Prince Kofi Amoabeng FCMA, chief executive officer of Ghana’s UT Bank, believes the CIMA qualification has been at the heart of his phenomenal career success. Freelance journalist Nigel Ash spoke to him to find out more.
Prince Kofi Amoabeng (left) is quite frank that after completing his degree in business administration, he chose to study CIMA simply because it was the only accountancy qualification then available in his country’s capital, Accra.
‘But though I chose CIMA by default, I grew to love it,’ he says. ‘Unlike the post mortem type of work that you have with other accounting bodies, with CIMA you actually make things happen before the results are captured after the action. I didn’t want to be a number crunching accountant at the end of the year. I wanted to be in a management position, where the figures are the means of informing me what to do.’
Prince Kofi explains that CIMA training has stood him in good stead throughout his professional life. The crowning achievement of this was being chosen as ‘best entrepreneur of the year 2010’ at the inaugural Ghana entrepreneur awards and in the very same year being named as Ghana’s most respected CEO for 2010.
He also led one of Africa’s first reverse takeovers when UT Financial Services, founded in 1997, acquired in 2008 the medium sized BPI Bank. In 2010 he merged the two operations to create the larger, fully fledged UT Bank.
Prince Kofi is firm in the belief that the CFO position is generally a sound qualification for the CEO slot, where the final decisions are made. ‘Running a business means that you should be on top of the computations that have gone into the options on which you have to decide,’ he notes.
‘This is where CIMA comes into its own, because it enables you to understand the options and the choices that you have to make. So I think CIMA should be bringing out a lot more CEOs than other accountancy qualifications.’
He refutes the view that CFOs will lack experience in other business areas such as marketing, product development, IT and HR.
‘I do not believe that accountants are challenged as CEOs because they are supposed to have less experience of such business areas. At my level I engage professionals who should know their field and can present me with the choices.
‘I don’t have to know marketing. I don’t have to know HR. Of course because I studied business administration, I have a fair idea of what it is about and I can understand what my professionals are telling me. However in making a decision, I think the bottom line is always the financial implications of whatever it is that you are going to do.’
The world economic focus is shifting from viewing Africa as a primary commodity source to understanding it as a major new market with a fast emerging and affluent middle class. The business of doing business on the continent needs to be understood more clearly.
‘In Africa the conditions are quite different,’ explains Prince Kofi. ‘You have to be pragmatic. We have had to create structures to be able to grow our company into a bank. In this respect CIMA helps you to be quite realistic and to see what applies best, rather than just taking the methodology of the Western world.
‘You need to apply your knowledge and your qualification to be able to understand what the challenges are and to fashion the solutions that will actually give you the returns that you require.
‘Advanced country solutions do not necessarily apply, because for example, we do not have structures and systems that are as well developed as in the West. It calls for more ingenuity and better management of risk. I think that CIMA really helps in this environment, in understanding the issues.’
Prince Kofi is pleased to point out that CIMA is now more active in Ghana than it has been in the past. In September last year it opened a branch in Accra to handle a growing demand for its courses and workshops for students and members, and Prince Kofi was the guest of honour.
He explains that the growth of UT Bank had been achieved in part by the recruitment of CIMA graduates to key positions in the bank. This continues to promote the qualification.
‘I have three of my young executives pursuing CIMA qualifications and I think they are enjoying it. I make a point of catching up with them every once in a while and seeing their progress. We are going to be training more CIMA [professionals] in the bank.’
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