Thornhill returns to B’dos as bank president

By RON FANFAIR

Life has come full circle for financial services executive Harriet Thornhill.

Leaving Barbados at a very young age nearly five decades ago, she returned to the land of her birth last week where she will be based as president of RBTT (Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago) Eastern Caribbean.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Thornhill’s employer for the past 30 years and the Harry Jerome awards title sponsor, acquired RBTT Financial Group for approximately US$2.2 billion in June 2008, creating one of the most expansive banking networks in the Caribbean with a presence in 18 countries.

Starting as a bank teller in Montreal where she spent 20 years before coming to the Greater Toronto Area in 1995, Thornhill was the bank’s regional vice-president responsible for retail and small businesses in East Brampton for the past five years.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” she told Share before leaving last Thursday. “I left Barbados as a kid and now I am going back in a position of leadership. I am really excited to be part of a strategic initiative in helping RBTT to be integrated with RBC.”

The acquisition marks RBC’s return to Trinidad & Tobago where it had maintained operations from 1902 to 1987 when RBC divested its remaining shares in RBTT.

Thornhill, who spent five years in England before coming to Canada, graduated with an MBA from Athabasca University in 2006. She chaired the Black Business and Professional Association’s (BBPA) board of trustees before assuming the chairmanship of the BBPA-administered national scholarship fund.

Nearly 475 young people, the majority of whom are leading successful professional lives in Canada and the rest of the world, have benefited from close to $2 million in scholarships in the past 21 years. A total of $150,500 was presented to last year’s recipients.

“I was attracted to the BBPA because the focus is on young people and providing them with access to higher education while also enabling them to achieve personal and professional excellence,” said Thornhill. “That, coupled with education, is a recipe for success and grooming young people to be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Thornhill was an active participant in the BBPA Leaders of Tomorrow conference which exposes young people to career and business opportunities in the business and technology sectors. The one-day event brought together Grade 11 and 12 students from Toronto public and Catholic school boards and the York Region District School Board.

In addition to participating in an executive lunch and a post secondary education and career fair, the students also took part in workshops that focused on interview skills, business etiquette, professional conduct and best practices, money management, the intricacies of corporate culture and career possibilities, cutting edge advancements in technology and strategic life mapping.

“Harriet brought a heap of positive attributes and opportunities to the BBPA,” said the organization’s president, Pauline Christian. “She conveyed an aura and presence when she was in the boardroom and she brought a feeling of camaraderie and encouragement when having to deal with tough issues. She also exhibited grace, class and sophistication in her delivery.”

Temple Scott Associates (TSA) vice-president Paula Morrison replaces Thornhill as the scholarship fund chair. The downtown Toronto-based firm designs and delivers strategic programs that shape opinion among consumers, governments, investors and media.

Prior to joining TSA, Morrison worked for a prominent local pubic relations and communications firm where she managed various global mandates for high-profile clients, including Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems.

An honours graduate from the University of Western Ontario, she holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the United States International University.

Toronto Police Service Deputy Chief Peter Sloly is the assistant chair of the scholarship fund.

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