SAICA congratulates candidates who overcame the difficulties of COVID-19 to achieve success in the 2020 APC
SAICA announced that 1 653 of the 3 880 candidates who wrote the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) in December 2020 successfully demonstrated their competence in the assessment.
‘SAICA would like to recognise the 2020 cohort for their dedication and determination in applying themselves to the professional requirements of the APC. These candidates have risen above a myriad of challenges, including those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and SAICA congratulates those candidates who were successful in the December 2020 APC. Not only did these challenges affect the way that candidates had to prepare for the assessment, but these candidates also had to overcome the immeasurable odds that the “new, remote and online world of work” placed on candidates’ ability to access the same depth of on-the-job experience whilst potentially juggling increased personal commitments as well,’ says Freeman Nomvalo, CEO of SAICA.
The APC is a competency-based assessment that, via a case study, assesses candidates’ ability to demonstrate their professional competence. It includes a review of a candidates’ ethical, personal and professional attributes and their application of these skills to real-world scenarios using their technical know-how. The case study requires candidates to respond to real-life tasks expected of entry-level chartered accountants (CAs(SA)). With this in mind, it is important to note that March 2020 marked the last time many candidates received full-time face-to-face on-the-job work experience. ‘Thus one cannot underestimate the effects working and studying remotely has had in adequately preparing APC candidates for this assessment. As an institution, we could not be prouder of the resilience this next generation of CAs(SA) has shown,’ he adds.
‘In many ways, the APC is the toughest challenge in an aspiring CA(SA)’s qualifying journey because it requires them to integrate their technical academic knowledge from multiple disciplines to a single, complex real-life business case study. Succeeding at this final test of professional competence requires high levels of critical thinking, the ability to work with technology, and the capacity to assimilate and research new information over a five-day period and apply this to the tasks and additional information provided on the day over an eight-hour assessment,’ continues Nomvalo.
The effects of the pandemic and the widening inequality gap
It has been well documented around the world that education and training has faced a serious and direct impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in South Africa, we expect the wide inequality gap that already exists in the post-school education and training space to widen even further in the aftermath of COVID-19. Regrettably, this is anticipated to result in poor learning outcomes and the delayed progression and graduation of individuals throughout the qualification value chain for years to come. Preparing for the APC exam within the constraints of COVID-19 may have had an impact on the ability of candidates to adequately prepare for the exam.
One can, therefore, not ignore the possible effect of COVID-19 on the APC candidates’ overall pass rate which decreased by 14% from the 2019 to the 2020 sitting. SAICA is extremely disappointed with this outcome, which was revealed after the rigorous processes followed in marking the 2020 APC. Below is the racial demographic table of the 2020 results compared to the 2019 results.
|Fail||Pass||Total||% pass||Fail||Pass||Total||% pass|
|African||1 368||424||1792||24%||934||705||1 639||43%|
|Race not disclosed||–||–||–||–||1||2||3||67%|
|White||478||837||1 315||64%||330||886||1 216||73%|
|Grand total||2 227||1 653||3 880||43%||1 536||2 024||3 560||57%|
Exceptional candidates honoured for their aptitude and skill
On releasing the results SAICA also highlighted nine candidates who earned a place on the institute’s prestigious APC Honours Roll. The Honours Roll is made up of candidates who demonstrate exceptional performance and show the greatest insight into the way they complete the case study tasks. Those candidates, in alphabetical order (by surname), are:
|Abdul Karrim||Suwayfa||PricewaterhouseCoopers||Abdul Karrim||Suwayfa||PricewaterhouseCoopers||Abdul Karrim||Suwayfa||PricewaterhouseCoopers|
|Hayes-Hill||Jarred Luke||Deloitte LLP||Hayes-Hill||Jarred Luke||Deloitte LLP||Hayes-Hill||Jarred Luke||Deloitte LLP|
‘It is pleasing to note that one of the above candidates is a repeat candidate who was not successful in the 2019 APC sitting. His story is an inspiration to all unsuccessful candidates as it shows that hard work and determination really do pay off,’ adds Nomvalo.
The road to transformation is a long one
‘As SAICA, we continue to be concerned about the declining pass rate for African candidates despite the numerous initiatives in this regard. SAICA is commissioning a comprehensive independent study to understand the root cause of the problems and, if necessary, review the full value chain of the qualification process. Together with all our stakeholders, including the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (ABASA) and African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA), we continue to implement initiatives to support candidates in order to close the inequality gap and ensure that no prospective CA(SA) is left behind,’ says Nomvalo.
