Lee-Chin: a study in warmth and humility
“A humble calf sucks the most milk”
— Jamaican Proverb
Loosely translated, this would mean that someone who is humble in spirit would tend to be successful.
Measures of success come in many different forms. Some count success by looks, athletic achievement, academic degrees. Some use the age-old matrix of someone's financial net worth to gauge how successful a person is.
Others tend to evaluate a person by common sense, intelligence and wisdom.
Last Saturday, the Progressive Labour Party held a gala celebration at the Fairmont Southampton. With what can only be described as a logistical miracle, 800 persons from all walks of life were treated to a night of Bermudian entertainment, excellent cuisine and impeccable service.
One of the highlights of the night was the live entertainment provided by the young musical groups DIA and the Simons Brothers, who played various genres of music, ranging from jazz to soca to reggae. In doing so, these groups proved that Bermudian entertainment is more than capable of being front and centre of our hospitality industry.
Matching the appetite for entertainment was the desire of the taste buds. An excellent serving of surf and turf was placed on the table to be enjoyed by those in attendance.
The keynote speaker was Jamaican businessman Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of Portland Holdings and a man of humble origins, born in the lush rural northeastern parish of Portland. After emigrating to Canada, he began a career in the mutual fund industry. At the age of 32, Mr Lee-Chin purchased an investment firm in Ontario, Canada, by the name of AIC Limited.
In its initial stages, AIC had less than $1 million in assets under management. Within 20 years, AIC grew to more than $15 billion in assets under management.
During his speech, Mr Lee-Chin gave an analogy of a mining ship taking sand from a beach day after day. If this was allowed to continue, the beach would eventually be stripped down to just rocks and hold no attraction for tourists — irreversibly damaging the tourist industry and subsequently the economy.
He used that to illustrate that if any country allows its natural resources, such as its talented young people, to be taken without replenishment, they will soon be stripped bare of the very things needed to sustain their economy and way of life.
Going further, he made other pointed references to his own takeover of the National Commercial Bank in Jamaica, a bank that has come on in leaps and bounds under his leadership.
He spoke of making substantial investments and reinvestments in the Jamaican people and the community, which is the cornerstone of the bank's mission.
Anyone who has travelled to or hails from the parish of Portland or Jamaica can testify about Mr Lee-Chin's investments that have served to reinvigorate the local communities and the economy.
Just a few examples of those ventures that have created hundreds of Jamaican jobs are as follows:
• Trident Hotel in Portland
• Portland Courthouse
• Auto Insurance
Looking out into the audience, Mr Lee-Chin stated that we in Bermuda and the wider Caribbean must continue to invest in our people and in our country. In doing so, we will ensure that we stem the brain drain of talented persons emigrating out of our region.
This remark received a rousing applause from those in attendance, as his message resonated with the PLP mantra of putting Bermudians first.
I had the distinct honour of spending a few minutes talking with Mr Lee-Chin earlier in the evening. What stood out during my brief time with him was that he spent most of the time listening and seeking others' opinions on a range of subjects. In doing so, it provided a valuable and lifelong lesson for me in positive human interactions.
Indeed, speaking with him seemed no different from catching up with any one of my friends or family who had stopped by for a visit.
Without a doubt, one of the hallmarks of Mr Lee-Chin's success is not based on his business ventures, but his genuine Caribbean personality of warmth and humility.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com