In a male-dominated industry, the elevation of Camille Sinanan to the position of branch manager at Sagicor TT is noteworthy. At 45, she is the first woman appointed to this position – a promotion that has come after years of sacrifice.
Sinanan told WMN it has been 17 years of trial and error which emerged into "a patchwork of joy, testing, sharing, learning, teaching, losses and wins," which have all come together beautifully to bring her into this moment of celebration.
Over her career she has been attached to three major companies, and said she is satisfied with her present employer. Sinanan is the boss at the Sinanan Branch, working out of the company's Port of Spain head office.
Sinanan said her entry into the insurance industry was deliberate. In the years leading up to her decision to gamble on a career that went contrary to her introverted personality, she had worked in the accounting stream, comfortably existing outside the limelight, safely in the shadows of a travel agency.
Her decision to step outside her comfort zone came when her children were still very young – three and four. Then a recent divorcee, she determined to position herself in a career that would give her the means to provide them with all the best opportunities and the flexibility to be available to them at any time, one in which she would never have to choose between her charges and her job. Selling insurance seemed the way to go.
As expected, she struggled initially, not being able to do the right amount of "hunting-for-clients" hours, because it had to be balanced with parenting.
"There were some tough times," she recounted, with one of her lowest points being the day she had to explain to her young children why it was hot, dark and uncomfortable in their apartment – because the electricity had been cut.
But she has never been one to stay down.
“I get up, dust myself off, and move forward.”
At that landmark moment, she said, "I quietly committed to do all I could never to have my family in such a position again."
From the onset Sinanan understood hard work and determination would be required to succeed in her new field. She buckled down and concentrated on learning as much as she could, challenging herself to evolve into the person who would comfortably approach and engage strangers.
"My family, career and future depended on it."
Sinanan said as she worked hard to find her footing in still-unfamiliar territory, she found that her managers were recognising her efforts and taking note of how significantly she had been progressing. These efforts earned her promotions, and as she worked on developing her brand, she focused on personalising the insurance packages she was offering.
"I never viewed myself as merely offering products, but as a financial adviser, who, like a tailor, finesses and personalises what I offer to meet and match the needs of my clients as accurately as possible" – an approach that has earned trust and resulted in establishing quality relationships over the years. To her, many of her clients feel like family.
Now at the highest point of her career thus far, Sinanan remains humble and still a bit apprehensive.
“My career has taken a turn in the right direction,” she said, “but I feel like I am still now in the formative stages, so I don’t know if I am ready yet, I feel like it’s too soon…I don’t take this appointment lightly.”
But the one thing she is absolutely certain of is of where her priorities lie.
“I am the proud mother of two,” she led with, when asked to describe who she is.
She acknowledges her new position is a big step – one of her biggest to date – and she is thankful that her children are at an age where she can comfortably commit to the new journey. And because she sees herself as a “fixer,” she is approaching this new appointment with a focus on solutions.
She said the highlights of her journey have been measured in somewhat bittersweet moments, as many of her successes have been at moments of crisis for clients. But they have proven to be her opportunities to provide peace of mind to the surviving relatives of clients: "To inform them that there is support available to them because my advice and planning were in fact the best option for them. When death and critical illness claims are paid out to clients or their beneficiaries, or when clients thank me because my advice proved to be a good fit," make what she does worth it.
Sinanan said in the early years, the majority of her clients were male, but as the years progressed she has found there has been a shift. She believes it is because she is practical and analytical when engaging with her clients.
"My capacity to empathise and to relate to women’s experiences and situations means that I am able to tailor-make packages which best suit them. I measure my success by ensuring that my recommendations perform in the way they are supposed to when they are called upon to do so.”
Sinanan loves sales, but has not allowed it to be her only focus and to compromise her desire to learn, improve and develop.
In the years since she entered the field, she has remained on a path of continuous learning, both practically and academically by becoming certified as a financial services certified professional; done the agency managers' training course; worked as a senior moderator and a member of the company's education committee; and is certified by the TT Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
She said she will continue upgrading her skills, including doing a course that will qualify her to facilitate the training of managers across the industry, and not just entry-level staff.
Now, she has her eye on the Branch Manager of the Year award and believes it’s an attainable goal, because she has "a remarkable team" of approximately 38 people working with her. Among them, she has noticed an increased number of female recruits – something that pleases her greatly. She recalled that as unit manager, her very first hire won the Rookie of the Year in 2018.
For most parents, one of the best compliments they can receive is knowing their child wants to follow in their footsteps. Sinanan's daughter has expressed an interest in the industry and Sinanan has taken her on as a personal assistant and gets her involved in training sessions for incoming agents.
Despite such a full plate, Sinanan said she manages to find recreational time outside work.
"I love art, more particularly drawing and painting. I recently joined up with a small group to learn how to paint human features and form. I also enjoy taking part in the occasional sip and chat; and I love travelling," which she has done quite a bit of. She identifies the Turks and Caicos Islands as her favourite place of the 30 countries she has been to. Rome, Italy and Cancun in Mexico run close seconds.
She has aspirations of getting involved in more volunteerism and mentoring young women to attain their interpretation of success, adding: “Success is relative to what you hold success to be.”