She has been breaking glass ceilings in the Trinidad and Tobago business world for more than 40 years. She thinks of companies as extended families. What drives her? CONTACT asked Angela Lee Loy some direct personal questions
by Pat Ganase
Published in CONTACT Magazine
To begin with your business role: what is your core business at Aegis?
We offer financial services which can be used by any other company, whether it is an established local company, a multinational, a start-up, or an international company seeking to do business in Trinidad and Tobago. We provide administrative services to help clients become statutorily compliant. This would range from work permits, payrolls, and tax returns to associated human resource management and accounting services.
I believe in people providing services, creating strategic alliances and partnerships, rather than investing in bricks and mortar. Our people are knowledgeable and adaptable, and can work on or off site. We have two locations, Port of Spain and Chase Village, but technology allows us to work from anywhere. My job as head of the company is quality assurance; I am the common denominator for all our teams.
It was a simple step to link the services of Eve Anderson [Recruitment Limited] to Aegis. We acquired Eve Anderson in 2012, as they cover the spectrum of recruitment and human resource services. Caribbean Resourcing Solutions joined us in 2015 with a focus on oil and gas and information technology. It is not difficult to merge firms when your values are the same.
How do you mentor others?
Mentoring is an important aspect of my job, being a bouncing board for people who come to me with solutions. In October 2018, I was in Hong Kong when I saw reports on the floods in Trinidad, and that the southbound lane of the highway was closed. I thought, how do I mentor my people out in the field? The first thing I did was to check that all my staff were OK. Then, because transportation was disrupted, I told them that they should go into their communities and help. Work could wait. As chairman, I was empowering my staff to help those in need.
When I give a mentoring talk, I don’t have theories: I tell stories about real experiences. I often say, don’t only have relationships with your contemporaries, get to know older people who have so much experience and knowledge to share, and hear their stories. And younger persons, who are creative and innovative in surprising ways. If you lead millennials, you need to understand what stimulates them, how they think.
What gives you strength?
They say it takes a village to raise a child. My village is my big family, my friends, my husband, my staff. My network becomes an extended family. I am a very contented person. My mother used to say, learn to be content.
I grew up in Barataria but spent long vacations in Mayaro where my godmother had land. She had pigs, fowls and lots of fruit trees. There were seven of us; I was the youngest girl. My father was a health inspector with a route that took him out into the countryside. He knew everybody.
I attended Nelson Street Roman Catholic primary school, but I was not a scholar. I dreaded Common Entrance (now SEA), and shocked myself by passing for St Joseph’s Convent. I was going there with all the bright kids.
Because I knew that I had a lot to learn, I developed habits of diligence and discipline. I took nothing for granted. I learned to be humble. People like to deal with people who are authentic.
I also learned to tap into spirituality. You have to find time to be quiet and get closer to your God. Find time to praise, meditate, and be still for a moment. That’s a very powerful habit to cultivate.
What is your goal in business?
It is that all my employees are secure and can give 100 per cent. If a person is ill, has problems at home or is worrying about their children, they cannot perform fully. My company is embedding a new business culture where employees feel supported. This is the philosophy that I pass on to my practice leaders and to everyone in my organisation. Hopefully, it will extend to clients and beyond. It is the only way I believe our business culture can change for the better.
What about your role beyond business?
Because I have the people that I do, I am able to get involved in ways that help society. I am very proud of my practice leaders – they have the company’s interest at heart. Mistakes? The biggest ones are those that I’ve made by myself; we can minimise them through consultation and collaboration.
When I became Chairman of the National AIDS Coordinating Committee, I thought, wow, I’d better find out what this is all about. I had to get up to scratch quickly. This was about our society, and its ability to show compassion in a vulnerable sector.
This is how I approach all the not-for-profit boards that I have been invited to sit on. It’s a continuous learning curve that begins with getting all the information and then figuring out how I can help.
In one organisation, we are looking at the resilience of islands affected by extreme disasters like hurricanes. I am also involved with the Music Literacy Trust, which deals with the sustainability of pan musicianship, and the Social Justice Foundation, which has been training children in rural areas in digital videography.
I think I am able to do these things because my companies are ethical, productive and driven: that gives me the freedom to help build other organisations.
About Angela Lee Loy FCCA CA
- First female President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Caribbean
- First female President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad & Tobago
- Former Trinidad and Tobago representative on the International Assembly of ACCA
- AACA Achievement Award for the Americas, 2008, for outstanding contribution to the accountancy profession and to business and society
- Founder and executive chairman of Aegis Group of Companies
- Chairman of Aegis Business Solutions Limited
- Chairman of Eve Anderson Recruitment Limited
- Chairman of Caribbean Resourcing Solutions Limited
- Partner, Aegis & Company
- Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK)
- Former President of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries
- Chairman of the National AIDS Coordinating Committee
- Chairman of Foundation for Social Justice
- Chairman of Music Literacy Trust
- Director of several public and private companies and not-for-profit organisations.