Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham: Pioneering Leadership in the Financial Sector

10 Most Influential Black Corporate Women to Watch in 2023

Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham, the CEO Sagicor Bank Limited

The issue of C-suite gender parity within financial organizations is a complex one that depends on various factors. These include the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as broader societal trends.

Fortunately, the number of women in these C-suite positions are rising, and women now account for 18% of C-suite positions globally. Though a positive trend, it falls short of achieving gender parity.

Without a concerted effort to prioritize the advancement of women in leadership roles, it may be challenging to reach gender parity in the C-suite by 2031.

Leaders who have a track record of success in the financial sector and a commitment to building diverse and dynamic teams, play a crucial role in driving progress toward gender parity. Similarly, organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion, provide opportunities for leadership development, and actively work to break down barriers that women may face in advancing their careers are more likely to make significant strides toward achieving gender parity.

One such woman who has been breaking barriers is Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham, the Chief Executive Officer of Sagicor Bank Limited, who is a seasoned leader with over three (3) decades of experience in the financial sector. Her career is a testament to her results-oriented leadership style, her embrace of competition, and her ability to craft and execute strategies that adeptly balance risk and rewards to achieve targets and objectives.

At the core of Chorvelle’s leadership is a focus on solutions. She is a change maker who thrives on identifying challenges and turning them into opportunities. Her ability to drive change is complemented by her talent for building and leading dynamic teams. Throughout her distinguished career, she has consistently demonstrated her capacity to assemble and empower teams that deliver exceptional results and elevate customer satisfaction, all while positively impacting the bottom line.

Chorvelle’s journey in the financial sector has seen her hold various senior management positions at renowned organizations, including PROVEN Wealth Limited, PROVEN Fund Managers Limited, First Global Financial Services, Scotia-DBG, and Dehring, Bunting, and Golding Limited. Her extensive experience and expertise have solidified her position as a trailblazer and a driving force in the industry.

Being in an executive role, Chorvelle continues to make her mark by leading her team with vision and a commitment to excellence. Her leadership philosophy is marked by a focus on solutions, teamwork, and an unwavering dedication to enhancing the client and customer experience. Under her guidance, Sagicor Bank Limited is poised to maintain its position as a major player in the financial landscape of Jamaica and beyond.

From Passion to Plate

Despite initial suggestions that she would become an Attorney-At-Law, teaching has always been a passion for Chorvelle. At a young age she was known for teaching her younger family members, her church’s Sunday School and the dolls she had around her. Inspired by her parents who were both great cooks, her talent for cooking also emerged during her childhood. She found great joy in and was given the opportunity by them to experiment with culinary creations.

As Chorvelle pursued her career, she became a trained teacher for secondary-level education. Her passion for helping others achieve meaningful results from the knowledge she imparted developed during this time. Chorvelle has always been deeply invested in her students and, now in the corporate world, she maintains the same commitment to her internal and external teams.

Chorvelle’s journey also led her to embrace a vegan lifestyle over a decade ago. In search of a simple, step-by-step plan for her vegan journey, she authored the cookbook “Simply Vegan the Jamaican Way.” The cookbook focuses on using readily available ingredients to create delicious recipes in a short time, gaining appreciation from both vegans and non-vegans worldwide. This cookbook reaffirmed Chorvelle’s love for teaching.

Although Chorvelle may not currently be in a formal teaching role, her passion for teaching remains unwavering. She encourages others to use their passions to discover themselves and unlock additional skills that can be valuable in their personal and professional lives.

Breaking Barriers and Rising Above Doubt

Chorvelle is the second eldest among her five siblings, and her upbringing instilled in her the belief that she could achieve anything she set her mind to, without any exceptions. This early influence meant that she never saw a “glass ceiling” in her career that needed to be shattered.

