Cayman Net News - Cayman Islands
'A Man of Action'
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
In 1954, a young Jamaican, by the name of Spencer Marshall, met his bride-to-be – Caymanian, Maxine Thompson, in Jamaica. He had already made a good start in life and was working with Standard Life Assurance Company. She had journeyed from the Cayman Islands to Jamaica in search of a career.
That was the beginning of two lifetime involvements for Mr Marshall – his marriage, now going 47 years and, his relationship with the Cayman Islands that spans 49 years.
Now 77 years old, Mr Marshall is noted as a prominent figure in the insurance industry here for over three decades.
His philanthropic side is also well known because of his membership in the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman since 1969 – the year he decided to relocate to Cayman.
Described as someone who does not like the limelight and prefers to act, rather than talk, Mr Marshall, even after leaving Jamaica, continued to make his mark there, as well as in Cayman.
Illustrating the type of action he has commonly undertaken, one of Mr Marshall’s friends said: “Some time in the late 1970’s, the lives of some physically challenged persons in Jamaica changed for the better because Spencer Marshall – the President of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman in 1977 – decided to lead his fellow Rotarians in a project to help the Caribbean Christian Council,” said the friend.
“Activities such as the Club’s association with the Council and an innovative idea for a “pianothon” that helped to raise US$23,000 towards the Council’s expenses flowed from the initial steps Mr Marshall took. As well, his input has been invaluable for many other projects.”
As Mr Marshall, now a retired businessman, spoke about his life in his frank and matter-of-fact style, he stopped the discussion suddenly, soon after it began, when some birds came swooping down in his backyard for the food that was newly set in the birdfeeder.
“Look at the birds,” he said. “Sometimes, as many as sixty come to the trough. When we heard that Hurricane Ivan removed much of the food for the birds, we decided a trough with food for them was simply the right thing to do.”
As Mr Marshall went back to telling the story of his life, he offered the very same reason for doing most of the things he became involved in throughout the years past when it came to business it was as much about pleasure too.
“Insurance is something that I simply loved from the very beginning, and I was fortunate enough to be able to earn from something I really enjoyed doing,” he said.
Born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, Mr Marshall’s parents were also Jamaican.
“I am Jamaican through and through,” said Mr Marshall. “My parents were born in Jamaica. My father was a Banker with Bank of Nova Scotia. He came from British parents. His father had come to Jamaica to lay the sleepers for the railway station. My mother was also born in Jamaica and her parents were Jewish and Portuguese, respectively.
“I am the eldest of three children. My brother left Jamaica for Canada in 1952 and has lived there since, and my sister migrated to Australia in her early years as well. She lived there until she died.”
Even though Mr Marshall was born in St. Elizabeth, he grew up in Kingston and became one of the many “North Street giants” – attending Kingston College (KC), one of the two, very famous high schools for boys that are named rivals, even to today.
After High School he went directly into the working world. He spent his first year with Victoria Mutual Building Society. He spent his second year in banking with CIBC before he landed in the insurance field that proved to be a perfect match for him in the decades that followed.
“Apart from my job with Standard Life Assurance Company another important part of my life that also began in Jamaica was my involvement in Freemasonry,” he said.
“That began in 1954 when I joined the Friendly Lodge. I was installed a Master of my lodge in 1962.”
Revealing the details of his early associations with Cayman Mr Marshall said he met his wife Maxine in 1954.
“At that time she was working with Issa & Company on King Street in Kingston. I first visited Cayman in 1956 to learn more about Maxine’s country and also to market life insurance. However my stay in Cayman was a very short time on that occasion.
“By 1958 Maxine and I were married in Jamaica and, in that year, we were blessed with the first of our two daughters, Judy. She is now married to William McTaggart Jnr and has three beautiful boys. Our second daughter, Kim, came two years after that.
“You can tell my daughters easily, they both look exactly like Maxine.”
Turning again to the business side of his life Mr Marshall said that in 1965 he recruited Clive Musson, to sell life insurance here.
“He had already been in Cayman for some 15 months working with Barclays Bank and his move into life insurance sales for Standard Life went very well,” he remembered.
“1965 was also the year that some freemasons wanted to establish freemasonry in Grand Cayman and, because I was known for my Cayman connections, I was invited to be a founding member. Today, I am the only living founding member in Cayman, of the 815 English Constitution lodge.
“With Mr Musson’s success with insurance here, I came to Grand Cayman in January 1968 as Sales Supervisor and on that trip I sold life insurance to Jim Bodden, (national hero) for his wife and two children.
“I returned the following month at which time I began discussions with Mr Bodden and my brother-in-law, Graham Thompson, about going into business together. By 3 March 1969 Maxine and I fully relocated to the Cayman and I was part of Graham Thompson and Associates, wholesale merchants.
“I was with that company for four years, until late 1973, before I decided to go back to my first love, insurance.”
The man of action Mr Marshall was, within only a few short months he was Secretary of a corporate group that formed Cayman Insurance Centre – the first one-stop-shop insurance brokerage in Cayman that dealt with health, life, property, marine, motor and other classes of insurance.
The group included attorney-at-law, Arthur Hunter, and William McTaggart Snr. and also Alfred Kaufman. Eddie Balderamos and Gaston Maloney were insurance salesmen. According to Mr Marshall the company “has had its ups and downs over the years” but has now grown to the point where it has 22 employees.
Today, Mr Marshall is still the largest shareholder in the firm, even though he retired from day-to-day activity in 1993 and only gave up the post of Chairman earlier this year.
Now, in retirement, Mr Marshall is still very much in tune with activities at CIC.
Along with his wife, who had spent 8 years in the airline industry – working with BWIA and Air Canada before becoming a full-time homemaker, Mr Marshall collects paintings of Jamaican scenes and has many of them adorning a special room in his home.