Uzair Khan is not your average young accountant. With remarkable ICAEW and ACCA credentials and a ‘Big 4’ job to boot, his affable, soft spoken demeanour hides an ambitious 27-year old go-getter lad with an impressive résumé that would make many envious.
AS THE UAE returns to strong economic growth with businesses and employees moving forward with confidence, it is important to remember that in good times and bad, hard work and a single minded dedication and focus can sometimes take young people toward what may, in their early professional lives, seem to be the opportunities they might only dream of.
I want to share some thoughts about a young man who I have found to be extraordinarily inspiring, hoping that his story will motivate other young trainee accountants out there in the region.
I have watched Uzair Khan, one of my students at Phoenix Financial Training, grow in confidence, professional stature and achievement over the last five years.
During the time he spent studying at Phoenix under KPMG’s sponsorship, he has achieved both his ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and now full ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) qualification without once failing a paper at any level.
His work ethic and determination are an inspiration to us all and he is hugely respected and liked by all in the Phoenix team. He recently scored what I believe to be the highest mark recorded in the region in his ICAEW Advanced Case Study exam.
When I heard that he had received the opportunity to move, with KPMG, to the UK and knowing that he would be able to then join his wife there and develop their lives together, I felt obligated to share the story of this dedicated and very humble young man with you.
Uzair, tell us about your early childhood upbringing?
I was born in Pakistan but I was brought up and did my schooling here in the UAE. My early schooling was at Pakistan Education Academy, then afterwards I gained my Secondary School Certification (SSC) in 2001 and Higher Secondary School Certification (HSSC) from there in 2003. Though in the UAE, the syllabus of education was Pakistani-based.
Why did you choose to follow a career in accountancy?
Accountancy was never my inspiration as I had studied pre-engineering in my high school. Traditionally, students tend to choose engineering or medical as a specialisation in Pakistan. I was inspired to pursue accountancy when I first attended a seminar in 2005 in Peshawar, Pakistan, where I accompanied my friend who wanted to join. In addition, my brother-in-law is a Chartered Accountant an also played a huge role in encouraging me to adopt accountancy as my career.
Is accountancy a family tradition?
No, accountancy is not a family tradition but it had always been my parents’ desire for me to have a prestigious qualification like ICAEW and ACCA. My father is a graduate whereas my mother is a housewife. Their effort in my upbringing and helping to develop a serious attitude towards my studies was always their first priority.
Was KPMG your first employer?
Yes, KPMG Lower Gulf was my first employer since 2008 when I joined under the graduate trainee scheme. I joined the Technology, Media and Telecommunications assurance services department and till my secondment to KPMG UK, worked as a Senior Associate.
How did you go about bagging a position with the ‘Big 4’?
Well, every candidate of accountancy wishes to start their career with a Big 4 firm mainly because they provide a diversified career growth and significant opportunities. At the time of my joining KPMG, it was the first firm to which I had applied to – I was lucky to get interviewed and ultimately I joined in 2008.
Why did you undertake ACCA initially… then ICAEW?
I started ACCA, with its pre-course known as Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) in 2006, as the qualification was, and still is, widely known and more accessible to students in Pakistan compared to ICAEW. Later when I joined KPMG UAE, I continued with the ACCA and completed it in 2010.
Why did you feel it was necessary to top-up with an ICAEW qualification?
Nowadays, the competition is very intense and the industry prefers to have professionals who have multiple qualifications. ICAEW is a well renowned international qualification and this has certainly widened my horizons.
KPMG Lower Gulf has a policy of providing second study contracts to students who do well on their first trainee contract studies while taking into account their overall performance at work. I met the criteria and I wanted to study more and gain a chartered qualification like ICAEW, thus I applied and was successfully granted a place.
Was the potential to move to the UK a surprise or has this always been your goal?
My secondment move to KPMG UK resulted more from personal reasons, as my spouse was granted a scholarship to pursue PhD studies in Applied Linguistics from the University of Southampton. I thank KPMG for providing me with this overseas transfer opportunity, and understanding both my personal and career reasons.
Do you think having ICAEW helped you to secure this transfer?
Yes, indeed. In fact it was the day I qualified ICAEW that I got my formal approval of secondment from KPMG UK. This qualification on my résumé certainly added weight to this opportunity, as all the ‘Big 4’ firms and clients in UK prefer to have ICAEW qualified professionals.
Do you think being both ACCA and ICAEW qualified will help you progress in the UK?
Certainly, I believe both ACCA and ICAEW qualifications will bring more growth and ample career opportunities for me in UK. This is because they are both UK qualifications and the knowledge gained from these qualifications is relevant to the practice that I am currently in.
Where does your strong work ethic come from – parents/siblings/yourself?
My work ethic originally came from my parents and this has grown further within my work environment.
Did you enjoy your studies and your time at Phoenix?
My journey with Phoenix Financial Training (PFT) right from 2008 till 2013 has been blessed with the right guidance and support. The institute provided the conducive platform which led me to achieve both my ACCA and ACA qualifications and growth in my career.
PFT also provided me with experienced tutors from UK, who all supported me well in passing my exams in the first attempt. Besides the favourable student-institute relationship, PFT provides the necessary guidance in terms of appropriate selection of papers and flexible payment plans to those students who, if they are self-financing, are not able to pay their fees in one shot.
What work/career advice what you wish to pass on to aspiring young people?
Planning… and subsequent implementation of it is very important. This comes only from motivation, and I would suggest seeking advice and guidance from mentors, and senior work colleagues who have done well in exams.
What about advice with regard to their studies?
I did manage to pass my papers by planning those six months in advance for the term that followed, and doing my revision on weekends or regular days for about three hours. For students who both work and study, it is vital that they devote a few hours of their weekend days towards studies.
Coaching classes from the training institute are also very vital and, I would suggest not missing a single tuition class even in the times when the subjects are a bit boring!