While he is all at once CEO, media mogul, philanthropist, and investor, E. Jay Saunders’ motivations stem from a place we can all relate to:
His devotion to his home country Turks & Caicos runs as deep as the Atlantic waters surrounding the tiny island. It gave him his start earlier in his career as former CEO of Digicel Turks & Caicos Ltd. (Digicel TCI), and he’s made it his life’s passion to give back.
“Some people call the Turks & Caicos Islands paradise, but I call it home … (It is) where I grew up, and it will always be home for me,”
says Saunders. But before his media company, before his television show, and certainly before he created Domus Semos Sancus, there were the first signs of a young man destined for big things. Saunders began in the late 80s with a background in computer programming and eventually got his first taste of media in 1991 when “(he and his older brother) created a publication and sold ads in it to pay for (their) university fees.” This interest in media would continue to grow in Saunders for years to come. He says:
“Through media and entertainment I’m able to share my varied interests to the world. I get to become the storyteller and take audiences on journeys that they’ve never taken, introduce them to experiences that they’ve never felt… There are many great stories waiting to be told, but you’ve got to be willing to go out and find them, and that’s why traveling is so important to what I do.”
In pursuing his interests, Saunders began to see the world differently – namely through more compassionate eyes. It is common for people to simply enjoy the fruits of fortune, but it is truly something special to realize your greatest wealth comes from helping others. And this is what sets Saunders apart from so many others in the industry.
“I’ve been blessed enough to be able to fund a lot of my interests, but there are others who are not so lucky. It breaks my heart to see people suffer, and I feel that it would be morally wrong for me to benefit from God’s blessing and turn my back on those less fortunate than I am. I truly believe that ‘the art of living is giving’, and that’s why I work hard every day to give back as much as I can.”
The desire to “make lives better” was engrained in Saunders from an early age. He grew up with a Haitian caregiver, who worked for his parents for 40 years – a woman from Gonaïves that he watched struggle, along with millions of other Haitians, due to lack of financial inclusion. As he matured personally and professionally, he knew he needed to help:
“The Turks & Caicos Islands is less than 150 miles from Haiti, the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of approximately 11 million. Over 80% of Haitians are unbanked. When you witness people suffering it touches you.”
Saunders sat with the idea of assisting the unbanked for almost 10 years, while he was CEO of Digicel TCI and Telemedia Holdings Ltd. During that time, he gained the experience and knowledge necessary to alleviate “the unbanked problem” plaguing his heart and the Haitian people.
Leaving telecommunications set him up for creating one of the most rewarding personal and professional accomplishments of his life: Domus Semo Sanucs. Founded by Saunders in 2014, DSS translates to “House of Trust and Honesty,” which symbolizes the two pillars the organization rests on. Says Saunders:
“Trust and honesty form the foundations of everything that we do and invoking the name of Semo Sancus every time we say our name is our commitment to upholding those values.”
Since its inception, DSS built financial tools specifically designed to aid the unbanked and less fortunate. In just three years, DSS won two awards at the 2017 ACQ5 Global Awards and their product SafetyNet was named “Most Innovative Compliance Service Solution” at RegTech 2017. A mobile money app focused on providing financial inclusion called Wowlet is currently in the works.
If this isn’t enough, Saunders is also the current Chairman of the Turks & Caicos Islands Civil Aviation Authority (TCICAA) – the statutory body responsible for aviation regulatory oversight – and a Director of the Pine Cay Project – a non-profit organization that has donated over US$1M to promote high academic achievement. Not to mention he is an angel investor and recently endowed the “Dr. John O. Mitterer” scholarship, which is a four-year scholarship given to community and leadership-driven Brock University students.
With all the ways he’s making moves and making lives better, one has to wonder what keeps Saunders motivated. As always, Saunder’s perspective is one of gratitude:
“I have been lucky because all the projects that I’m involved in are things that I’m passionate about… I’m motivated by ‘making lives better’… The prospect of being able to solve at least one of humanity’s most pervasive and persistent problems is something that I find exciting, hugely rewarding, and very humbling.”
On making a positive mark on the world, Saunders’ advice is:
“Find the one thing that touches you deeply and work on that. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll stick with it through the tough times, and you won’t count the costs.”
He acknowledges solving a global problem is “easier said than done” but if a better hometown to all of humanity is the result, well that’s a house we want to be part of.