To the Middle East for today’s Sovereign Story where we meet Jocelyn Viernes, the Head of Administration in the Dubai office. Jocelyn has recently celebrated ten years with Sovereign although her connection with the group dates back much further. Hers is another fascinating story that began in the Philippines.
Jocelyn was born “some time ago” although she will not divulge her exact age adding that people are welcome to “work it out if they want to”. An English and Filipino speaker (the Tagalog dialect), she has been married to Bernie for more than thirty years and the couple are proud parents to four children. As Jocelyn so charmingly puts it “we have two of each, one was made in the Philippines and the other three here in Dubai”. The youngest is studying at university and the older three nowadays call the Philippines home.
Jocelyn lived with her husband and daughter near Manila until 1993. The family moved to the UAE initially living in Sharjah, a neighbouring emirate. They did not move to Dubai until 2018; Jocelyn was delighted that the daily office commute was reduced to around twenty minutes – quite rare for Dubai. They will be celebrating thirty years as expatriates later in 2023 – longer than she was a resident of the Philippines.
The pandemic was difficult for the family as travel was severely restricted. They were finally reunited in Manila in May 2022 and last Christmas, the children and four grandchildren travelled to see their parents and grandparents in the UAE for another grand reunion.
Jocelyn’s Sovereign story began officially in March 2013 so she has recently celebrated a decade with the group. She explains that her previous role was at Globaleye when both firms were located next to each other and they collaborated on transactions regularly. Jocelyn used to spend a great deal of time in Sovereign’s office, getting to know the staff well before she joined the team. Prior to Globaleye Jocelyn had worked for Eagle Star in Sharjah, now part of the Zurich financial group, thus she brought a great deal of experience to Sovereign.
As head of administration, Jocelyn leads a team of five assisting clients with offshore structures. Most of the team’s clients are based in the Middle East although some are located further afield. Sovereign’s worldwide group feed business to Dubai and working with her overseas colleagues is one of the best aspects of the role for Jocelyn.
Away from work, Jocelyn has become an extremely accomplished knitter being completely self-taught since starting in 2007. She does not sell her creations – “so don’t ask”, she adds. However, she does run a small business “from her kitchen” involving the dyeing then selling of yarn. She produces enough for her own needs and encourages others to purchase the wool online and start knitting themselves. She proudly relates that both her daughters have shown a keen interest and are creative too. Keen to develop her skills, she attended a natural dyeing workshop in Copenhagen a few years back. Working with indigo dye, she relates how she tried some on her hair – only for the bright blue colour to remain for weeks afterwards.
Jocelyn tries to incorporate movement in her life, especially when travelling to other countries. The most strenuous event she completed was climbing the trail at Preikestolen in southwestern Norway. Better known as Pulpit Rock, it was made famous by the movie Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Sheepishly she admits she did not climb the sheer rock face as Tom Cruise did in the film, but it’s a start.
More down to earth, she and Bernie are keen cyclists, getting on two wheels as much as possible. She is looking forward to this year’s annual Dubai Fitness Challenge. The brainchild of the Crown Prince, the idea is to participate in thirty minutes of activity for thirty days in November.
As part of the Challenge, the fourteen lane Sheikh Zayed Road closes along its entire 14km length for five hours on a Sunday morning. Last year, almost 35,000 cyclists participated in the event taking advantage of the empty highway. This year, Jocelyn’s dream is to put together a Sovereign team – dressed in corporate colours of course. She adds that it is not even necessary to own a bike as they can be rented. Come on Dubai office – you can do it! What is to stop you?
Jocelyn and Bernie see their foreseeable future in Dubai although of course no one can predict the future. She is extremely happy at Sovereign and her only regret is that the ever-increasing use of Teams and other such technology means meetings are held online. This prevents her from visiting other offices as much as she would like. She has been to the London office a couple of times when passing through the UK but she would like to see other colleagues, particularly in Gibraltar where she built some close friendships.
Thank you for relating your story Jocelyn. We congratulate you on your first decade with Sovereign and wish you and your family well for the future, whatever it may bring. May you also get to visit the Gibraltar office one day!