9  Questions with US banking veteran, Jamaican Marcia Barry-Smith

This week we have a conversation with Jamaican, Marcia Barry-Smith (MBS), a senior executive at OneUnited Bank. Marcia has over thirty years of high-level banking experience. She is one of the most revered, recognized and influential Power Brokers in South Florida.

Marcia is highly regarded in the national arena as an expert in Community Development and Outreach. Her nationally acclaimed Homeless to Homeowner program has placed 100+ formerly homeless families into homeownership. Here is our interview with Marcia Barry-Smith.

 Q: Tell us about your connection to Jamaica? When did you migrate and what are your fondest memories of Jamaica?
I am Jamaican by birth of Jamaican parents. I attended the University of Toronto – majored in Sociology and English – returned to Jamaica for a while, finally migrating to the USA where I’ve now lived for the past 35 years

My fondest memories of Jamaica are myriad but somehow the best ones all have to do with family: Major holidays with the Afro-Colonial rituals and traditions; beach picnics, The Christmas Pantomimes.   Growing up in those times you felt free and cherished – not by only your immediate family but by the “Village” and with this came an innate sense of belonging for which there is no substitute.

Q: Recently you were appointed by OneUnited Bank for their CRA Expansion strategy. Can you tell us about this new appointment and the communities it will affect? Currently what is our biggest challenge in this new role?
OneUnited Bank is the preeminent Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in the United States, supporting and providing hope of an improved life to the residents of urban inner cities it serves. As the nation’s largest Black-owned Bank, OneUnited serves an Assessment Area that is designated as Miami Dade County in its entirety and operates a full service branch in the 79th street corridor that includes, in part, Liberty City. Despite the fact that all of the Bank’s business is conducted in low to moderate income (LMI) communities, and with LMI households, federal law still requires the Bank to comply with certain performance tests and standards: lending, service and investment, as mandated by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

My biggest challenge, and opportunity, is to design and implement a mortgage lending strategy that reflects the unique financial needs of our community. This strategy encompasses community partnerships, financial literacy programs, and CRA qualified contributions that are consistent with the rich cultural, ethnic, racial heritage and socio-economic status that defines Miami as America’s melting pot. The Bank’s open dialogue and overall collaborative strategy has already helped many in our community overcome challenges associated with securing a home.  We look forward to continuing our mission by expanding our efforts to promote lending and revitalization in all of our inner city neighborhoods.

Q:  What were some of the major challenges you faced as a woman in the banking industry?
The challenges were not limited to being a woman – you must remember I entered the industry as a Black, Caribbean (foreign) woman. These labels come with their own intrinsic liabilities. Also I majored in Sociology – not Business – another ‘liability’. But, as with almost any liability, if you can transform it into an asset, then it will and can work for you instead of to your detriment.

Q: What motivates you on a day to day basis?
I try to live as close to the teachings of Christ as I can. If at the end of the day someone’s life or circumstances have changed for the better through something I have said, done, created or recommended, then that is a day well lived. My creed is that we must all plant trees under whose shade we do not expect to sit.

Q:  The best advice you have gotten in your career was…….
Love what you do as a job; that way you’ll never work a day in your life

Q: How do you remind yourself of what’s important?
Not to take myself too seriously – to recognize that everyone who comes across my path has something to teach and something to learn from me. It’s the law of the Universe. Friends and laughter with friends is one of the keys to longevity. I love nothing more than a good belly laugh until the tears roll – and friends and loved ones with whom to enjoy it.

Q: Seven day, six night, all expense paid, my vacation destination is…
Hmmmm..this one is difficult because I’ve been so blessed to visit pretty much all the places on my ‘Bucket List’. I still want to visit the Holy Land …. I think I’d say a luxury suite somewhere overlooking the ocean where I could see both sunrises and sunsets…Negril? Port Antonio? Greece? Or The Mediterranean?

Q: My favorite Jamaican food is…
It’s a toss up between ackee & salt fish and mackerel Run-down: but both with green bananas and yellow yam please….(drooling)

About the author

Xavier Murphy