‘We appeal to unsuccessful candidates not to give up but to re-enrol and prepare for the 2021 APC. Do not give up – as the candidate who made it the 2020 Honours Roll despite a previous unsuccessful attempt reveals, you can be successful on your next attempt,’ concludes Nomvalo.
SAICA congratulates APC Honours Roll candidates
SAICA would like to recognise the 2020 APC candidates for their dedication and determination in applying themselves to the professional requirements of the APC. These candidates have risen above a myriad of challenges, including those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic
SAICA congratulates those candidates who were successful in the December 2020 APC. ‘Not only did these challenges affect the way that candidates had to prepare for the assessment, but these candidates also had to overcome the immeasurable odds that the “new, remote and online world of work” placed on candidates’ ability to access the same depth of on-the-job experience whilst potentially juggling increased personal commitments as well,’ says Freeman Nomvalo, CEO of SAICA.
Emma Sham (25)
Training office: Investec Bank Ltd
Position: CA Trainee / Leverage Finance Transactor
What does this achievement mean to you? It shows that hard work and dedication do not go unnoticed. This is the pinnacle of all the efforts I have put into my academic journey throughout the years and the reward for the sacrifices made to prepare for the APC. It also means that the support I have received from my family and friends, teachers and mentors has not been given in vain.
Why is it important it is to have a support structure? One cannot express how important it is to have a strong support structure. I have been lucky to have an incredibly supportive family and boyfriend, and amazing friends − many of whom formed part of my APC research group. From my mother and sister who made sure I was always well fed during exams, to my father who was more stressed for my APC than I was, to my friends who were always available on speed dial to let me bounce IFRS questions off them!
Key lessons from your qualification journey? Surround yourself with people who are excited to see you succeed and will push you to be your best self. Do the work − there is no substitute for hard work and your efforts will never go unnoticed. Be the type of person other people are happy to share a desk with (or a virtual Teams call with). When you feel demotivated, give yourself an achievable goal − it is OK to take a step back and start with something small (how to eat an elephant …). It is all about perspective. You can find beauty and meaning in most things if you are looking.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? First, it is incredibly important to consider all your options. Do you want to do your articles through an audit firm / bank/ consulting firm / asset manager / government … the list is longer than you realise! A good trick is to speak to your university’s careers service for help.
Ultimately, however, to be truly happy in what you do, you must find meaning in your work. I have always found banking to be a meaningful industry as I know that I am part of the decision-making behind financing big ideas and enabling businesses to grow.
How did you celebrate? A lot of champagne … and pizza!
Where to from here? I am going to continue to pursue a career in banking with Investec. I am joining a team with Investec’s Bank in the United Kingdom and I am excited to experience living and working in a new country!
Darren MacDonald (26)
Training office: Deloitte
Position: Audit Senior (completed articles in December 2020 followed by a four-month secondment in Belgium)
What does this achievement mean to you? This achievement represents a comeback after a difficult setback. Undertaking the APC journey for the second time was a tough process. I was initially confused and lost about how my future would unfold and how I was going to manage a second APC attempt with additional responsibilities and work pressure as an audit senior. Nevertheless, with perseverance and hope, I managed to continue with my head held high. Earning a place on the Honours Roll as a repeat candidate is truly an honour and I would like this to be a representation to anyone who has experienced failure that it is not the end. Self-reflection and a positive outlook can be the encouragement you need to push you up the mountain on the CA journey. Indeed, one step back can mean two steps forward.
Key lessons from your qualification journey? If you have hope, you do not have anything to fear. Self-motivation, confidence in your abilities and active investment in your CA journey can take you places you never thought was possible. Do not underestimate the value of relaxation. For example, leave was particularly beneficial before the pre-release periods of the board course and SAICA assessments to help me refocus on the exams at hand. If you do not try, you will never know what the outcome could have been.
Did preparing for exams during COVID-19 help you or did it complicate matters? There had been circumstances that helped with preparations while in other cases, it had been difficult. Overall, it was ultimately dependent on my focus and how I managed my time among work, studies and personal time. The balance had been crucial to maintaining a positive course in all three areas despite feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about how the year would unfold.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? When choosing industries, it is important to research what is available. There are several sources which can support you in your decision, from searching on Google or LinkedIn to attending career fairs or asking friends or family who have followed a similar path. However, the decision should be rooted in what interests you.
How did you celebrate the results or how are you going to? At the time of the results, I was in Brussels, Belgium, on my JIT secondment with Deloitte. With my group of friends, we celebrated with an ‘ápero’ in the park the Friday afternoon. The news still felt surreal, but I enjoyed every moment with this massive weight lifted off my shoulders.
