Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 20th 2014 Contents SBG6 PROFILE
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JULY 20 • 2014
"We built a bank on integrity and on good
governance. It is interesting that a lack of gov-
ernance almost took us back down."
Sharon Christopher, the deputy CEO of First
Citizens Bank, briefly alludes to the IPO issue
that has dogged the bank for the better part
of a year. In reminiscing about the early days
of the organisation, her pride at being there
on the ground floor---when the bank was still
three separate entities, Worker s Bank, National
Commercial Bank and the Trinidad Co-oper-
ative Bank---is evident.
"I have been part of the First Citizens group
since the beginning of time, the original man-
agement team that was brought to turn around
these banks and as I always tell them, I am
the last man standing."
The fact that she refers to herself as the
"last man" reflects a way seeing the world,
where talent and ability are not innately bound
to gender, but to the individual character. As
Christopher told the Sunday BG, she herself
did not realise there were supposed to be dif-
ferences between the way men and women
spoke, acted or even approached life until she
was at law school. She credits the attitude to
her time at the Bishop Anstey High School,
a school with a reputation for producing forth-
She was born in Grenada and is a naturalised
citizen of T&T. Her parents, also naturalised
citizens of this country, were civil servants in
Grenada. Her father, Henry Christopher came
to Trinidad as an aide de camp to Governor
General Solomon Hochoy, had a stint as head
of this country s army and finished his career
as an Anglican priest.
Her mother, Eileen spent much of her time
in Trinidad as a housewife, but Christopher
said she was an island scholar in Grenada.
She said her mother, who is still alive, is a
tech savvy 85-year-old, who uses the Internet
to download recipes and scripture for med-
'Love virtue, she alone is free'
Christopher said her time at Bishop Anstey
was responsible for two of what she called
the "a-ha" moments of her life. The first was
a quotation from headmistress Stephanie Shur-
land written in an autograph book in 1972,
the year she completed her O levels.
"She wrote: Love virtue, she alone is free.
I asked her what she meant by that and she
said, once you live a life of integrity, nobody
can ever buy you. That has been so significant
The second moment was a Lord Alfred Ten-
nyson poem about living purposefully that
Christopher had heard when she was 14. She
said it was the first time she considered the
question of why she was here and what was
she here to do. But purpose would not find
her right away.
Christopher said she continued to go with
the flow throughout secondary school, an
"average B student" as she said, not bothering
to rouse herself unless it was a subject she
was really interested in, like History. She left
in 1974 after A levels, finding a job at Republic
Bank. Christopher related the other "a-ha"
"I was going along fine and then I came
home one day and our next door neighbour
was talking to my mother. Her husband had
left her with a number of children. She was
saying to my mother: what am I going to do,
I have no skills. I am thinking, Well ...you
have no skills either. Suddenly, there was my
life in front of me, a life with no skills."
Christopher said the incident touched off
a "mad scramble" to acquire a marketable
skill. She had not done sciences, so she could
not do medicine. In the days when a profession
was the only job worth having, that left the
law. The fortuitous event of a well-off great
uncle, with no children of his own, provided
Christopher with the opportunity to fund her
studies at the UWI, Cave Hill. He was a busi-
nessman and landowner in Grenada. What
started off as a stop-gap measure eventually
became her passion.
Her passion: the law
The First Citizens Bank deputy CEO said
she came to love the verbal sparring involved
in the presentation of cases in front of a class
of her peers. But even then came subtle hints
that women were supposed to be seen and
"Of the seven women and 21 men in the
class, I was the woman who was in front argu-
ing all of the time. One woman even said to
me, Sharon, you need to be careful, if you
are going on like this in tutorials, you will
never get a man, " Christopher said.
She came home from Barbados and went
on to the Hugh Wooding Law School in 1978,
where she graduated as the most outstanding
student of her year.
Some men she found herself going head to
head with at law school included former gov-
ernment minister, Joseph Toney and Court of
Appeal Justice, Nolan Bereau, meanwhile some
of her contemporaries were the late Senior
Counsel Dana Seetahal, who was a year further
on and Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who was a
Her great uncle would come to her rescue
again, paying for further studies in England,
this time a Masters in Law, with a speciality
in Corporate Law at the London School of
When she returned, her father---who was
friendly with then Attorney General, Selwyn
Richardson---would lead her to a position as
a State Counsel II in the government service.
"Remember in those days, very few people
did masters, very few went to university. Selwyn
said, Let her come and work with the State.
I knew nothing about working with the State,
but yet again, my passion found me. I worked
there from 1981 to the end of 1986. Five of
the most exciting, most hardworking years of
Christopher spoke about being heavily influ-
enced by both Richardson and Senior Counsel
Russell Martineau, who she said showed her
the merits of marking her work with excel-
Christopher said, though, as she turned 30,
she realised it may have been time to move
on from the government service.
In her words: "I decided I wanted to buy
a house, but I couldn t buy a house on the
Deputy CEO of First Citizens Bank, Sharon Christopher's
Continued on Page 7
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