Tuesday, 19 January 2016

THE TALLAWAH INTERVIEW: Jamaica Stock Exchange Chairman, Allan J. Lewis, talks growth, governance and getting the JSE to #1

FIGURE OF SPEECH: "We are confident in Jamaica’s economy," Lewis noted, addressing Monday's opening ceremony in Kingston.

The arrival of the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s 2016 Investments and Capital Markets Conference comes on the heels of the JSE being named the number one performing stock exchange in the world for 2015 by financial powerhouse Bloomberg Business. And no one is more thrilled by this recognition than the man who’s been chairing the JSE board for the past two years, Allan J. Lewis, a senior vice-president (Group Strategy) at Victoria Mutual. Joining the corporate crowd at Monday’s opening ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel (where PM Portia Simpson-Miller delivered the keynote address), TALLAWAH spoke with Lewis about this significant moment in the life of the JSE.

TALLAWAH: How does it feel to be Chairman of the JSE at this juncture in its history?
Allan J. Lewis: Clearly, I am proud. And as I said in my remarks [at Monday’s ceremony], we are proud because the recognition from Bloomberg is great publicity. But as board members we see the work that is being done by the management team every day to achieve the objectives that have been set, and it is that work that has culminated in the recognition from Bloomberg.

TALLAWAH: You singled out General Manager, Marlene Street-Forrest, for special praise. Clearly you think she’s been doing a terrific job as team leader.
Allan J. Lewis: Absolutely. I think the key metric for us as board members is the returns we provide to shareholders. The stock exchange itself is a public company, so the terms that we have given in the appreciation of the stock price in 2015, as well as dividends we have paid out to shareholders, has been more than in any other year.

TALLAWAH: This regional investments and capital markets conference is now in its 11th year. What will it achieve this year?
Allan J. Lewis: The conference is an opportunity not only for the stock exchange to showcase its products and services to institutions and local investors, but also to bring together professionals to underscore the importance of the stock market to the overall financial market.

TALLAWAH: Speaking of business professionals, do you have any advice for those who are nervous about the future, given the state of the economy?
Allan J. Lewis: Well, it’s not really for me to give advice. But we are confident in Jamaica’s economy, based on what has been achieved under the IMF’s extended fund agreement and programme, and we are hopeful that the government will continue to take the measures necessary that are required to achieve the target – and that the world economy will also remain benign. If these forces continue, then 2016 and 2017 will be even better years for Jamaica’s economy.

TALLAWAH: As board chairman, what is the most challenging part of your job?
Allan J. Lewis: Well, we have to work just as hard. But as chairman and board members we are not management. We provide guidance, oversight and governance to management. We help management to achieve the objectives that have been put in place.

TALLAWAH: So what’s next for you after your JSE tenure ends?
Allan J. Lewis: Oh, who knows? We don’t know yet.

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