She describes herself as strong-willed, focused and extroverted. Lynn Grala tells us about Leigh-Ann Bezuidenhout great job and fantastic life in Bermuda and running the New York Half Marathon to raise money for J A Ncaca Primary School in Cradock

Bermuda not only lured Leigh-Ann Bezuidenhout with its pink sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. What particularly appealed to her about this tiny island was the excellent work experience and relocation package that is available to CAs(SA). Not to mention its proximity to New York, Boston and Miami, all only just two hours away and perfect for a weekend getaway. That was nine years ago and Bermuda has yet to disappoint her.

After ending her training contract at PKF Leigh-Ann relocated from South Africa to Bermuda to work for KPMG. She found herself loving the island’s distinctive blend of British and American culture and small-town charm, while it is inhabited by like-minded professionals from all around the world.

‘You get the New York corporate experience but it only takes you 20 minutes to get to work,’ describes Leigh-Ann. ‘Most people on the island drive scooters, which make for easy, fun travel. The island is a financial services hub, primarily reinsurance, meaning that I am exposed to an entirely different industry from South African predominant industries.’

She says her strongest skill is her ability to apply logic to every situation and the very reason behind her pursuing a career as a CA(SA). ‘I LOVE accountancy! No CA openly admits it, but secretly we enjoy the challenge of a technical accounting question.’

Today Leigh-Ann is Assistant Vice President in Financial Reporting for a life reinsurance company. Prior to this she was vice president at a Bermudian bank with a focus on financial reporting. She mentions both roles to evidence the wide variety of options available in Bermuda and for which the CA(SA) training and designation prepares you.

‘I also love the challenging nature of my job,’ she emphasises. ‘As a CA(SA) I am hired primarily for my ability to analyse financial results, understand complex transactions quickly, and solve challenging problems. I am able to switch between various fields, from banking to reinsurance; and different departments, financial reporting to operational reporting, with ease.’

Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory covering an area of 53,2 km2 and has a population of 65 000. With over a hundred CA(SA) members in Bermuda, SAICA has a committee in there that liaised between the SAICA International Members Department and SAICA members in Bermuda. The committee comprises SAICA members such as Leigh-Ann, who voluntarily give their time to serve the committee and fellow members, particularly in arranging networking events for members in Bermuda. The most recent was a South African braai day, which was a huge success and was enjoyed by the entire Bermuda CA(SA) family.

Professionals in Bermuda are hardworking but place great emphasis on a work-life balance. So after work there is always some activity planned – be it playing beach volleyball, snorkelling, kayaking, or playing nine holes on some of the best golf courses in the world – and running.

‘If you ask my mom, she will start off by saying I am not a runner but I am extremely determined,’ says Leigh-Ann, recalling the story of her first attempt at running, in Grade 1. ‘I lined up at the starting line doing the knee-bent start. The gun went off and I got the biggest fright of my life, froze for 10 seconds, and the other kids were well on their way before I jumped up to start the race. Four steps into the race my legs crossed and I came tumbling down to the ground. I got up, dusted my knees and ran to the end, chest puffed, and arms swinging – all while smiling at the crowds, as if I was first in the race.’

The memory remained with her and she always believed that running was for athletes. But when she finally tried it, she loved it so much she decided to challenge herself and attempt the New York Half Marathon, an extremely popular race with over 20 000 runners, most of whom enter a lotto and hope their name is selected.

Receiving the entry confirmation email was an early Christmas present and she went from running 5 km to 21 km within 10 weeks. However, Leigh-Ann didn’t want to run just for the sake of it; she wanted to run for a cause and she was sharply reminded of her small hometown, Cradock, back in South Africa.

‘I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had growing up in Cradock. We did not have a lot of money growing up, but this town allowed me to get a great education and provided me with the best childhood memories. Being a small town, raising funds for the people in need is extremely difficult and the people of Cradock give as much as they can, but there is so much need. One of my primary school teachers is now principal at a government-funded school, J A Ncaca. After reading an article of the great work he has done at the school and its dire need of donations, I decided to raise money for the school.’ Her goal was to raise $3 000 and through the generosity of the Bermuda people and her company she managed to exceed her fundraising goal.

‘When training got tough and your mind played tricks on you, you know you can’t stop, as this is for a greater cause,’ she says. ‘The actual half marathon was a once in a lifetime experience, something I would not have been able to do was not it not for my designation. The race starts by running through Central Park, exiting into 7th Avenue toward Times Square, and then along 42nd Street and the West Side Highway toward the Hudson River waterfront and onto lower Manhattan. It finishes at Wall Street and Water Street. Running down Times Square with the crowds cheering you along was amazing. During mile 6 of the race a training injury flared up and I was in continuous pain the last 7,1 miles of the race. Quitting was not an option, as all the money raised for the school was dependent on me finishing. So, you suck it up and increase your stride,’ she chuckles.

‘Crossing the finish line I took a moment to appreciate how far this girl from Cradock has come and experienced a sense of pride not for me but for my husband and family who are my biggest cheerleaders and supporters. For all the fun I had running this half marathon, afterwards I was plagued by injuries, but if you asked me if I would do it again, I would without a doubt say “yes”!’

J A Ncaca has already put the money donated to good use for its pupils. In June this year Leigh-Ann visited the school on their celebration day and spent some time with the kids. And speaking both to the parents and kids, she left them with these words:

‘No matter your financial circumstances, study hard, dream big because the world awaits you … and always remember to give back to your hometown. They are part of the reason you are who you are today.’

Quick facts on Bermuda

A newly qualified CA(SA) would earn approximately $72 000 per year as an audit senior at one of the Big 4 firms. There is no income tax in Bermuda but there is a payroll tax that may be deducted from your pay with a maximum rate that can be deducted from an employee – at present 6%. Other deductions may include social insurance ( some $30 per week) and health insurance of approximately $200 – $600 per month depending on coverage.

An average one-bedroom would be

$2 000 per month, groceries $600 per month, $400 for mobile, Internet & TV and $500 per month for petrol, electricity, which leaves you with enough for clothes, shopping, travelling or saving. One other related item to keep in mind is that there is no sales tax in Bermuda but you are required to pay customs duty of up to 25% on prescribed items.

Author: Lynn Grala