No mass exodus from CDB, assures President
It has been the subject of negative press in recent months.
However, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Warren Smith Tuesday assured there had been no mass exodus of staff under his watch, even as he warned that it could not be business as usual at the Barbados-based regional lending institution.
Smith’s warning came against the backdrop of a recent press report, which said some “concerned” staff members were unhappy with his leadership and had written the board of directors to complain. The report said the group claimed Smith’s leadership style had led to a number of high profile officers leaving the bank, and that the Jamaican-born economist had managed to “alienate, demoralize and emasculate employees at all levels of the organization”.
However, Smith, whose second term as president began on May 1, 2016 after he was first elected in October, 2010 to replace Professor Compton Bourne, strongly refuted the report, saying over the past three years a total of 70 employees had been recruited out of a total staff complement of 220 at the Wildey-headquartered institution.
He said six had left over the same period, including people who had retired or had chosen to go elsewhere to pursue better opportunities.
Barbados TODAY investigations have revealed that the six recent departures were former Vice President Carla Barnett; Director Of Finance Nigel Ramano; Michelle Cross-Fenty, director of projects; Michael Schroll, head of the Office of Independent Evaluation; Klao Bell Lewis, head of corporate communications and Edward Greene, division chief of the technical cooperation division.
While insisting today that there had not been any “wide scale departures”, Smith said: “We also need to understand that as an institution it is good for us to have a certain amount of turnover in our staff. It represents renewal and it also represents the fact that you come in here, you have skills that are also marketable, which can improve our lives.
“That is what I did; that has been my experience in the Caribbean Development Bank and I recommend it to everybody,” said Smith, a former CEO of regional airline LIAT, and who also has significant experience in the region’s financial, agriculture and energy sectors.
Emphasizing that changes were necessary, he told Barbados TODAY: “This is not about me. This is about the Caribbean Development Bank and its mission.”
He stressed the Bank needed to position itself to respond to the region’s needs and, like the Caribbean, it could not be business as usual at the financial institution.
The CDB top official said one of the critical requirements was that the Bank accesses funding for transformational projects, such as in the renewable energy arena.
However, Smith cautioned that “in many respects, how you are viewed, the types of reforms that you carry out in your institution, the way in which you carry out your business, determines whether the providers of those resources are willing to work with you as not”.
Nonetheless, he said the CDB, which was seeking to position itself as the intermediary of choice for borrowing member states, has had to be ‘more broadminded” in terms of staff recruiting.
“We have been prepared to make those changes and sometimes those changes are not attractive; they are controversial. We have also had to promote staff in a way that is not historically how it is done.
“In other words, we are putting greater emphasis on leadership capacity and accountability. Not necessarily just the strength of qualifications that you have behind your name, [but] we have targets that have to be met.”
However, he was adamant that there was no “widespread unhappiness” at the CDB.
“As I have said elsewhere, if it is there, I’m not aware of it,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I know the staff very, very well, so if there was widespread unhappiness it would be very difficult for me not to be aware of it and as a leader. It would be one of the areas that I would want to address immediately,” said Smith, who also strongly refuted suggestions that he was behaving like a dictator.
In this regard, he said: “We have ongoing dialogue with our staff [who] are a highly educated and informed group of professionals. They understand the issues that I am articulating. They understand them very, very well.”
However, he acknowledged that “it would be almost impossible for us to be in a situation where everybody is happy with the change that has taken place in CDB”.
Smith expressed disappointment that the Bank had attracted negative press, even while stressing that it was not his desire for everyone to be happy with his leadership or the changes that had been introduced.
“[However], what I think we need to focus is on is that we are a financial institution and when we take to the media and we start making statements that are not necessarily based on the reality of our circumstances, but we try to use it as leverage in order to enhance our personal position internally, it only serves to damage the institution [and] we as a financial institution, we trade on reputation, so that our reputation is very important to us.”