Mrs. Frances Bain-Cumberbatch, Group Head of Legal and Corporate Secretary of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies
“Life goes on and it’s all the challenges, sacrifices and support that have contributed to my growth and success, not just in what I do professionally, but as a human being”, affirms Frances Bain-Cumberbatch, Group Head of Legal and Corporate Secretary of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies.
An only child who grew up in Diamond Vale, Frances lost both her parents at a relatively young age, but her mother, who held a senior position in the Public Service and her father, a teacher and later Principal of the Success R.C Primary School in Laventille managed to instill key values and principles in her before passing on. This solid foundation and the support of her extended family and close friends helped her to remain focused and forge ahead.
“Though a daddy’s girl, I was aware from a very early age of the sacrifices made by my hard-working parents”, she declares. “I was described as serious but fun-loving, the girl who talked too much in class and who made a lot of friends many of whom remain my friends up to this day,” says a smiling Frances.
Despite life’s challenges and shouldering a lot of responsibilities, she was unwavering in her desire to go to University. With a knack for languages, Frances graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Double Major French and Spanish (with honours), from the University of the West Indies.
Though she always wanted to do law and despite having a first degree, she was not accepted to the Law Faculty at the University of The West Indies straight away. However, with fierce determination, she earned her Bachelor of Laws from the University of London and obtained her Legal Education Certificate from the Sir Hugh Wooding Law School in 2001.
After gaining valuable practical legal experience at the start of her legal career at the firm of JD Sellier & Co., Frances joined the ANSA McAL Group in 2005 as the Corporate Attorney. She was hungry to learn more. With the support of Group Chairman, Mr. Norman Sabga and the Executive and having acquired the right amount of experience, Frances became the Corporate Secretary for ANSA McAL Ltd in 2009 and Group Head of Legal in 2011.
Never one to watch the clock, her typical work day starts at 7.00 a.m. and can go on for more than twelve hours. Having a supportive and similar minded husband is something she does not take for granted.
Frances is responsible for all of ANSA McAL’s corporate level legal activities, including statutory filings with the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange and the Securities Exchange Commission as well as providing advice and support to the Parent Board of Directors and the Executive.
“One of my biggest challenges is trying to balance my legal and regulatory responsibilities with commercial objectives which requires me to have a very solution oriented approach. We at ANSA McAL recognize the importance of achieving business goals within the context of a strict legal framework. I am never satisfied with my performance and I am constantly striving to do better.”
In today’s world, a Corporate Secretary is a person with wide-ranging responsibilities, who serves as a focal point for communication with the Board of Directors, Senior Management and the Company’s shareholders and who occupies a key role in the administration of critical corporate matters. Frances takes very seriously her responsibility to provide the Directors on the Parent Board with accurate advice to assist them in discharging their statutory and fiduciary duties to the Company and its shareholders and to ensure that the Board’s decisions are properly documented.
According to Frances, being a successful Corporate Secretary involves a suite of core competencies:
“I am proud to say that I work for a Group with a very high emphasis on excellence in the conduct of business. Good governance and corporate practices impact the computation of a company’s value and worth in an ever-increasing global market and provide comfort to our shareholders that the Group’s businesses are being run in accordance with the highest ethical standards. In my role, as Corporate Secretary, I contribute to the establishment and maintenance of our very strong governance structures.
I thoroughly enjoy what I do and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many talented Executives and employees at all levels in the Group. I appreciate how our Group Chairman and CEO, Mr Norman Sabga, breaks things down very simply. He has a way of taking complicated matters and dissecting them so that you see all sides. His style of leadership is refreshing as he gives us the freedom and support to act”.
As Group Head of Legal, Frances has to balance her time, given the demands from various Group companies/departments for legal advice and support. Frances describes her three member team of attorneys as gifted, competent, committed and honest. Mentoring and guiding her colleagues is not only an integral part of the job, but a pleasure and hugely satisfying to her.
Having succumbed to the lure of corporate law, Frances Bain-Cumberbatch has had no regrets. “Though the path for women in the legal profession remains challenging, at ANSA McAL there is no real shortage of women advancing to leadership positions,” she asserts. Her advice to all women is to keep performing and someone who can make a difference will notice.