CFOs Must Be Strategic Business Partners – Edward Botchway, CFO at Ecobank Ghana & Cluster CFO (WAMZ)

Edward Botchway is a thoroughbred when it comes to financial strategy. Finding his feet in the financial world was easy due to the encouraging environment in his early years. This formidable financial executive, who is the Chief Financial Officer at Ecobank Ghana & Cluster CFO (WAMZ) has been able to drive an unprecedented income record at Ecobank. Through his financial tactics he brought in over GHC 1 billion in 2015 financial year. In this interview with The CFO Magazine Edward, talks about his career, challenges and successes. Excerpts……………………

Tell us a little about yourself?

I have been in banking my whole working life, my dad being a banker was a key dubbing force for me in choosing banking as a career path. Being in the banking sector was something I always loved to do. I have found myself doing the things I love and find as exciting, I would like to think of myself as someone who is driven by set goals and target in wanting to achieve what needs to be done.

Tell us about your department and how you motivate them for success?

The Finance department is responsible for the finance functions in the Anglophone West African clusters which comprises of Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. With the team in Ghana, it’s easier to interact with them as there is more direct communication and interaction on a daily basis as I try to impact ideas across the team. With the other countries I am not constantly present I try as much as possible twice a year to be physically present with them. Once a month I do conference calls with the team. My primary approach is assisting my team in getting work done; I involve myself in the day-to-day activities of my department. Leading a team is not all about giving deadlines on what needs to be done but actually leading by example, for me that has been the most effective approach as well as believing in my team and giving them that assurance and motivation. By showing them I have confidence in them I need to give them targets that are achievable without stretching them too much, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to stretch your team with more than they can deliver. Knowing your team and giving them tasks and roles that fit their profile is helpful. There are daily challenges I face managing the team across the five African countries, notably the difference in tax laws which are not the same across the five countries, therefore there is the need to be up to date on what is going on in each of these five countries when driving strategy you would clearly need to have a pulse on what is going on in the country. I get feedback on a daily, weekly and monthly basis in the other countries to be able to get a sense of what is going on in these countries in my absence.

What are the biggest challenges for CFOs?

One of the biggest challenges for CFOs is the ability to be able to prioritize, being able to focus on the key critical factors. Clearly, there are a lot of things that the CFO needs to deal with; the challenge is that, if you are not careful you may allow some of the more mundane basic elements of the role to take up all of your time. Understanding that a CFO is not a bookkeeper and record keeper is important to recognize, though the books need to be balanced there is a lot more beyond publishing the quarter and half-yearly financials. The critical thing clearly is being a business partner, having a commercial sense and being able to contribute to the financial growth of your organisation. The CFO gets to see the strategic view of the business, the financial figures, and the financial growth. He is in the best position to drive financial strategy for the business which clearly is a key part of his or her role, doing that then becomes much more than the daily routine. Another challenge is building yo
ur credibility to the rest of the management team. Typically you find CFOs sometimes being the person always saying no, you don’t want to be a critic you would like to be somebody who is part of the business collaborating with the rest of your team. Being able to decipher and understand these roles are important for a CFO to manage.

Edward Botchway – CFO, Ecobank Ghana & Cluster CFO (WAMZ)

What are your key major goals as a CFO?

Driving the strategy of the bank is very critical to me and that is what keeps me going, the other bit is to ensure that am able to build my team effectively to ensure they’ve got bench strength. My team being able to multitask, making it easier to take another role when the other is absent and also being an effective business partner is key. As a listed company be able to communicate effectively and assure shareholders, analysts and brokers more often for them to have enough confidence in the stock of the bank and invest in it. Dealing with challenges and questions of shareholders, assuring them and explaining to them the way forward, is another key principle I deal with.

What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

That will be in 2012 when Ecobank became the biggest bank in Ghana and the most profitable bank in Ghana. This is because when I joined the bank we had 9 branches. The bank began as the smallest bank, to be able to go through that whole process of being the smallest bank to become the biggest bank in Ghana was something the entire bank is proud of. For us this is a testament of our hard work and efforts the entire team across the bank put together. 2015, being the most difficult year in the banking sector as a result of the power outages, Ecobank for the first time in Ghana made an income of more than 1 billion Ghana cedi’s, I think to be able to cross that 1 billion Ghana cedi’s income line was something that we have all looked forward to for a while now and to be able to achieve it marked a greater height for the entire team.

How do you feel winning the CFO of the year (Banking) and Industry Personality of the year at the maiden Ghana CFO Awards 2015?

I felt a level of assurance to be recognized for my effort and hard work, winning these awards was a pleasant surprise to me. I have always believed in ensuring that my goals and targets are achieved.

How is the banking industry evolving?

The banking industry over the last few years has evolved the most, comparing it to other industries. Thanks to technology, customers can be served outside our banking halls. There is a lot more business outside the formal banking sector. Such services are the use of ATMs, internet banking, mobile money transfers etc. It is critical for us as a bank to take advantage of these new platforms. We have seen banks that were the biggest, but in one way or the other they have lost their slot.

What has been the greatest challenge(s) in your career and how did you overcome it (them)?

There have been a number of challenges my greatest is when I became CFO, some years back I was used to getting my job done and making sure that my task was completed on time, then it was a lot easier since I was only dependent on myself on how hard I could work. But all wasn’t based on how well and hard I could work but also how well I could motivate others to get their jobs done as some of them are sometimes not within my reach. At the very beginning that was a little bit daunting but overtime I have done a good job and adjust quickly, finding ways to motivate and work with the entire team both here and outside the country.


What advice would you offer to an aspiring CFO in Ghana?

For anyone who wants to be a CFO here, he should get his accounting skills right, beyond these skills he should be able to build his communication skills. It is critical the individual cultivate the habit of hard work, it is not an easy road and neither does it give one freedom, it’s very intense and engaging. The individual would really have to want the role it’s not a role you will casually walk into, it has to be something you actually want. With the hard work and effort they put in, they will excel.

If you were not an accountant, what would you have been?

If I wasn’t an accountant I would probably find a role in marketing in the banking space this is because in the last few years, I have come to enjoy that bit of that.

Describe yourself in three key words?

I am a man with vision, hardworking and a team player.

If you had three wishes what will they be?

My first wish will be that, Ghana’s economy continues to grow, secondly, Ecobank continues on its growth path, and lastly, myself and my family to be in good health.