Definition of success? Success can take many forms and appear in many aspects of life (personal, work or social) but success is embodied in how you are able to reflect on your journey. If your past self could see what you have currently achieved and say, ‘I could not be prouder, you never gave up, you believed’ then you have accomplished your goals, or even exceeded them. That is success in its simplest form.
Mitchell Bird (25)
Training office: EY
Why did you choose the CA(SA) route? I was inspired to follow the CA(SA) route due to the incredible example set by my parents who are both CAs(SA). Additionally, the diverse CA(SA) skillset would provide a strong foundation to pursue a career across many industries.
What does this achievement mean to you? This achievement represents many years of hard work and support from my family, friends and everyone who has participated in my CA(SA) journey so far. I am incredibly grateful for all the support I have received, and I would like to thank everyone for giving me the opportunities to succeed.
How important is it to have a support structure through this journey and who has been yours? Having a support structure has been of the utmost importance throughout this journey. First, my family have been incredible throughout and have provided me with wisdom and understanding when I needed it. Second, I am grateful for all my friends that joined me on this journey and those that I made along the way. Finally, I am thankful for all the people that have taught me during my years as a student and then my articles.
Key lessons from your qualification journey? Preparation and hard work are key for everything you do. Try your best to be prepared for whatever challenges you face. You are never alone during this journey, as there are others that are going down the same road as you and also those that are there to help you along the way. You need to believe in yourself to make your goals become a reality. Try your best to have a positive attitude, regardless of the challenges ahead of you.
Did preparing for exams during COVID-19 help you or did it complicate matters? I found that preparing for exams during COVID-19 was tough because I learn well from face-to-face discussions and collaboration. However, it has also reduced the number of distractions and helped me focus on the task at hand.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? I would advise that you choose something that you are genuinely interested in. If you are interested in what you do, then you want to know the answers to hard questions, and it creates a drive to do the best you can.
How did you celebrate the results or how are you going to? I celebrated with my friends over a great dinner and then timed a week of leave perfectly to celebrate with my family back home in Durban.
Where to from here? I would like to try working overseas for a while to learn how things operate abroad. I do find everything interesting, so it is going to be hard to settle on one thing.
Your definition of integrity? I define integrity as doing the right thing when no one is watching.
Suwayfa Abdul Karrim (24)
Training office: PwC Durban
Position: Senior Associate
Why did you choose the CA(SA) route? I wanted a career path that combines my passion for business with upholding my personal values and integrity. The CA(SA) career path is diverse enough to allow me to be exposed to all aspects of the business environment. It was also the best career path in finance that gives me the opportunity to positively impact society.
What does this achievement mean to you? For me, this achievement signifies the culmination of hard work, drive and passion. This is certainly one of the greatest achievements in my career. I am extremely proud and excited for the opportunities that await.
Key lessons from your qualification journey? There is no substitute for hard work. Good relationships are built on transparency and trust. There is always a solution to a problem. Absorb knowledge from everyone around you. The best quality to have as a trainee is the ability to listen and understand.
Did preparing for exams during COVID-19 help you or did it complicate matters? Preparing for exams during COVID-19 was a new experience. I did experience a lot of anxiety at first as much reliance was placed on technology − as well as the added stress of one’s own health and the health of loved ones. However, as we got closer to the APC exam, I began to embrace the use of technology and was more comfortable with the ‘new normal’ change.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? It is very important to do research and ask questions in order to find your passion. Life as a trainee is often stressful and demanding, but if you find something you are passionate about, it makes life much more rewarding. Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone.
How did you celebrate the results or how are you going to? I had a small intimate celebration with my family and my fellow successful colleagues. I am looking forward to a weekend away soon!
Where to from here? I have been researching post-article opportunities, looking for something challenging and meaningful. I still want to expand my knowledge and am looking to further my studies in the future.
Your definition of integrity? For me, integrity is being true to yourself and your values. Its ultimately transparency in every action of life. Integrity is standing up for what is true and fair.
Jarred Hayes-Hill (25)
Training office: Deloitte
Position: Assistant Manager
Why did you choose the CA(SA) route? The CA route would provide me with a diverse business understanding that I could use to pursue this path.
What does this achievement mean to you? This achievement really does mean so much to me. Not only am I more confident in my own abilities and what I can achieve, but I can use the CA(SA) qualification to dig deep and pursue my career going forward.
