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5 Questions for Dr Adrian Stokes on his expanded job at Scotiabank

Published:Friday | March 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Dr Adrian Stokes ... the newly tapped group strategist for Scotia Group.

Considered one of the most brilliant analysts corporate Jamaica has to offer, Dr Adrian Stokes is often tapped for his insights on local and global events.

Stokes was snatched up exactly two years ago by Scotia Group Jamaica as strategist for its wealth arm, Scotia Jamaica Investments Limited, under the title of vice-president of strategic planning, projects and product development. This week, Scotia gave him an even bigger job as strategist for the group, which sounds like the top boss, Scotia Group President and CEO Bruce Bowen, likes the results he is getting.

Stokes has been transferred from Scotia Investments to offices at Bank of Nova Scotia Limited as group strategist. The position was created just for him. He starts on Monday April 2, 2012.

The shift comes as Scotia Investments reported seven per cent more in yearly profits, at J$1.98b, while Scotia Group's bottom line stagnated, declining by less than a point, at J$10.62b. The first quarter results maintained the trend: Scotia Jamaica net profit, up seven per cent; Scotia Group, down 1.5 per cent.

Did your new job come with a big salary increase? How much?

These are the kind of movement that allows me to broaden my appreciation of what the group does. It is not necessarily a promotion per se, but more of a developmental role within the group in the sense that I get the opportunity to broaden my purview.

The role is being properly compensated, but I won't give a figure. It is being fairly compensated though. Scotiabank takes pride in rewarding team members fairly for the work they are being asked to do.

The role was created for me.

Does group strategist mean you will have a more universal role over strategy for all elements of Scotia Group or will it be confined to commercial/corporate banking?

In the prior role I was responsible for strategic planning at Scotia Investments. In this role, I am focused on coming up and implementing strategy and strategic planning for the entire group - hence the title group strategist - so I will have to interact with the different entities within the group. I will be located at the bank. The role interacts with all the companies in the group, not just the commercial bank.

How will your new job be different? Does it require a different approach?

One of my responsibilities at Scotia Investments was managing the strategic planning process. The new role sees me broadening this responsibility to focus on the different entities in the group. The new role poses a different challenge to the extent that I am working with entities that have different business models.

Therefore, working with the respective business owners to understand what they do is paramount. If anything, I will be required to forge more partnerships because of the different entities in the group.

As a Commonwealth Scholar, everyone expects that you will be a brilliant analyst. How does a good analyst become a good strategist?

An analyst must possess key skills that the strategist must possess. The major difference is that the strategist must do a little bit more than the analyst. The strategist must appreciate change in market dynamics. By market dynamics I mean the changing phase and appetite of the investors, and also appreciate how the macroeconomic environment affects the particular company and line of business.

An analyst must be very sound technically, very strong quantitatively, must appreciate corporate finance. To turn that into a good strategist, the analyst must be able to see things ahead of time.

They must be able to think outside the box, be able to appreciate particular changes ahead of time, appreciate market dynamics and consumer behaviour and must be able to work with people - you know, building relationships and also be able to focus on execution.

A strategist should try as much as possible to be a good analyst. That is a necessary condition, I would say, to become a good analyst. The other thing is developing people skill in terms of appreciating the human side of the business, and, therefore, being able to forge partnerships that will culminate not just in crafting of strategies but the execution of the various strategic initiatives.

A good strategy is effective to the extent that it gets executed and delivers the desired results. A good strategist should also possess the soft skills that will enable him/her to build relationships with business owners that will culminate with effective execution.

Do you set personal goals at each assignment? What are they for this new job?

I have goals that I set. Personally, I see this as a learning experience. My background has largely been in investment companies. I will have a different challenge in terms of learning the different business models.

Companies are successful to the extent that they have a competitive advantage that is driven by a robust strategy. This competitive advantage distinguishes them from their competitors and is sustained through effective execution.

I have three primary goals:

1) To learn as much as possible from people who are seasoned in the group like Jacqueline Sharp, Frederick Williams and Lissant Mitchell;

2) To work with the brilliant team that has been assembled by Mr Bruce Bowen to ensure we focus on the things we are good at. Working closely with the president, Mr Bowen,, is something I am looking forward to.

3) To ensure timely execution of the group's strategic priorities. I am looking forward to ensuring that the group does what it is good at, reinforcing its competitive advantage and also trying to improve our execution capability.