Kumeshnee Singh CA(SA), a partner at Deloitte Durban, is a phenomenal yet humble achiever. Fondly known as Kimmy, she believes that the little things in life make a difference
Being an ultra-achiever from a young age and retaining your humility shows character. Kimmy Singh doesn’t strive to be super woman but she does acknowledge being an A-type personality.
Her list of achievements is impressive: being in the top three throughout her studies, graduating with a BAcct degree summa cum laude and first place in her Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting. She achieved third position in Part I and first position in Part II of the Final Qualifying Examination in South Africa and was invited to become a partner at Deloitte Durban at the age of 27.
The product of a middle-class family, her parents inspired her. ‘They taught me that there are no stereotypes. They have helped me to see life through a different lens.’
Her parents initially favoured the idea of her becoming a doctor. During school holidays in Grade 11, young Kimmy would be at Greytown Hospital at dawn to accompany a family friend who was a doctor. But she eventually decided that a medical career was not for her.
A good work ethic was entrenched at home. ‘My mom had a home industry. Our family often worked through the night helping her make samosas and rotis for delivery the next day. My dad is a PVC and rubber technologist who completed his studies when my sisters and I were kids. Both my parents’ dedication inspired my ambitions.’ Her younger sister is also a chartered accountant (CA(SA)) and her youngest sister is a private banker, so the financial gene is strong.
Kimmy considers herself blessed on several levels. ‘I was privileged that Deloitte gave me a bursary in matric.’ She attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where she was exposed to some of the best business minds in the country.
Kimmy began her traineeship at Deloitte Pietermaritzburg in 2001. Two years later she was invited to become a manager at Deloitte Durban and in 2007, at the tender age of 27, she became the youngest partner. The blessing came with challenges: ‘It took emotional maturity, dedication and perseverance to keep the end goal in mind and give my all to prove myself.
‘I’ve had remarkable clients that have contributed to my business acumen, and successes and challenges.’ In retrospect, the tougher times have made her stronger. ‘These experiences made me question what is important.’
She loves the culture at Deloitte. Based in the audit department her portfolio includes the financial services industry, medical services, and manufacturing. ‘It’s very dynamic. You can create the opportunities that talk to your strengths, interests and goals. I absolutely love it!’
Kimmy would like to see more transformation in the profession. She is regional leader of Deloitte Women in Leadership (DWIL). ‘Transformation is a business imperative! DWIL is aimed at attracting, developing, supporting and retaining key talent to become owners in the business. I am passionate about this. It epitomises conscious leadership where we are walking the talk.’
Her message to women is straightforward: ‘Don’t strive to be equal; strive to be authentic and know the rules of the game.’
Kimmy’s message for aspiring CAs(SA) is this: ‘I owe my success to the highly acclaimed CA(SA) qualification, which is the number one CA designation in the world. It is one of the best tools you can have in your toolkit for life. It leads to significant opportunities. You can truly make an impact on the economy if you exercise the designation with conscious leadership,’ she says.
‘Having empathy is fundamental to being a good leader. Something as simple as thinking about our pregnant colleagues and ensuring that we have designated parking bays closer to the building entrance can have a huge impact on their lives. ‘It’s the little things that make the biggest impact in a person’s life.
’Conscious leadership requires collaborating for the greater good. We need to have the courage to make our opinions known, and engage with stakeholders to play an active role in key decisions. Collectively, we are all leaders.’
PAYING IT FORWARD
Kimmy was recently appointed President: Eastern Region of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and Chairperson of the SAICA Eastern Region Council. She is also on the national SAICA board, as well as the Audit and Risk, and Remuneration committees.
At the recent SAICA Eastern Region annual dinner, Kimmy made a call to action to all CAs(SA) to build a legacy of paying it forward. ’It does not require a huge investment of time or resources … a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. We can all make our own personal investment into the future of the profession such as contributing R500 a year to a bursary fund of your choice (just R1,37 a day – a sobering thought!), or volunteering to visit a school and share information about the CA(SA) profession.’
She’d like to see the CA(SA) profession growing, developing and retaining people to making an impact that matters. ‘I have huge respect for our predecessors’ wonderful job in getting the profession being recognised as number one in the world. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that the CA(SA) brand is in a better position than it was when the baton was handed over.’
Kimmy hopes to see the divide between the public and private sectors decrease. ‘Undoubtedly we need more CAs(SA) in the public sector to ensure sound financial management over the resources that are needed at grassroots level for social and economic development. It is heart-warming to see initiatives such as the partnership between SAICA and the KZN Provincial Treasury which resulted in KZN Provincial Treasury becoming a training office.
‘If we have more CAs(SA) in the public sector, we could increase the employment rate and improve service delivery. Having CAs(SA) in the public sector is a great enabler to government to execute on their promises. Deloitte Durban partnered with the eThekwini Municipality to mentor women entrepreneurs at grassroots level.’
BEING PRESENT ONE DAY AT A TIME
Juggling several roles can take its toll. ‘My mum advised: ‘‘You can never get everything done in one day, but if you are fully present in whatever you are doing, you will have the best outcome.’
Kimmy’s sees life as an orchestra – how we bring each part together leads to the beautiful symphony called ‘living’. This CA(SA) certainly has an eloquent handle on poetry!
Occasionally she needs to work late at night. ‘I don’t feel guilty, because the following week I spend quality time with my husband Sanjay and my daughter Ariana. Sanjay complements me beautifully. I like structure and planning while he is spontaneous.’
Her three-year-old daughter, Ariana, is showing the same leaning towards excellence as her mum. ‘She is going to give me a run for my money with her enquiring mind,’ Kimmy says, bursting into laughter at the prospect.
‘The other day I made her a paper boat and she drew what I thought were a couple of squiggles. On closer inspection, it was a boat in 3D!’ says the doting mum. ‘I am very blessed and humbled – I see the Divine’s miracles in the little things in my daily life and I am immensely grateful.’