They say some people are born for certain jobs, and for group corporate financial controller and treasurer at Sandals Resorts International (SRI) Deveret Malcolm, this may well be true.
Malcolm, highly regarded for her knowledge and expertise in finance, manages the funds and banking affairs of the company's corporate office, procurement division and all resorts across the region. But finance isn't the career she always envisioned for herself; she wanted to become a doctor.
After completing high school, however, the reality that her parents could not afford to send her to medical school set in, and as she puts it, “In those days we lived in the country and we didn't know about student loans”.
Malcolm was disappointed that her dreams did not materialise but fate was busy setting the stage for a twist that would see her pursuing and succeeding in a career she'd never thought of.
While she tried to decide what her next steps would be, the teenaged Malcolm took a job at a restaurant but this was short-lived.
“My older sister actually cried when she heard I was working. She thought I was too young for that so I actually had to leave the job and go back home,” she recalls.
But she soon found a job that made both her and her family happy.
“I went to work at a small hotel in Negril as a HEART trainee. I remember I was earning $75 a week and it felt like a lot of money,” she says.
Though Malcolm was happy with her stint as a trainee, she was still unsure of the career path she wanted to pursue. She knew, however, that she had to do something to assist her family.
“I remember I told my mother, 'We don't have to be poor. We don't have to be (filthy) rich but we should be able to afford the things we need'.”
After meeting a friend who worked her way from trainee to permanent staff member in the field of finance, Malcolm developed an interest in the field. She said, “I started to buy the papers so I could see the qualifications needed for a job in finance.”
She had only done science subjects in school, so on recognition that she needed business subjects for finance positions, Malcolm registered for evening classes.
“The classes were in Sav and I was working in Negril. Classes started at 5:30 pm and work ended at 5:00 pm, so every evening I would run to the bus stop and then when the bus got to Sav I would run to the classes,” she tells the Jamaica Observer.
After sitting and passing O'Level and A'Level business subjects, Malcolm decided it was time to pursue higher qualifications and set her sights on the Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA) certification, a rigorous and time-consuming endeavour. By then, she had moved up to the rank of chief accountant at the hotel in Negril, but Malcolm felt unfulfilled.
“I remember looking at myself one day and I just looked old and tired and I thought, 'Why am I doing this?'” She later resigned from the post, much to the disappointment of her seniors.
In May 2000, Malcolm applied for an internal auditor position at Sandals and was hired to work at the then Beaches Sandy Bay Resort. She later became assistant financial controller and after a successful stint there, moved on to Sandals Royal Plantation as financial controller.
Malcolm, always chasing more growth, was determined to complete her certification but found it challenging while working as financial controller. She considered resigning, but then snagged a role in the Internal Audit Department at SRI, which allowed her more leeway to complete her studies.
After completing the ACCA, Malcolm was given the choice of returning to a resort or staying at SRI. She chose the latter and was promoted to financial controller.
She went on to pursue an MBA with the Manchester University in England.
“I thought gaining the ACCA qualification would be the ultimate achievement, but I later realised that many persons were gaining the qualification as well.”
Over the years, Malcolm's job has evolved into the dual role she now holds where she provides financial guidance to senior executives, oversees a team of 14, manages the company's accounts and expenses and provides guidance to department heads regarding their budgets. As group treasurer, she is also responsible for managing the banking affairs of all resorts and ensuring that accounts are funded.
“I am eternally grateful and humbled that I am asked to fund and manage the accounts of the hotels across the group on a daily basis,” Malcolm says. “My mind is challenged every single day and I absolutely love it.
“I have a lot of admiration for the Stewarts and the way Mr Stewart has built his company and I love that there is always a focus on the team members. Sandals is the ultimate place to be. I also have a very good team that supports this accounting office and I love them dearly,” she says, naming David Davies and Joanne Pearson among those who have been instrumental in her journey.
Referencing the many opportunities available in the field of finance, Malcolm encourages young people to pursue careers in finance, especially in the hospitality sector.
“Working in hospitality provides you with a rounded experience, especially in an all-inclusive model. You're tasked with setting a price and ensuring that you make a profit even though certain variables are outside of your control. You constantly have to be thinking and the manual keeps evolving,” she says.
Of her 18-year journey with Sandals, she lists winning the Pinnacle Award for the Finance Department and being assigned responsibility for the treasury function in addition to her role as financial controller as the highlights of her career thus far. She feels it's a signal of the company's confidence in her ability and expressed gratitude.
Malcolm is a fitness enthusiast, vegan, and an infamous lover of high heels. She is extremely close to her family and is happy that she can provide for them. She spends her free time at the gym or making her favourite meals.
“It doesn't take a lot to make me happy,” she says. “Once I get up and I'm not in pain, I can go to the gym, create my meals and I have a job, I'm happy.”