There are no problems, only opportunities
When I signed my training contract with Standard Bank, I already knew I was on a path less chosen. However, it was the correct path for me. I knew this from my first financial management lecture that this what I wanted to be involved in.
Being the second person to join the team and starting a bank within a bank meant that I did everything. I wrote IFRS technical papers, tax papers, product specs, training manuals, marketing material and business plans. I modelled the bank’s cash flows, the capital budget for it, the business plan, risk monitoring models, and even a model of how the bank works. I interacted directly with customers, did training, managed customer queries and built products. I built products on IT systems, built an entire funding program that is Shari’ah compliant and managed large teams of people to get these delivered. I presented the papers I drafted to committees, garnered support and fought for prioritisation for the products. The majority of these were outside my comfort zone as a CA(SA), as we often find solace in the numbers. I persevered and challenged myself to learn new skills.
When I started these endeavours, I did not always know what to do or how to go about it. As a CA(SA), the rigorous process we follow (especially in our CTA year) teaches us to be adaptable and how to consume knowledge. The soft skills become more important as you mature in your field.
The objective of business is to maximise shareholder wealth, so as a CA(SA) you already understand how to manage the money. Now you are being challenged to do that while considering other stakeholders. If you can relate to why this activity will increase the bottom line as well as the impact on stakeholders you are already on your way to success.
This verve for knowledge and desire to get things done inspired me to learn about these processes via the Internet, training and networking. There is a huge difference between theory and application, especially when you need a nuanced view that fits your organisation’s application of the theory.
This is an extremely technical field: like there are IFRS standards for accounting, there are standards for Islamic Financial Institutions (IFIs). These standards are written by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). AAOIFI has Shari’ah standards, as well as a Shari’ah code of conduct and governance standards. I am studying towards becoming a certified Islamic professional accountant (CIPA) as this is where my passion lies.
The pursuit of knowledge never ends. We live in unprecedented times where obsolescence is rife. To remain relevant, we need to ensure that we always have our finger on the pulse. Looking back to when I started this journey, I would not have even dreamt of this. However, hard work, dedication and a relentless pursuit of knowledge have brought me to this point. I have found my passion and am truly blessed to be working in this field.