Wed | Jun 16, 2021

Assamba hands reins to protégé as interim boss at COK

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2021 | 12:21 AMNeville Graham/Business Reporter
Deryke Smith, acting CEO of COK Sodality since January 1.
Deryke Smith, acting CEO of COK Sodality since January 1.

Aloun Ndombet Assamba’s departure as CEO of Jamaica’s second-largest credit union, COK Sodality, was announced through a press advertisement, officially ending her second stint running the community bank on a reform agenda on December 31.

But while the announcement came as a surprise, Assamba said this week that it was six months in the making; that she was originally set to depart the job at the 54-year-old credit union back in June 2020.

COK’s chief financial officer, Deryke Smith, has been tapped to act as CEO until a replacement is found.

“My contract came to an end and really, after many years of service in various sectors of Jamaican life I felt that it was just time to take a break. I told the board that I could no longer continue as CEO but they asked me to hold on to the end of the year because there is so much happening,” Assamba told the Financial Gleaner.

Assamba first served COK for 14 years up to 2002, then again beginning 2016 after stints as minister of tourism, then as a high commissioner to the United Kingdom and ambassador. She will continue to work with COK as a consultant on a number of ongoing projects.

“I go into COK one day per week and then I work several hours on the other days, but I no longer have the demanding job of CEO doing 10-12 hours per day,” she said.

COK Sodality Co-operative Credit Union was formed out of the merger of City of Kingston Co-operative Credit Union and Roman Catholic Church-based Sodality Credit Union in November 2009. It holds $11 billion of assets, and manages some $9.55 billion of savings and investments on behalf of its 251,000 membership.

Ambassador Assamba expects Smith to eventually replace her.

“My guess is that when the board does its evaluation, he will be confirmed. Part of what I’ve been doing for some time is to groom him into that role,” she said of her protégé.

Smith, meanwhile, is indicating that he has hit the ground running, trying to make up time lost last year due to COVID.

“It’s really a beehive of activity right now with all sorts of things happening – new year, new plans,” he said. “I’ve split the whole management team into groups, charging them with different responsibilities and they are jumping around right now.”

COK transitioned to a new core banking system, Smart Universal, in August, about three months behind schedule. COK also held its annual general meeting in October, four months later than the expected meeting date in June.

Smith says despite the delay, implementation of the Smart Universal system was well executed, making COK one of four credit unions using the Smart banking system, the others being First Heritage, JTA Co-operative and NCB Cooperative.

“The system works seamlessly and the front office is reacting beautifully. The system has about eight or nine appendages that changed the whole ecosystem and nobody was even aware of it unless we told them,” Smith said.