Sectors and specialisms:
Manufacturing

The view from... Jacinth Bennet FCCA
Group financial controller, Wisynco, St Catherine, Jamaica

My role is to see and interpret the big picture and look at it from the perspective of different stakeholders, not just with an accountant’s hat on. My job includes reporting and compliance elements – but I also look to the future, identifying where vital adjustments or improvements might be made, recommending courses of action or making a case for implementing vital changes. I work in a fairly large finance department, but I also support and work closely with non-finance colleagues; that sense of making a wider contribution is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

These are challenging times for our sector. Many of our products are number one brands – but no-one can escape the impact of rising inflation, devaluation of the Jamaican dollar, complex tax laws and cumbersome red tape. And as manufacturing and distribution consume vast amounts of electricity and fuel, we also have to contend with soaring energy prices. These factors add up to a high, volatile cost base. 

Our pricing strategy relies on a degree of anticipation. Input costs may change frequently, but we can’t subject consumers to those rises, especially at a time when wages are falling. With most of the public looking to save money, we’ve had to examine our product mix accordingly, focusing on those where we can keep costs to a minimum without compromising on quality. Analysing and safeguarding the profitability of each product line – and keeping those items under review – is an ongoing challenge for pricing to avoid continual changes.

Developing export markets is increasingly a priority. We already sell to customers elsewhere in the Caribbean. By further expanding and diversifying our business, we hope to gain better access to foreign exchange markets, leaving us well positioned to trade in more advantageous currencies, especially while the domestic economy remains volatile.

Talented finance professionals think beyond the balance sheet. Finding people with that right blend of technical skills and hands-on functional knowledge, and who demonstrate self-motivation and management potential, isn’t easy for any employer. Qualified accountants looking to improve their chances in the job market have to take responsibility for their own career, and provide the evidence on their CV or at interview. I’m always impressed by people who proactively expose themselves to workplace scenarios or undergo practical training to help them develop the finance skills, commercial awareness and business instincts most sought after by ambitious organisations.

I can be the classic workaholic, so I make a point of enjoying ‘me time’ every now and then. Unwinding with friends and family, going dancing and simply having quiet weekends away all help to re-energise and restore perspective. I’ve learned that when my body insists on rest or solitude, it’s best to listen and do as I’m told!