Solenta Aviation FD Bright Amisi: Cargo carriers have been inundated with demand during Covid-19

ACCA-qualified Bright says this is because of the death of cargo-transporting passenger flights.

As the finance director of Solenta Aviation, ACCA-qualified Bright Amisi is responsible for overall financial management including reporting, tax and compliance for the business. The company is a specialised aviation business offering leasing solutions to clients across the African continent, the Middle East and the Americas. 

Bright joined Solenta Aviation in September 2019 attracted by the chance to learn about a new industry. Today, he leads a 13-member team in Johannesburg with eight other finance professionals in Mozambique, Gabon and Ivory Coast. “Aviation is a fast-paced sector where speed is of the essence. In aviation there is a swearword: AOG which stands for aircraft on the ground. You run the risk of upsetting customers, losing money and reputation if your aircraft is grounded due to a technical defect or interrupted logistics supply chain. Aviation is also a highly regulated industry for safety reasons. Having all the right documentation in place is critically important.” 

For Bright, working in aviation demands keeping track of several moving parts at once. His day at work starts with calls to team members to keep in touch with their issues, workload and priorities for the week. There are also countless updates to review details relating to client contracts, flight hours and parts stock holding.  Then, he takes a close look at cashflow.  “Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of forecasting required. While cash flow is always important, nowadays I keep an extra close eye on payments coming in and out. Covid-19 has also meant a dramatic uptick in short team meetings to troubleshoot issues,” says Bright. 

His role is complicated by the fact that the company does not operate from a single base like a traditional airline would. The company’s fleet is located in different countries where the costs of operating and maintaining the aircraft is vastly different. 

Aviation in a time of Covid-19 

While Covid-19 has reduced the volume of flights, Solenta Aviation has not been grounded. Approximately 30 percent of all global freight is transported as ‘belly cargo’ in passenger airlines, but in the absence of these aircraft, cargo carriers have been inundated with demand, including for the transportation of medical goods, PPE and masks. Solenta Aviation’s business model has kept the company afloat despite the tough economic times: “We don’t operate as an airline that is dependent on people paying for tickets. Our client mix includes cargo as well as the transportation of workers for oil and gas clients, and humanitarian flights. This means that while volumes have declined, we still have planes in the sky.” 

For Bright, working remotely is nothing new. In a previous post he was the global head of finance at VSO, during which time he worked from home for more than two years. “Cloud options have allowed us to work from everywhere – as an organisation we care about the health and safety of our staff and we are not in a hurry to return staff to the office if they can work from home,” he adds. 

The future is here

For Solenta Aviation, technology is critical to tracking performance. “We need to know our performance in almost real time. The shrinking recording to reporting cycle will force people to adopt automation. If you still take 15 to 20 days to close your month end, then can expect your colleagues to discount your monthly reports. They become less useful for a world accustomed to instant gratification.”

Every maintenance engineer servicing an aircraft needs to work on the company’s ERP system. With many different types of aircraft, the company must keep tabs on minimum stock quantities of parts to reduce time spent on the ground. Every part of the aircraft also needs to be traceable to meet regulatory demands.  

The company has already invested in finance technology to reduce headcount and Bright expects this trend to continue. He anticipates a faster adoption of RPA and sees automation and data analytics as being the major gamechangers for finance.  “I expect a decimation of entry-level positions. This will change how we train accountants in the future. Covid-19 will accelerate this evolution.” 

Bright also sees how smartphone technology and social media tools have shaped users to expect information at their fingertips. “Everybody is extremely demanding of information. The ideal situation is that end users pull their own data and update their own dashboards.”

A globally recognised qualification 

Bright decided to study with the ACCA in 2006 at a time when South Africa had just adopted International Financial Reporting Standards. He saw the qualification as the ideal way to upgrade his skills to be on par with global peers. 

For Bright, the ongoing networking opportunities provided by the ACCA add huge value to his life. “This global qualification gave me the opportunity to make new connections and friends throughout the world. If I choose to live in another country one day, my ACCA qualification will be instantly recognised.”  

Bright represents South Africa at the ACCA International Assembly and the Global Forum of Small and Medium Enterprises where he finds the learnings and perspectives from other territories to be insightful. He notes that the ACCA, as the world’s largest funder of accounting research, is the best equipped professional body to keep him abreast of industry trends.  

Bright has spent 26 years building a finance career. In addition to his ACCA, he holds an MCom (Accounting) and several other qualifications. 

Attitude is everything  

For Bright, having a good attitude is what sets top performers a notch above average performers. “A brilliant person with a poor attitude is a liability. This means they will only perform on the job when they chose to.”  

His personal philosophy is influenced by the American philosopher William James who said: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.”

Bright, who himself benefited from having a mentor, enjoys mentoring young accountants. He always finds that he receives more than he gives in the interaction. “One of the best secrets of mentorship is that you learn an incredible amount from the youngsters that you’re mentoring. They have a fearless and ambitious view of the world.” 

In the workplace, Bright’s biggest rewards come from seeing his team achieve more than they expect. “Often the limitations only exist in our own minds. Here we risk aiming too low. I always encourage people to go and figure out how to achieve something. When they achieve the unexpected, the satisfaction lights up their face.”