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Bahamas taps millennial talent
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Bahamas taps millennial talent

Bahamas Financial Services Board looks to nuture a generation of young, highly skilled professionals

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
July 23, 2015
July 23, 2015
Catherine Morris

Aliya Allen was just 30 years old when she became chief executive officer of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) three years ago, and knows firsthand the benefits her generation brings to the workplace.

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Allen believes her generation is a “transformative force” within financial services and is spearheading the BFSB’s newly created Millennials Society to help her cohorts access opportunities, develop their professional skills and become leaders in The Bahamas’ second largest industry.

The BFSB defines Millennials as those born between 1979 and 1993. As a Millennial herself, Allen says creating an organization specifically for these younger workers was a “personal cause.”

“The society arose very organically,” she says. “There was nothing focused on young persons in the industry and we had a lot of feedback from young people about the availability of opportunities for personal and professional development. Millennials are one of the largest generations since the baby boomers. There is a major focus on them being the future of economic development and the future of the workforce.”

Realizing that there was a need to connect younger people with more senior members of the industry and further their development, the BFSB launched the society in November 2014. Within two months, 40 young professionals joined and the BFSB says it is on track to reach its goal of 100 members by the end of this year.

A mentoring mandate
The society’s mandate is based on three components—networking, exposure and mentorship. Of these, the latter is what initially attracted 23-year- old Jasmine Williams to the group.

Williams, now part of the society’s 19-member steering committee, and officer of policy and research at the Securities Commission of The Bahamas, says she was very excited by the prospect of getting guidance from senior industry figures.

“I was looking for mentorship, not just in my career, but also in personal development,” she says. “There were certain people I really wanted to help me, in terms of showing me the different areas of finance. I need a mentor to help me find my niche and find out what skills I need to target that niche.”

Mentors are drawn from all areas of the financial services industry and include most of the BFSB’s board of directors. There is a careful process to match mentee with mentor to ensure the younger professional is paired with someone who has the right experience and expertise. Allen says it is an effective way to get the generations together and notes that the mentors are very keen to share their knowledge.

“They are excited about engaging on a one-to-one basis [with Millennials] and helping them achieve their goals and objectives in a realistic time frame. They serve as a guide,” she says. “Each generation has something to add to the discussion about the future of the financial services industry. It shows the commitment of the industry to its people that so many member firms have said they are interested.”

Networking and exposure
Also helping Millennials connect with preceding generations is the society’s focus on networking and exposure. Allen wants to expose members to industry leaders through talks and presentations. At the society’s official launch event, the audience heard from investment manager Adam Johnson, a former anchor for Bloomberg Television, and Ron Alsop, author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennials Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace.

In the coming year, Allen says the BFSB hopes to leverage its existing alumni network to invite speakers from international schools as well as The College of The Bahamas. “There are a lot of very inspiring speakers in The Bahamas who have wonderful stories of success,” she says.

In March this year, the society hosted the Future Leaders Forum at The Balmoral Club in Nassau. Delivering the opening address, Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan called the attending Millennials “a youthful, modern generation of tech-savvy global citizens ready to embrace a rapidly changing world” and urged them to seek out opportunities, both at home and abroad, to broaden their skills and develop their goals.

Events such as the forum also allow for networking opportunities— an important part of any young professional’s toolkit, according to Allen. “Social interaction and relationship building are important in the corporate world,” she says. “They are these soft skills that are just as important as academic skills.”

The typical Millennial
By 2020, Millennials will form 50 per cent of the global workforce, according to accounting firm PwC. In its report Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace in financial services, PwC describes the typical Millennial as focused, career-driven, ambitious and motivated not just by salary, but also by the need to be engaged in meaningful work and contribute to their communities.

To accommodate the Millennial’s social conscience, the BFSB society aims to partner with non-profit organizations in The Bahamas and lend their support. Allen says this philanthropic element will carry the branding Financial Services Cares.

“Millennials are a very socially active generation. We wanted to embody that and do some social outreach,” she adds.

Allen believes that Millennials are a product of their environment, noting that this is a generation that came of age against the backdrop of economic uncertainty, increased competition for jobs and technological advancements.

“Millennials have a very unique position on things. They have a different concept of what work-life balance means. They live in a social age and they are likely to be quite aggressive in terms of career advancement. They are growing up in a challenging time in terms of opportunities. It is a much more competitive landscape,” she says. “They are not any better or any worse than other generations, they are just different. These are things to keep in mind as they transition into the workforce.”

And Millennials are not just key in terms of workforce demographics, they also represent a huge potential client base for financial services firms. This generation is set to inherit $30 trillion from their baby boomer parents, according to market research group Accenture, making them a prime market for offshore wealth management.

“There is an advantage if you can position your firm to appeal to the Millennial client and that means engaging the Millennial employee,” says Allen. “Corporations are paying attention to Millennials and ensuring they are positioned to succeed in leadership positions. That is very important for the financial services industry.”

Creating leaders is the Millennials Society’s overarching goal. The BFSB wants to tap into the talent of its younger members and give them the skills they need to make an impact on the sector and safeguard its future.

“Our primary focus is preparing leaders,” says Allen. “Some people say leaders are born, not made, but you can groom and encourage leadership skills. We are promoting the core strength of The Bahamas, which is its people. We are seeking to encourage the inherent strengths of this generation—being aggressive and focused on both personal and professional development. We are very excited about what the future holds for the financial services industry.”

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