Throughout her journey, Chorvelle encountered individuals who were not certain that she would deliver, questioned her selection for roles, or attempted to prove her unworthiness. However, none of them understood the relentless drive and winning spirit that defined her. Her personal commitment is that success will always be within reach as long as she continues to work hard, learn from her mistakes, and surround herself with the right coaches and mentors. Chorvelle emphasizes the importance of having a supportive network of individuals in your corner, your village of supporters, who can help you along the way.

The Journey

Before her tenure at Sagicor Bank, Chorvelle had a career in Investment Banking. Throughout her journey in this field, she held diverse roles, including Branch Manager, Head of Regional Sales, and Chief Executive Officer. Regardless of her position, she consistently embraced the spirit of healthy competition, winning and delivering. The objective was always to surpass the target or goals that were set which she, along with her teams accomplished.

Chorvelle’s approach has always centered around uniting teams to work cohesively towards achieving shared strategic objectives. She considers this ability to foster collaboration and motivation among her teams as one of her most significant accomplishments. Her aspiration is to empower and inspire her team members, encouraging them to pursue their individual paths to success.

Pioneering Banking Solutions for a Thriving Jamaica

Sagicor Bank has made significant strides in the Jamaican banking sector and currently holds the position of the 4th largest bank in Jamaica, ranking 3rd in profitability. The bank has a strong commitment to making banking accessible to both individual clients and businesses.

In 2018, Sagicor Bank introduced the revolutionary Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) product called ‘Swype.‘ This innovative solution was designed to enhance the customer experience for Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) by simplifying their daily transactions.

The Corporate Banking division of Sagicor Bank has gained recognition for its world-class suite of products and services tailored to meet the needs of corporate clients. What remains important is the relationship building which gives our clients comfort in our expertise to partner with them operate their businesses. The bank places strategic focus on the development and sustainability of medium to large companies. This approach has led to the establishment of the SME Unit and a dedicated focus on Women in Business. Recently, Sagicor Bank launched the SME Business Banking Resource Centre, a pioneering initiative in Jamaica that provides training and business support for SMEs. This center serves as a platform for SMEs to network and exchange ideas with one another.

During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2019 to 2021, Sagicor Bank introduced a mobile “Bank on Wheels” solution. This mobile banking service traveled to different locations, ensuring that customers had easy access to banking solutions when physical branches were not easily accessible. Additionally, the bank initiated the ‘Star Savers School Tour,’ taking financial literacy programs into schools to equip Jamaican children with the fundamental knowledge of managing finances.

Sagicor Bank is deeply committed to nation-building, and its growth is intricately tied to the success of its clients. The bank believes in meeting clients where they are and is dedicated to helping them achieve their goals. Sagicor Bank’s success is intertwined with the success of its clients, making it a true partner in their financial journey.

A Transformational Path to Well-Being

Chorvelle’s perspective on self-care was enhanced when she became ill. It became abundantly clear that taking care of herself was paramount, encompassing elements such as maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, cherishing quality time with loved ones, embracing quiet moments of solitude, and simply allowing herself to relax. This personal experience marked a crucial turning point and a period of growth in her professional journey.

Since then, Chorvelle has made it a steadfast commitment to cultivate an environment filled with positive energy, both in her professional and personal life. This not only benefits her but also extends to others, as she endeavors to share the same positivity and well-being with those around her. This shift in perspective underscores the importance of self-care and its ripple effects on creating a harmonious and supportive environment for herself and others.

Commitment to Diverse Client Needs

Chorvelle has taken proactive steps to ensure that Sagicor Bank reaches and serves a diverse range of clients, including those in remote areas and the unbanked population. The initiatives that are undertaken are always in alignment with Sagicor Bank’s mission of promoting financial inclusion and literacy for all Jamaicans.

In addition to her efforts with the unbanked, Chorvelle and her team have been dedicated supporters of women entrepreneurs in the SME sector. They offer guidance and support to these businesswomen, empowering them to thrive and succeed. Sagicor Bank Jamaica has established a strategic partnership with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, a key player in the government’s MSME initiatives. This collaboration facilitates the growth and transition of MSMEs from the JBDC to Sagicor Bank, contributing to their development.

