Bahraini-based EY manager – Abdullatif Al Mahmood – tells Joyce Njeri how he trounced competition to emerge the overall winner of the ICAEW ‘Young Accountant of the Year’. 

Abdullatif Al Mahmood (right) receives his Young Accountant of the Year’ gong during the ICAEW Middle East Accounting and Finance Excellence Awards at a gala ceremony held at the Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi.

Abdullatif Al Mahmood (right) receives his Young Accountant of the Year’ gong during the ICAEW Middle East Accounting and Finance Excellence Awards at a gala ceremony held at the Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi.

ON THE evening of 11.12.13, Bahraini-based Abdullatif Al Mahmood, who works as Assistant Manager at EY in Manama was declared the ICAEW ‘Young Accountant of the Year’.

The third annual ICAEW Middle East Accounting and Finance Excellence Awards celebrated the achievements of both individuals and organisations in the fields of accountancy and finance at a gala ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi.

While recognising Abdullatif with the award, the ICAEW judges were unanimous; ‘The recipient of this award holds both excellent academic qualifications and employer recommendations. This individual possesses the commitment and determination required to achieve great results, both personally and professionally, in an every-increasingly competitive global marketplace driven by maturity, technical ability, relationship management skills, outstanding drive and an unwavering determination to succeed.’

This aptly describes Abdullatif. In an exclusive interview with Accountant Middle East, the young accountant reveals how he combines his demanding work schedule with family responsibilities. Here are the excerpts from the interview;

Firstly, congratulations on your win at the ICAEW Middle East Accountancy and Finance Awards. How did you feel when you were called out to accept the award when you were up against other top class young chartered accountants? 

It is an amazing feeling to be selected as the ‘Young Accountant of the Year’ against many talented professionals in the Middle East who were competing for such an award.

Did you know you were shortlisted for the award, or was it a surprise? 

I was aware that I was shortlisted with two other nominees. However, seeing my name as the overall winner on the big screen at the award ceremony was a totally different feeling.

The competition for the coveted title was tough. What does winning the ‘Young Accountant of the Year Award’ mean to you? 

That is very true, the competition was really tough considering the number of candidates all over the Middle East and the increasing competition in the region’s accounting profession.

I believe that wining the Young Accountant of the Year Award is a big achievement. However, such achievement puts a higher benchmark for future targets. I believe that winning the award means that I’m on the right track to achieving my long term career aspirations.

Going back in time now, share with us why you entered the award in the first place and what you were hoping to achieve. 

I was nominated by EY and actually got to know I was shortlisted only a few weeks before the awards ceremony.

The following day when you went back to Bahrain, how did you share the news with your colleagues? And how did you as a team celebrate? 

All my colleagues congratulated me on winning the award. I have been receiving many emails from our regional leadership commending me on this achievement and telling me to keep up the hard work. Also, many of my colleagues have been applauding me through the social media network.

Now that you have been declared the Young Accountant of the Year, what would you do differently in 2014? How would you describe your mission in the accounting profession? 

Having been selected as the ‘Young Accountant of the Year’, I would be seeking bigger achievements in the future. The award has become a benchmark for my future performance.

As a young accountant I was more of a learner in the profession rather than a competitive contributor. I hope that moving forward, I’m able to contribute more to the profession.

Who has been your mentor throughout your career? 

My current manager Aanand Kamath has been my counsellor all along and I’ve worked closely with and learnt a lot from him. He also supported my award nomination.

I believe that anyone who has taught me throughout my career would also be a mentor to me. Equally, I believe that a person has different things to learn from everyone they interact with.

As Assistant Manager at EY Bahrain, what does your work entail? 

“The role of accountants has been changing and is getting more critical,” says Abdullatif Al Mahmood.

“The role of accountants has been changing and is getting more critical,” says Abdullatif Al Mahmood.

I work with internal (EY) and client teams on a suite of audit, review and compliance services. The supervisory role of my function entails managing a small team assigned to client projects.

What are the best and worst things about your job? 

One of the best things about my job is working with many different people. I get to work with different teams within EY on different assignments, and with different clients from diverse industries.

I don’t think that there is anything which I really don’t like about my job. I guess the only thing which I miss is spending more time with my family as my job is taking most of my time.

Please share with us your key career moments in the journey to becoming an Accountant. 

I graduated from school from the Science stream and got a scholarship to study Petroleum Engineering. Frankly, I was not a big fan of Science as I wanted to study something more related to business which led me to accounting.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from King Fahd of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia. After graduation I went to Lebanon and did an intensive Master’s course in Finance in the American University of Beirut. I came back to Bahrain and started working with EY and at the same time started my professional qualification. After completing three years and related exams, I became a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

On the same issue, the role of accountants has broadened from being just technical to advisory and corporate strategy formation. Can you share with use about these changing roles in today’s globalised world? 

The role of accountants has been changing and is getting more critical. They are no longer expected to do simple book keeping for organisations. The role requires preparing the appropriate reports which are used for decision making. They are also required to advise on the implication of business decisions on the performance of the organisation.

What advice would you give to your peers in terms of minimising reporting mistakes? 

I believe that the key things to achieve perfection in a task is having the right knowledge and staying updated, seeking advice from people with experience and knowledge and working hard to achieve those tasks.

What is most important to you as an accountant when it comes to building a successful best accounting team at your organisation? 

I always believe that the key factor for any successful team is communication. For a team to achieve its targets, right communication channels should be there and should be utilised. Also, targets and the plan on how to achieve them should be shared clearly among all members of the team. In addition, expectations from each member of the team should be clearly stated and communicated.

What are some of your favourite gadgets, apps, tools, and products – especially related to social media? 

I usually use applications to keep myself updated on news in the industry and social tools. I guess in this fast and connected world, such applications have become essential for work and life. I’m currently using many applications including Feedly, Linkedin, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. I expect in the future that new applications will come up which will be part of our daily lives.

How do you spend your free time? What are your sporting interests, if any? 

Work takes most of my time. However, when I have some free time, I try to spend most of it with my family as much as possible. I also try to meet up with my relatives and friends.

I also use my free time to read on various books on subjects of my interest.