Mon | Sep 26, 2022

From front desk to front of the pack

Omar Brown moves up the ranks from receptionist to CEO

Published:Friday | April 22, 2022 | 12:08 AMHuntley Medley - Associate Business Editor

CEO of Alliance Financial Services Limited Omar Brown.
CEO of Alliance Financial Services Limited Omar Brown.

Omar Brown, at 41 years old, says heading up Alliance Financial Services Limited, AFSL, which he has been doing since April 1, was never specifically in his plans. But heading up an organisation as chief executive officer certainly was. That’s why...

Omar Brown, at 41 years old, says heading up Alliance Financial Services Limited, AFSL, which he has been doing since April 1, was never specifically in his plans.

But heading up an organisation as chief executive officer certainly was. That’s why he spent a lot of time preparing himself for leadership. That chance came when Sagicor Group Jamaica took over Alliance Financial in March and chose Brown as head of the newly acquired business.

The best preparation, he shared, was living the guidance he received from former Sagicor Bank Jamaica president and CEO Donovan Perkins to always add value to any organisation he works for.

“People don’t get paid for the work they do, but rather for the value they bring to an organisation,” Brown recalled being told by Perkins when the former Sagicor Bank head introduced himself to the new recruit, who had given up a teller position at competitor Scotiabank to take up duties as a front desk receptionist and customer service officer at Sagicor Bank in New Kingston.

Brown, who is from Portsmouth, St Catherine, had made the job transition in 2003 in search of greater occupational flexibility to allow him to pursue banking and finance studies at the University of the West Indies.

Following Perkins’ exhortation, Brown said he assisted colleagues on various desks within the organisation, including the trading room, where he volunteered to do filing while learning the operations, and requesting to sit with mentors, including former Scotiabank CEO Bill Clarke and former Sagicor Group Jamaica President Richard Byles.

In 2008, he successfully interviewed for a position in the trading room, gradually moving up to become team leader in short order.

“I did not wait for company organised cross-training. I tried to learn and grow as much as I could. The trading room is where my true potential started to emerge,” Brown said in an interview with the Financial Gleaner, noting that four members of his team there have since moved on to become CEOs with others leading operations in different departments and entities.

Brown said he was a bit apprehensive about being placed in charge of the combined treasury functions when Sagicor Bank merged with RBC Royal Bank in 2014, but that his confidence was boosted by the abilities of the team he led. He said the team moved from making trading gains of US$20 million per month to more than US$150 million per month over an eight-year period.

“It was a team effort that grew the business. They gave me the respect and allowed me to impart the strategy that we all worked to implement. The fact that the person I groomed was successful in securing the team leadership position when I left the trading department, is one of my proudest achievements in my working life, because there can be no legacy without continuity,” Brown said.

He concedes that leadership of AFSL, a remittance and cambio operation, is vastly different from the treasury operations he previously ran at Sagicor.

“We have a good team here. They are people who understand the business, and they ensure that the customers are satisfied,” Brown said.

He is in charge of a 30-member workforce and a network of five branches located at Belmont Road and Liguanea in Kingston; Portmore, St Catherine; May Pen, Clarendon; and Mandeville, Manchester.

Three weeks into his new role, Brown said the support and goodwill of AFSL customers and network partners have remained strong, despite the entity having closed for some four months before being bought by Sagicor Group Jamaica. He said only four subagents had left the now 110-strong network of remittance providers that offer MoneyGram money transfer services at their businesses across Jamaica.

Sagicor is contemplating a rebranding of Alliance Financial within a year or so, Brown noted. In the meantime, he said, the staff will remain in place, with plans to add jobs amid the roll-out of an ambitious, five-year expansion plan for the business.

“We are still getting to understand the business, doing up a budget now, and trying to get a feel of what we can do come next year and beyond. We haven’t finalised that process yet,” he said.

Brown, as a newly minted chief executive, is imparting the same advice he got years ago to ambitious professionals.

“Always seek to add value; focus on exactly what you want to achieve and move towards it. Learn from others, too: mistakes, while being part of the growth process, are not unique,” he said.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com