Chorvelle’s commitment to financial inclusion extends beyond her role at Sagicor Bank. She has served as the Vice President of the Jamaica Bankers Association, focusing on ensuring that banking services are accessible to individuals of all ages and stages in life. Her open-door policy reflects her dedication to providing support and assistance to Sagicor Bank clients, emphasizing that she is readily available to address their needs. This client-centric approach underscores her commitment to fostering financial inclusivity and serving the diverse needs of the community.

Shaped by Values

Chorvelle defines herself as unique, shaped by her upbringing and values instilled by her parents. Raised with four siblings, she learned the importance of respecting all individuals regardless of factors like color, gender, or status. This foundation of respect and fairness guides her to this day.

Central to Chorvelle’s identity are teamwork and the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. These principles have been instrumental in her journey, fostering her success and positive impact on others. Her life journey has encompassed a wide range of experiences, from interesting, to great, to challenging days. Each day has provided valuable lessons, reinforcing her resilience and determination. Her support system, her village, has played a pivotal role in helping her navigate challenges, offering unwavering encouragement and a strong belief in the centrality of faith. This sense of community, along with the values passed down by her parents and support network, has shaped Chorvelle into the unique and impactful person she is today.

Focusing on Client Satisfaction and Team Empowerment

Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham identifies herself as a servant-leader, placing great importance on her role as a steward for the company and its resources, including the team members. She firmly believes that ensuring internal and external client satisfaction is the key to achieving success. Ultimately, she views the performance of the company under her stewardship as her responsibility.

Her functional role involves defining and executing the strategic goals for Sagicor Bank, assessing, and monitoring the company’s achievements, and upholding its culture, mission, and vision whilst being in compliance with regulations. She also plays a pivotal role as the team leader, providing guidance, coaching, and mentorship to her team members.

Chorvelle Johnson Cunninghamplaces a strong emphasis on ensuring her team feels supported and empowered. She encourages her team members to maintain a positive approach to life, fostering optimism and enthusiasm that leads to positive actions and outcomes. Additionally, she reminds them to view mistakes as valuable lessons rather than failures, emphasizing the importance of using mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth.

Balancing Personal and Professional Life

Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham acknowledges that achieving a balanced personal and professional life is an ongoing and ever-evolving process. She recognizes that there will be days when work demands take precedence and other days when family moments are of utmost importance. Despite the occasional tug-of-war between these two aspects of life, Chorvelle maintains a positive outlook and gratitude for the richness of her life experiences.

Perspective on Success

Chorvelle firmly believes that success is rooted in finding happiness in the progress made throughout life’s journey. She emphasizes the importance of taking a step back to recognize that life is a path laden with obstacles, offering diverse routes and opportunities to overcome personal challenges. Mistakes, Chorvelle asserts, are an integral part of this journey, serving as valuable chances for growth, learning, and self-realization.

Additionally, Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham highlights the significance of celebrating one’s achievements alongside loved ones and those who provide support. She draws inspiration from Marianne Williamson’s words, “your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” Chorvelle believes that everyone should wholeheartedly embrace their successes, thus recognizing their inherent value.

Paving the Way to Financial Success in Jamaica

Sagicor Bank Jamaica aspires to become the preferred bank for the people of Jamaica, providing top-notch solutions for their dreams and needs. The bank aims to enhance profitability and extend its presence to other regions, ensuring individuals can achieve their aspirations with Sagicor as their trusted partner.

Chorvelle’s personal goals for the coming years include further exploration of the world and the creation of additional vegan cookbooks. To aspiring professionals and future leaders in the banking sector, her message is to maintain a positive outlook, persevere in pursuing your dreams, and understand that life’s experiences, even the challenging ones, are valuable lessons that shape your path toward future achievements.