Sun | Feb 17, 2019

Scotia Investments CEO follows top managers out the exit

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 11:51 AM
Lissant Mitchell, CEO of Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited.
Lissant Mitchell, CEO of Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited.

Scotia Investments Jamaica, the wealth arm of banking conglomerate Scotia Group, will lose its fourth top manager in less than three years when CEO Lissant Mitchell demits office in March.

Mitchell will pursue personal interests, Scotia Group said, but was silent on his successor.

His announced departure comes on the heels of the promotion of Dr Adrian Stokes to oversee the group’s insurance and wealth management arm as executive vice-president (EVP).

Stokes, who was the head of Scotia Jamaica Life Insurance Company (SJLIC) for less than a year, was tapped for the new post after the announcement that Scotia was selling the life business to insurance conglomerate Sagicor for US$144 million – a deal expected to close this year. His new job was announced mid-January, but was said to be effective since last November.

Scotia Group’s published market notice did not address the reporting structure, but on the face of it, as EVP, Stokes, who for a very short period reported to Mitchell when he was vice-president for strategic planning, projects and product development at Scotia Investments, would now have a senior role to his former boss.

Stokes was first tapped for a position at the group level in early 2012 as group strategist, a job described at the time as tailor-made for him. Mitchell has led Scotia Investments since November 2011. He has over 20 years of experience in the financial sector.

Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited was a publicly listed company up to 2017, when Scotia Group Jamaica acquired the outstanding minority shares and took the subsidiary private under a $3.7 billion buyout. That move followed years of transitioning by the wealth arm, led by Mitchell, from repo interest-earning income towards off-balance sheet fee-based services, such as unit trust products.

Last year, Scotia Group reported that its wealth arm made $1.8 billion in net profit on revenues of $3.3 billion. Its bottom line shrank 21 per cent relative to 2017’s net profit of $2.27 billion on revenues of $3.5 billion. The results marked a return to reduced year-on-year profits for that segment of the banking conglomerate. Scotia Investments has previously explained its fluctuating profits as the result of the implementation of its fee-based strategy.

Top executives left

Prior to his own announced departure, three of Mitchell’s top executives left the company for their own pursuits. The departures since mid-2016 included Dr Ike Johnson, strategist Jason Morris and finance chief Yvonne Pandohie. Both Morris and Johnson would eventually co-found Sygnus Capital with another former Scotia Investments manager, Berisford Grey, who previously left the company in 2013.

Mitchell was not reached for comment on whether his personal pursuits would also see him going into business.

His departure from Scotia is not isolated. Following the appointment of David Noel as president and CEO of Scotia Group Jamaica since November 2017, to replace Jacqueline Sharp, there has been a slew of executives either leaving or retiring, or switching portfolios, including Stokes, who assumed the position of president of SJLIC in February 2018.

In 2016, when the wealth subsidiary’s accounts were public as a listed company, Scotia Investments’ return on average equity was about nine per cent. That’s less than half the 20 per cent returns it was averaging seven years ago.

In 2016, the company reported a rise in profit, its first in four years, which at $1.35 billion outperformed the prior year by 32 per cent but was still well below its high of $2.01 billion at the time.

Scotia Group did not immediately comment on its future plans for Scotia Investments, but acknowledged receipt of the query.

“Adrian is off the island, but I will contact him tomorrow and revert,” said Yanique Forbes-Patrick, public affairs and communications director for the Caribbean, on Wednesday.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com