Kobus Stadler is one of the youngest CAs(SA) to qualify in South Africa. He walked straight from finishing home school into his first job interview at BGR Jacobs Bester Griessel, a small accounting/audit firm in Worcester, Western Cape, while starting his degree part-time at Unisa. He was just 15 years old.
Kobus Stadler says that he was extremely fortunate that BGR gave him such a wonderful opportunity at such a young age − ‘they really took a bit of a chance on me! But it worked out in the end and I will always be grateful to them for the opportunity to start and finish my articles with them and I could not have asked for a better “university of life”. They truly set me on the path to becoming a CA(SA),’ says Kobus.
Kobus worked hard for three years and managed to finish his degree with 27 out of 30 distinctions at the end of 2017. In November 2019, he wrote the APC and passed as a CA(SA) early in 2020 at the young age of 21.
This young go-getter describes himself as a dedicated, straight-to-the-point type of person who will bring a bit of humour into any situation.
What was it like to finish school at 16 years of age?
You know that dream every teenager has to get away from their parents? Exactly like that!
What made you decide to pursue the CA(SA) route?
This is a funny story that has two parts to it.
First, when I started doing Accounting in Grade 8, it bored me to tears on the first day while my mother was going through the lesson and trying to explain debits and credits to a 12 year old. So I didn’t pay much attention and literally stared at the roof for the entire lesson, but when it came to the first questions and as I started to write my first debit and credit, I somehow understood and did really well! So, I started thinking that accounting might be the easiest way to make a living … I was wrong!
Then one day we were at the table discussing something completely unrelated and my father started talking about this chartered accountant thing. I had never heard that word before, so I asked what that was. My father’s answer: ‘An accountant that comes with a turbo!’ I think that finally convinced me to try the CA(SA) route.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a CA(SA) and qualifying at 21 years of age?
In 2018 I started doing my CTA part-time through UNISA while finishing the last year of my articles at BGR. Now, any CA(SA) can tell you that the CTA is not the easiest year in anyone’s life. It was an extremely difficult year because I was an audit senior so the work was tough, the bosses relentless, and the studies merciless. But I came out at the other end with finished articles and a passed CTA – oh, the feeling when I heard I passed the CTA! It was the best feeling in the world and at that point, I knew all the hard work up to that point was worth every single drop of blood and sweat! And imagine my surprise when UNISA contacted me and said I was in the top 20 candidates of the 2018 CTA! I would have settled for the bottom position as long as I passed!
After that, I wrote my ITC in January 2019 and through an absolute miracle, I managed to pass it. In November 2019 I wrote the APC at 21 years of age and passed that as well. I qualified as a CA(SA) early in 2020.
So, how it feels to be one of the youngest CAs(SA) to qualify − it is a mixture of 60% gratitude and 40% disbelief!
What advice can you give other students?
Work hard and play later. I managed to complete the CA(SA) route in five years – assuming I get to be 70 years old, that is only 7,14% of my life – almost negligible when compared to the benefits. Now I have the rest of my life to reap the benefits and retire a couple of years earlier if I want to.
I’d say work as hard as you can to complete your studies and start living your life after your studies.
You got 27 distinctions when you finished your BCom degree. Did you put in a lot of hard work?
Yes, I did. Ironically, the three subjects I did not get distinctions for were first-year subjects. I got distinctions in all my second- and third-year subjects, as in my second and third years I got into the groove of things and started to put in a lot of hard work. I am talking ‘hard work’ like starting at 7 pm and studying until midnight or until the work was finished – whichever came first (and not even talking about the 6 pm to 1 am that CTA required).
It definitely did not happen all by itself … Hard work was a requirement as I don’t have a natural aptitude for studying (despite how it may sound), so I had to work hard to compete with my colleagues who had a natural talent. It also did not leave much room for a social life which, again, I see as a small sacrifice for a couple of years in order to reap the benefits of a good and quickly completed education.
In the end, the best plan is also the simplest – start working on assignments immediately, finish them, and spend the remaining time studying for the exams. That is also great time management.
Where are you working now? Tell us more about the work you are involved with.
After leaving BGR at the end of 2018 I started working at Vallei Rekenmeesters (a small accounting firm in De Doorns) where we mainly provide accounting and taxation services to the rural table grape farming community.
I am developing my more practical skills here (such as solving SARS queries) and learning even more life lessons as I go along. I am trying to learn as much as I can in order to better assist clients in the future and to provide the best service I possibly can. And my boss, Stefan le Roux, is a great man with a wealth of knowledge and experience which I can only dream of matching one day.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Well, since I am from the countryside and grew up on a farm, I would like to be where I can provide farmers with accounting and tax services. I would like to give back to the community in the only way I can.
So, in five years I will hopefully be a bit more experienced and smarter so I can provide an even better service to clients.