Key lessons from your qualification journey? At university, it is so important to always practise what you are learning. Don’t skip over those tutorial hand-ins; rather get them done and make sure you are consistently refining your CA skills. When you start articles, always keep your end goal in mind. Although there may be some periods where the work isn’t enjoyable, the growth over the three-year trainee period is immense, and this perspective should always be in the back of your mind. Dig into the knowledge, skills, relationships, and business connections of those individuals you meet throughout your CA journey. These key relationships form the start of mentors who shape your skills and business connections who create opportunities for you once you qualify.
Did preparing for exams during COVID-19 help you or did it complicate matters? It was difficult preparing during the lockdowns, with a lot of change. However, it was about making the most of our situation and utilising that personal space and time (without commuting to work) to focus on studying. Writing the mock and entrance exams at home was definitely a change and difficult at first. However, adapting to this change laid a strong foundation for the preparation of the final exam.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? I am very lucky by being in London’s private markets division. I have had exposure to a wide array of sectors and companies, and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning multiple different business models. My advice based on this would be not to think too narrowly. Spread yourself a bit wider and try to get exposure across a few sectors so that you can gauge where your interests lie and what fascinates you.
How did you celebrate? I live with two other candidates who also passed. So we met up at a pub on the Thames river in Fulham and had some beers for sundowners.
Where to from here? I am interested in moving into either investment banking or private equity so that I can shape and develop my understanding of the financing of companies and deals.
Your definition of integrity? Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.
Freddie Kirsten (28)
Training office: EY Cape Town
Position: Supervisor (third-year trainee)
Why did you choose the CA(SA) route? For the unlimited possibilities it provides you with.
What does this achievement mean to you? It provides us with a foot in the door. Job opportunities are not running around freely at the moment. This achievement does not guarantee that you’ll land your dream job, but at least it will help you get a seat at the table to start discussing possible opportunities.
How important is it to have a support structure through this journey and who has been yours? Going by my age, one can see that I did not treat my road to CA-hood as a sprint but more as an ultra-marathon, and no endurance event can be completed without a proper support crew. My dad and girlfriend both claim that they are the sole reasons for this achievement and although they are partly correct, the list of people that played a role is even longer than my journey. This would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends, firm and long-time study partner – a big thank you to you all!
Key lessons from your qualification journey? When in doubt, ask. Everyone is terrified of looking stupid and that often keeps you from asking questions – don’t, ask the question as most people in the room will be thinking something similar. Articles will be what you make of it. Yes, you will get paid peanuts to work seven days a week at times, but see this as part of your studies – in your Honours/GDA year you got paid nothing to work the same (if not more) hours. You will learn a lot and get the opportunity to meet and rub shoulders with smart and successful people. What you also get with articles is 200+ other trainees who are all burning to do things other than audit, which means a lot of social interaction and after-work events. And don’t complain – there will be many more opportunities to do so and it’ll feel good at the moment, but in the long run, people avoid those who are always negative.
Did preparing for exams during COVID-19 help you or complicated matters? Not driving to work meant an extra hour per day for things other than audit. I’d be lying if I said all these hours were spent in APC prep, but it sure helped a lot.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? At EY Cape Town we are fortunately not required to choose an industry and get the opportunity to work in different industries − my clients include insurance, retail, oil and gas and renewables. Based on my experience, my advice would be to join a firm where you don’t have to choose so you can get exposure to a wide variety of industries.
How did you celebrate the results or how are you going to? My girlfriend set out two itineraries for the evening, one if I get good news and one if the news from SAICA is bad. Neither of them materialised, as me phoning my family to tell them the good news and them jumping in the car to drive 100 km to Cape Town to celebrate with me was an event! We celebrated in Diaz Tavern and some cowboy bar I still don’t know the name of – I would not have had it any other way.
Where to from here? The plan is to start my career after articles in the agriculture/fruit industry. I’d love to join an agribusiness that is vertically integrated from grower to exporter (basically what was assessed in the 2020 APC exam). I’ll also be happy to join any company that is somehow involved in the agriculture value chain, from financing to logistics to sales, anything to get a better understanding of the industry.
Your definition of integrity? How would you act if you knew no one would find out it was you.
Helene Nel (24)
Training office: PwC
Position: Senior Associate
Why did you choose the CA(SA) route? In Grade 8, when we started accounting as a subject, I fell in love with it. It just made sense to me and came naturally to me, and above all, I had an excellent teacher. I explored the possibilities for a CA(SA) in the workplace and when I found that it was a highly regarded degree, the decision was made.
What does this achievement mean to you? This achievement comes after seven years of hard work and it is truly the cherry on the top to close off this amazing yet challenging journey. It has been my dream as well as my mother’s and although she could never achieve it, I have now reached the dream for both of us.
