Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 14th 2017 Contents I became a visiting director of Fleming Ansa in 1997 and attended board
meetings in Trinidad where I witnessed and admired the entrepreneurial
gifts of Anthony Sabga and the close bond he had with his son Norman,
as the transition of day-to-day management from one generation to
the next was already in train. I did my best to look after the interests
of my bank’s shareholders, seeking to safeguard the depositors of both
Flemings and Fleming ANSA.
One board meeting concluded a few hours before my London flight and, as
England were playing West Indies at the Oval, I tried to slide out for a little cricket.
My hopes of a quiet afternoon were dashed when Dr Sabga, as he later became,
decided to come with me. Although no doubt a perfect host to his guest, it also
gave an opportunity for him to press me a little harder on Flemings’ strategy
for our partnership. He was never one to miss an opportunity to learn from his
non-executive directors. He valued personal relationships with his commercial
partners as much as he did with his line managers. He knew it developed mutual
loyalty and trust.
When rain stopped play, we wasted no time: his ever present driver, Rudolf, was
summoned to take us for a site visit to Bayside Towers, then under construction.
We went to the top floor in the contractors’ lift. Not a great experience, where I
discovered he also had a better head for heights than me.
The bank did not grow by accident. It grew because Anthony Sabga could see in
his mind, twenty years ago, the bank as it is today. Every small step the bank made
in its recruitment, products and markets had to satisfy his long term aspiration.
During this initial association, Dr Sabga had his foot firmly on the infant bank’s
accelerator; while I, as a cautious banker, was applying the brakes.
It seemed to matter little when the joint venture was wound up to facilitate
Flemings’ acquisition by a major American bank but, to my surprise, he telephoned
me after the dust on the acquisition had settled and asked me to rejoin the board.
This time I was to look after his group’s interests now that the bank was wholly
owned by ANSA.
He once met my wife and I off a London flight in Tobago and, as always, he took
good care of us. We planned a great deal of the bank’s strategy in his beach hut at
Pigeon Point, a perfect setting for blue sky thinking.
Anthony Sabga had an exceptional eye for detail and a remarkably retentive
memory. These gifts helped him master such a wide business brief and to act
rationally and decisively in competitive situations. He understood where the buck
stopped, made sometimes difficult decisions and held his nerve under pressure.
More than anything it helped the bank to avoid taking undue risks.
Success however only came by understanding and sharing his vision. It always
paid to spend time with him gaining an understanding of the issues that
mattered to him. He never tired of sharing his thoughts and expectations
with his management and his boardroom colleagues.
He called me brother and treated me as a brother. As such, we did not always
agree but, if we disagreed, it was in a spirit of brotherly warmth. And his reasoning,
which was always offered in a generous spirit, frequently persuaded me that
his analysis was better than mine. On people, his judgement was invariably
correct; on real estate and foreign exchange, he made few if any misjudgements.
I was privileged to serve him as a non-executive director and I admired him not just
for his intellect and success but also for his sensitivity and concern for people at all
levels and in all parts of the group he created.
The bank and the group have lost its founder. I have lost my ‘brother’, colleague
Nicholas Owen, International Banking Consultant during the launch of the
first Mutual Fund on the local market, ANSA Secured Fund, in 2005.
In 1994, ANSA McAL entered into a joint venture
arrangement with London’s Robert Fleming merchant
bank to create the Fleming ANSA Merchant Bank, the
company’s first true move into the banking sector. Soon
afterwards, it acquired Flemings’ interest and formed what
is now ANSA Merchant Bank Limited. Dr Sabga worked
closely with the bank since its inception. Nicholas Owen,
originally from Flemings, followed the bank’s progress
from the beginning and recalls his relationship with Dr
Banking on Dr Sabga
Success however only came
by understanding and sharing
his vision. It always paid to
spend time with him gaining
an understanding of the issues
that mattered to him.
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