AI and digitization will make the finance sector more efficient, secure, and customer-centric – Bernice Ampofo, Director of Finance, Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA)

Bernice Ampofo is the finance director at the Ghana Export Promotion Authority with over 20 years of experience in financial statement preparation, analysis, budgeting, cash flow management, risk management, and regulatory compliance. As the Director of Finance at the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), she excels in leading and motivating her team, effectively communicating complex financial concepts to stakeholders, and navigating interpersonal dynamics with empathy and self-awareness. In this interview with The CFO Magazine, Bernice discusses her career, challenges, and other sundry issues. Excerpts…

At what point did you know you were going to venture into finance as a career?

That was after sixth form. I actually started as a science student from O level to A level and then I met a young lady who was already a Chartered Accountant who talked finance into me and encouraged me to try. She was also a science student and had been able to switch comfortably and perform as a Chartered Accountant. In that case, I got a mentor and I started offering finance from there. So just after sixth form, I had a few private classes and then I started the finance course.

What is it like being a finance director at GEPA?

Very challenging, however, with good planning and a good team to support I am able to usually perform and achieve my target.

What are some of the challenges?

I will table three out of the lot.

The first is operational. Our operation is a bit unique, and it is so much on the go. The finance department is always on the alert, because we have a lot of ad-hock transactions coming through. We should be able to execute seamlessly within the tenets of laws, regulations and statutes vis-à-vis customer satisfaction is one challenge. Once we are able to execute well, GEPA is seen out there as a good corporate citizen. For that reason, whether day or night, weekend, holiday, it doesn’t actually matter when, we are expected to be available and perform. That is quite stretchy, physically and mentally. It affects our social life but then, this is our calling, and we want to get it right for ourselves, for GEPA, and for mother Ghana.

The second challenge is Cost management, basically efficiency and cost reduction and balancing budgets. Thus, identifying areas for cost savings while maintaining operational efficiency and effectively in the face of fluctuating revenues and expenses.

Thirdly, Recruiting and retaining skilled professionals in finance and ensuring continuous development of employees’ skills, particularly in new technologies and analytical tools has to be tabled from the strategy level otherwise the CFO is faced with an apathetic team or high iteration rate in the department.

Bernice Ampofo – Finance Director, Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA)

What is that quality a good finance professional or a good CFO must possess?

You have to be resilient but respectful and a team player. These will enhance your ability to lead the team successfully.

On Resilience, I must say that the CFO crosses a lot of turfs within the organization, that brings tension so a balance of empathy and good communication is required to take a lot of decisions. 

The CFO must remain respectful of other people, even when you’re dealing with a negative situation

As a Team player, you will need the team’s support because reporting takes a lot of work by way of data entry, which cannot be done by the CFO alone. So, encouraging one’s team to come along in driving the vision of the department is key.  

With the latest trends, looking at digitization and AI, where do you see finance in the next few years? AI is here to automate routine tasks such as data entry, compliance checks, and transaction processing, reducing costs and minimizing errors. It will streamline regulatory compliance by automating the monitoring and reporting processes, ensuring that financial institutions adhere to evolving regulations with greater efficiency. Financial institutions will adopt real-time reporting systems powered by AI to ensure transparency and accuracy in regulatory submissions, thus Real-Time Reporting. Overall, the integration of AI and digitization will make the finance sector more efficient, secure, and customer-centric. Financial institutions that embrace these technologies will be better positioned to thrive in an increasingly competitive and dynamic landscape.