I was meeting her for the first time, and I was immediately struck by her aura, which radiated pure authenticity.
Her warm, unaffected manner belied the significant role she plays in the financial sector. Roxann Linton is effortlessly disarming with measured but ready, free-flowing responses to questions on any issue.
Since January this year she has been at the helm of First Heritage Credit Union Ltd (FHC), and if her initial comments are anything to go by, she has already warmed up to her new role.
“It’s only been a few months, but it feels like a year because it’s been very fast-paced; because this is the year — 2017 is where we want to turn around certain things.”
So what is her first order of business? Again, she gives a quick and clear-minded response: “Keeping our members at the centre.”
She recalls her mentor-in-chief at RBC Jamaica constantly talking about ‘loving up on your customers’ — in the case of credit unions and their members. “Not only did I have the privilege of seeing that lived out in front of me, but the realisation of the actual benefits as well. It causes the organisation to adjust its focus, and we consciously change our modus operandi to exceed expectations.”
Linton does not waste time. This mindset, coupled with her longstanding love for data, has led the freshly minted CEO to demonstrate her mantra of ‘members at the centre’, taking her up close and personal with the members, whom she describes as FHC’s real bosses. She and her management team have travelled across Jamaica and staged a series of uncensored but mutually respectful town halls. The series was completed on April 20 for Kingston and St Catherine, and now she is set to use the data coupled with insights to ‘get on with it’.
This new CEO is happiest when she has a full plate and is working in tandem with an engaged team. She is quick to give credit to her new work family, opining that she is pleased that they have a realistic picture of FHC’s current position and share her passion to raise the bar significantly over the next 12 months.
“They have recognised that this [financial] position is not one they were used to, and that they didn’t want to be in that situation anymore. They are definitely self-motivated, and that helps.”
So why is Linton equipped to lead this mission? Just a quick glance at her rÃ©sumÃ© reveals a woman with a solid work history spanning 20 years of progressive upward movement. Her career in financial services began with the Bank of Nova Scotia with postings in Kingston, and Halifax and Toronto, Canada. She has managed processes such as credit, market and operational risks, retail and commercial banking, compliance and internal control measures. By all accounts she was a quick study, and moved through several senior management positions such as director of corporate credit and director of group operational risk & market risk management (BNS Canada), vice-president, personal banking (RBC Royal Bank Jamaica) and head of compliance (RBC Trinidad & Tobago). Add to that formal academic and professional training yielding an advanced degree in accounting as well as the Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Public Accountant designations. Yet, she is clear that her entry will not serve to change FHC from the community model of the credit union to that of a traditional bank. While speaking across the country, she made it clear to her members that the history and culture of the credit union movement is as important as its financial strength. She and her team aim to find the right balance.
With all her professional firepower, why the credit union movement as her next assignment? Again, it is part of Linton’s projected professional development trajectory. She connected the dots and realised the credit union was a great fit.
“You get to that stage in your life where you want to serve, to do more,” she explains.
“This thought had prompted efforts to join an international development agency to make a direct impact on the global development goals, and then this opportunity came up to lead FHC. I was also looking for a leadership role at the CEO level within my overall career aspirations…so now I intend to use this opportunity at the credit union to achieve development goals — first for our members and by extension, Jamaica.”
Although still quite young, she confesses that she now feels a sense of responsibility to help others improve their financial situations. “You know, I think it’s also an innate desire, given that our journey through life is just once. Something within me gets satisfied just knowing that during my time here, my efforts are helping.”
By this time it has become clear that this highly motivated top performer has definitely managed to remain grounded. For this she credits her upbringing within a modest but secure nuclear family with one sibling and surrounded by the fresh and unpretentious natural environment of Linstead in St Catherine. It was much more about the inculcation of soft skills than anything else.
This, Linton believes, has also prepared her to function in the most accessible and family friendly part of the financial landscape.
“Leading a financial institution which can support families and enable them to function as strong units? Very important to me. And obviously the family is also a strong pillar of the society. When families evolve and grow, our society evolves. That ties in to my core mission.”
While retaining a laser-sharp focus on her business mission, Linton is quick to point out that she simply cannot function without balance.
“I like to exercise… not doing much running now, but back in the day I would have even done a marathon. The emphasis these days is more on consistency as part of my daily routine to maintain a healthy life. It’s really not about size, it just energises me at the start of the day and gives me the stamina to get through.”