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John Lawrence: Exuma roots with a global reach

John Lawrence’s roots are in Staniel Cay, Exuma, but his reach today is global, heading one of The Bahamas’three Asian banks, performing as a council member for the Worldwide Council of the Society of Trust&Estate Practitioners(STEP), and as chairman of Windermere Corporate Management Ltd., which specializes in wealth management and family offices for international clients.

The diverse responsibilities keep Lawrence flexible, which he said is essential to success in an industry which has had change as its only constant, especially over the last 5 to 10 years.

Lawrence’s 25 years of experience has led him to the conclusion that the success and growth of the industry really comes down to how the country marshalls its intellectual capital to add value to its financial services products.

“Value added comes down to two things,”Lawrence said.”It comes down to progressive legislation to deal with the changes in the marketplace, and then it’s also the quality of the people that we have here in terms of the human resources, and we’ve really stepped up to the challenge in that area as a jurisdiction.”

Lawrence added that it is intellectual capital that will keep the country competitive. He said that the ongoing training and the higher caliber of trained staff in the industry today is much stronger than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

Lawrence is CEO of Metropolitan Bank(Bahamas)Limited, an Asian-based banking group operating in The Bahamas since 1982, and recently returned from a 3-week trip to Asia in November. He focuses on new markets and products for the global banking group.

“Everybody should have an Asia plan,”Lawrence said.”The question used to be,’Do you have an Asia plan?’, now it better be’What is your Asia plan’?”

Lawrence said that despite China being the’world’s factory’and producing goods for the ailing U.S. and European economies, the country is still trying to slow the growth of its economy, and is looking at a 9-10%increase in gross domestic product(GDP)this year. He said the word’recession’was relatively unheard of on his recent trip there.

The Metropolitan Bank CEO shared a tip for developing business in Asia that may be beneficial to those seeking to gain access to that market. He said that it can be difficult to get started in new markets, and Asia is more challenging because it works on word of mouth, who you know, and who your introducers are.

“Most high net worth clients have already migrated to Asia in one fashion or another,”Lawrence said.”Most[of them]are multinational in terms of their business focus. So if you have a client that’s already doing business in Asia the best thing to do is to try to get involved with them–with the Asian sector of what they’re doing–then you already have the natural introduction.”

Lawrence’s Exuma beginnings are visible in his love for sailing, which he has

been doing since he was a child and has continued throughout his life. He has represented The Bahamas in sailing, most recently as the team captain for The Bahamas in last summer’s Central American and Caribbean(CAC)games.

“I’m very involved with the Bahamas Sailing Association, which has a year-round sailing program for kids,”said Lawrence. He added that the association is trying to teach the sport to as many kids as possible.

“When we teach kids to sail they are in a boat by themselves,”Lawrence said.”It teaches them a lot of discipline. Whatever situation you get into in your boat, you put yourself there, and how you get out of it, it’s up to you.”

Lawrence’s contributions to the financial services industry in The Bahamas were acknowledged by the Bahamas Financial Services Board(BFSB)in October, when he was honored with the 2010 Executive of the Year Industry Excellence Award.

“It’s a very major accomplishment,”said Lawrence.”It really is the top award that you get from the financial services industry, so I’m very pleased with it.”

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