CHARLES ROSS: A Life of Sports, Science, Stocks & Service
Best known as the president and CEO of Sterling Asset Management, Charles Ross has had a life where he excelled in sports, trained in engineering, management, as well as finance, and he continues to do his best to serve Jamaica. Several of these interests first took hold during a childhood sojourn in Belize.
With the Caribbean Sea and the Great Belizean Barrier Reef on one side and Mexico and Guatemala on the other, Belize (the former British Honduras) would naturally have offered endless fascination for any young Jamaican boy. Charles, who spent his formative years there with his father, vividly remembers travelling around the country, witnessing the rapid expansion of the built environment. His time there also included a trip to Mexico City, a five-day journey by bus that left a special impression on him traversing mountains and fields.
But even as his young mind was already brimming with ideas inspired by his Latin American journey, a return to Jamaica was inevitable, and on his parents’ consideration that meant boarding at Calabar High, which was to open up even more avenues. The school’s sports programme not only helped to eliminate any remnants of homesickness, it balanced out the ‘heavy’ science focus of his studies. Ross, in fact, took quite readily to the student-athlete life. Not only did he represent Calabar in swimming, he did his school proud in track and field in the sprints and 800 metres a truly rare combination at the ISSA Boys’
Championships. All this, while doing well enough academically to gain a spot on Calabar’s Schools’ Challenge Quiz team as well as earn a full scholarship to study engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland.
A condition of his scholarship was that he come back to work for the Government of Jamaica for five years. He did so, and just as he had toured Belize as a boy, so too did he traverse Jamaica as a man from Mandeville to Montego Bay to Mineral Heights and virtually all points besides. It was, no doubt, a great ‘education’ for the young engineer, but Charles still felt he needed to be more qualified, so it was off to the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago to pursue his Master of Science degree in construction engineering and management. Ironically, that period also saw the beginnings of an interest in economics and management.
Armed with yet another certification (in management studies), opportunity, and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica provided just that.
“Managing the operations and the finances of the organisation called for a lot of economic research and examination of historical macroeconomic policy,” he notes.
The main thing emerging from that research, as well as the actual experience, was that much of the investment market was driven by a distinctly short-term focus. He founded Sterling Asset Management Limited in 2001 with an aim to change that focus, and the company, proverbially, has not looked back in the ensuing 17 years. Ross and his team have, as their corporate bio states, kept a careful watch on the range of challenges and opportunities facing private-sector businesses in Jamaica and internationally, and have put that to the benefit of their clients.
In the midst of all that, there were other expectable interventions in his life. Charles met his wife, Natalie, at a carnival party in Trinidad and Tobago while studying. He is now blessed with two grown children; Marian, an investment banker (also with Sterling), and Charles Andrew, who is a medical doctor. As he balanced his student activities with recreation, Ross the executive cultivates work-life balance.
“I enjoy family dinners on the weekends and I also like travelling, so we take family vacations overseas, as often as once per year, if possible,” he says.
Ross remains young at heart and enjoys playing golf as well as exercising two or three times per week.
Charles Ross embodies, and nurtures among his team, the virtue of giving back. Among a range of institutions he supports, he has maintained close ties to his alma mater, contributing to the upgrading of the school’s built environment, as well as the academic achievements of the students. He was a member of the 100th Anniversary Committee that helped to reopen derelict buildings, install a new classroom block, and establish the Calabar Old Boys’ Association office.
“Helping with these improvements at Calabar is not just about enhancing the aesthetics, it’s about ensuring the school is in a position to fulfil its role as a nation-building institution, through the development of young boys into worthy citizens,” says Ross.
“Remember, investing in our youth is investing in Jamaica’s future.”
At the recent Calabar Old Boys’ Association dinner, at which Harry Maragh and himself were honoured, Charles pledged one million dollars over the next two years to support the Old Boys mentoring and academic programmes at the school.