Joan Duncan's Journey
Even if you have never heard the name ‘Joan Duncan’ her name will forever stand as the feisty female pioneer of the Jamaican money market, her life can and will serve as an inspiration – for her life was a successful journey that began with a personal mission. It was a mission that would guide the founder of Jamaica Money Market Brokers in all she did and would help to mold the company into the unique organisation it is today.
Joan Duncan’s biggest idea came to fruition when she was already in her fifties. It was her dream to start a company where any Jamaican could walk in off the street, take a few hundred dollars out of his or her pocket and invest it. She wanted all Jamaicans to take part in the money market. Her dream also encompassed the creation of a different sort of work place from the traditional organisations she had encountered in the Jamaican business world. She wished to begin a company that would be focused on respect and love. A company where employees would work in a fun-loving atmosphere in which there would be a commitment to innovation and creativity, to integrity and responsibility and to the opportunity for each member of the team to learn and grow.
In 1992, Joan Duncan took the financial sector by storm when she founded Jamaica Money Market Brokers Ltd. – virtually creating the local money market while developing her company into Jamaica’s biggest money market trader. Her life proves that success is indeed a journey – for her starting point, many years ago as a struggling single mother with five mouths to feed was a world away from her ultimate position of Managing Director of one of Jamaica’s most profitable and fastest growing investment brokerages. She may not have had the image of the typical female corporate executive. But what she did have was substance. What you saw was what you got. – If Joan Duncan appeared ‘down to earth’, it’s because she was. If she appeared unassuming, it’s because her journey had been a long one. If she appeared grandmotherly, it’s because she revelled in this most precious of family roles. — And if Joan Duncan appeared singular; it is this attribute, above all, which may be considered the secret of her success.
Providing for five children was motivation enough for the tough to get going. Joan Duncan began her career in banking in 1973 when she joined the Workers Savings and Loan Bank as a credit officer. She would work there for fifteen years in operations, credit, financial control and eventually as investment manager. Toward the end of the 1970s, Joan decided to further her education. She uprooted her children and moved to Canada where she studied and worked, eventually earning her B.Sc. in commerce from Concordia University where she received a Gold Medal Award in Finance. Later still, she read for the MSc in Accounting from the University of the West Indies.
It was during the latter years of the 1980s, while manager of NCB Investments, that she recognized the need for the development of the money market. She continually pressed her employer and other players in the financial sector to enter this market, but met with continual resistance. Eventually, like the ‘Little Red Hen’, Joan Duncan knew she would have to do it herself. She established JMMB in 1992 as a joint venture among the National Development Bank, Mutual Security Bank, Jamaica Producers Ltd, Jamaica Venture Fund and Antrim Ltd. Dr Noel Lyon, of the Jamaica Venture Fund, and JMMB Chairman, was her most ardent supporter from the start. Today, JMMB is widely considered as responsible for the development of the secondary market in debt securities in Jamaica. In 1994, the company was appointed as one of the first seven primary dealers for the Bank of Jamaica. Many more achievements and innovations were to follow. When Joan Duncan died at the age of 58, her dream, her company had realized a solid capital base of $190 million and boasted four branches with over 20,000 accounts.
Joan Duncan’s success, however, should not be attributed simply to business ‘savvy’ but also to the deep spirituality that guided her in whatever she chose to do. And what she chose to do was to build her company based on family, literally and figuratively speaking. Not only did she nurture and support each member of her staff; she also involved all her own children in the business; – and eldest daughter Donna succeeded her as Managing Director of the company.
Joan Duncan has ended her journey now… and in the words of her daughter Donna, it is ‘Mission Accomplished’. It was a most personal of missions and we are fortunate that she shared with us that mission in her own words. “My greatest desire” she said, “is not to make a lot of money for myself, but to have a clean heart and a pure spirit.”