation’s structure, foster greater responsiveness, and bring NCB closer to its customers under the EGC programme.

“These shifts represent our forward-looking commitment to our customers and stakeholders. At NCB, our core belief lies in continuous pursuit of excellence and charting progressive paths,” said Robert Almeida, interim group CEO of NCBFG.

For his part, Lee-Chin said the bank has been focusing on the EGC as a change management programme. He said the delayering of the organisation will cause separations at some levels but will ensure that it becomes closer to the customers while driving efficiency.

Additional leadership changes include: senior vice president (SVP) of retail banking & customer experience, now steps into the role of executive vice president (EVP) for the retail banking division, focusing on refining retail customer interactions. Additionally, Martin will assume responsibility for group marketing, communications and digital.

- Dave Garcia, formerly general counsel, will assume the title of EVP, legal and corporate services, serving both NCBJ and NCBFG. Garcia’s legal expertise will provide valuable insights as the company shapes its strategic priorities in Jamaica.

- Tanya Watson-Francis, currently senior vice president – treasury & correspondent banking division, has been appointed EVP, treasury & capital management. In this position Watson-Francis will assume additional responsibilities for balance sheet management, reflecting the bank’s increased focus on capital efficiency.

- Malcolm Sadler, who acted as interim chief financial officer (CFO) for NCBFG, assumes the role of group CFO.

- Jacqueline De Lisser also transitions from her interim CFO role at NCBJ to become the bank’s CFO.