David Appiah Ofori is building a private pension company whose steady climb hasn’t gone unnoticed. Growing up, the only climb that got his attention was getting into his grandfather’s guava tree and plucking the fruits for sale. Now, he is devoted to figuring out how working class folks can grow and enjoy the fruits of years of their labour during retirement.
Over several years, Ofori was trained as an actuary in the United States. When Ghana reformed its pension laws to allow private pension practitioners into the new pension space, he jumped on the opportunity and is building a business around it. Decades before that, he was being prepared for such a time – the young Ofori was not aware of.
When his young self was helping out at his grandfather’s Kokomlemle shop, it may not have occurred to him that it was all part of the training to prepare him for the time he would go into the world of business on his own. Judging by the family he came from, that time was not a question of if, but when. He watched his parents build businesses in garment manufacturing, medical equipment sales and construction, taking in valuable lessons. “I don’t think I stumbled upon it. I believe it’s a generational progression. By the time I finished secondary school, I was distributing chicken from my uncle’s farm in Ashanti-Akropong to outfits like Bus Stop and Granada hotel. I have always wanted to be a business owner just like my parents, grandparents and countless numbers of uncles and aunties before me”, he explains of his motivations and the beginnings. “I learnt the trick from the masters.”
He owes it as much to the plans he made, as he does to the hard work done to get this far. Plans occupy a dear place in his heart. So much so that he considers it almost crazy for someone to imagine success at anything without a plan, “especially for entrepreneurs”. His path was a well-thought plan. After A’Levels at Achimota School, Ofori moved to the USA to continue his education, eventually earning a Bsc Actuarial Science degree from Pennsylvania State University. “Prior to going to college, I worked a couple of odd jobs ranging from hardware shops, to working as an attendant at a cinema hall. About a year and a half before college, I sold life insurance products. After college, I worked for an actuarial consulting firm and then went on to work for the international corporate actuarial division of a major global insurer”, he says, offering a description of the plan that made becoming a professional actuary possible. It wasn’t meant to be glamorous, but it was destined to get him here.
All the skills gained during that time, both within the industry and outside it, would come in handy, when in 2007 he moved to Ghana to work for his family’s concrete products manufacturing plant and in 2012 started General Trust Company Limited (GENTRUST), a pension fund trustee and administration outfit. . The aim is to make life easier for their customers after their retirement from work, providing them income in their twilight years based on actively managed investments made during their years of work. Coming into a pension / financial market he hadn’t had first-hand experience in, his success (or lack of it) depended on the team he would surround himself with.
He acknowledges that without the likes of his Chief Operating Officer, Mrs. Arielle A. Enninful, he certainly would not have been able to achieve what he has. Mrs. Enninful joined GENTRUST when it was no more than a pipe dream and a blank piece of paper, brining over a decade’s experience and relationships from Ecobank. Together with the other team members and a strong board of directors, Ofori has been able to build a good size pension company within four years. GENTRUST has expanded its offices to Kumasi, Sunyani and Takwa.
With eyes on the future lying ahead for the industry, the least of his worries for GENTRUST is the tight competition in the pension environment. For him, the opportunity is unimaginable. “In as much as we have a lot of formal sector membership, the informal sector market is where the biggest opportunity lies. These are mainly entrepreneurs at all levels. There is also a big opportunity to develop very robust integrated systems for the industry. There is a huge annuities opportunity lying ahead of us, this is bigger than we can think of. Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that pension schemes and pension funds are going to become institutional investors in the near future”, he says.
With a knack for meticulous planning, his heritage of entrepreneurship and his lifelong experience in business, Ofori, with his formidable team, is helping each of GENTRUST’s clients to climb their own trees-of –wealth-and-comfort in retirement. We should be rooting for them.