How important is it to have a support structure through this journey and who has been yours? A support system is of the utmost importance: without it you will not be able to climb this enormous mountain alone. My family, especially my mom, was always there when the studies got hard and the negativity was high. She always knew just the right thing to say. I also had a boyfriend and later a husband that supported me every step of the journey. He was cooking, doing the laundry and cleaning the house while I was studying for the APC.
Key lessons from your qualification journey? You can always do better than the previous time. Balance is extremely important. Studying is a job not a hobby.
Did preparing for exams during COVID-19 help you or complicated matters? I think in some instances it helped me as I did not have to travel during COVID and I could stay in my routine at home. Overall I would say it helped me.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? If you do what you love, it will never feel like you are working a day.
How did you celebrate the results or how are you going to? I was with my family with a bottle of champagne! We went to the Kruger National Park for a vacation after the results came out (but we would have gone, regardless).
Where to from here? Finishing articles …! And then we will see what the future holds. I love agriculture and mining and being in the Northern Cape opens up some opportunities. I also think staying in auditing for a year or two will help me become a well-rounded manager.
Your definition of integrity? Do to someone that which you would like to be done to you.
Anja Kanzler (24)
Training office: KPMG
Position: Third-year articles clerk
Why did you choose the CA(SA) route? I’ve always loved accounting and I think people make the biggest difference when they do something they are passionate about. I also wanted to be a part of a profession which so highly regards ethics and integrity.
What does this achievement mean to you? I am so excited and relieved to have passed APC. It means I can focus on my future and my post-articles career!
Why is it important to have a supporting structure through this journey and who has been yours? I think it was vital to me in my CA(SA) journey this far. My support structure is my family, my boyfriend and friends who have my best interests at heart. They are always supportive and honest with me.
Key lessons from your qualification journey? Hard work always pays off, even if it takes a bit of time to show it!
Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes and it is okay to ask for help in these situations.
Did preparing for exams during COVID-19 help or made it difficult for you? I think COVID-19 was a difficult time for everyone. I found that it made it more difficult for me, we couldn’t have discussions in our groups with our teams, or meetings with lecturers in person.
What is your advice to potential trainees when choosing industries? It’s okay not to know everything you want just yet. You have lots of time to figure out what you like. I’m definitely still working out what I enjoy and where I want to be!
How did you celebrate the results or how are you going to? Unfortunately, COVID meant that our office celebrations couldn’t take place as they usually would, but I did manage to celebrate with a few friends!
Where to from here? For the first time I’m not actually sure of my next step! I’m hoping to do some travelling next year if COVID allows for it while I decide which direction my career should go.
Your definition of integrity? It is something that is important to me. It sometimes means being the only person who is willing to speak up, and not letting that sway you.
Joanna Taylor (25)
Training office: Nedbank
Position: Analyst in Business Banking Specialized Finance (3rd year CA Trainee)
Why did you choose the CA(SA) route? It offered a lot of flexibility. The CA(SA) qualification is world renowned and I knew that if I could qualify as a CA(SA), many opportunities would arise for me.
What does this achievement mean to you? I feel proud to have achieved this as I have always strived to make my family proud. My parents, John and Retha Taylor, sacrificed a lot for my, and my sisters’, education and to achieve this is a “thank you” to them.
Why is it important to have a supporting structure through this journey and who has been yours? Extremely important. You need a lot of support when you are working full time and studying after hours. I am so thankful for my family and my fiance’, Bradley Latre’, God, my mentors as well as the Nedbank CA Training programme for their support.
Key lessons from your qualification journey:
- Find a mentor and take their advice;
- If you can find one, a life coach can help you significantly to navigate your article years;
- Create lasting relationships with your colleagues. Take an interest in their lives and they will take an interest in yours. You need friends in the work place to make things fun!
- Give back – you arrive as a first year trainee not knowing much and many people along the way train and invest time into you. Take time to help and train the next trainee
How did you celebrate the results or how are you going to? Nedbank organised a lovely lunch for us trainees where we could celebrate the achievement. I met up with friends straight after our lunch and had breakfast with my APC group the next day as well. I am blessed with incredible people in my life who celebrated with and were so happy for me.
Where to from here? I want to move to the UK or Europe next year. Having done a 3 month secondment in the UK during my training contract, I would love further international experience. I feel lucky to have chosen a profession that allows one to travel and see more of the world. I love my country and my aim is to return to South Africa in a couple of years.
Your definition of success? Being balanced in all areas of life: family, friends, spiritually and professionally as well as using my knowledge to help others where I can.