Counting the rewards

Emirati Ayesha Naser Al Zaabi was the first person in her company's finance trainee programme to complete the UAE's Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualification. The new programme is part of the UAE Accountant and Auditors Association's bid to have 100 Emiratis qualified by 2021.

Ayesha Naser Al Zaabi. Delores Johnson / The National
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Emirati Ayesha Naser completes the ACCA course much ahead of her peers

She readily admits the pressure to succeed reduced her to tears on more than one occasion.

But the Emirati Ayesha Naser Al Zaabi had a lot to prove.

She was the first person in her company’s finance trainee programme to study the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification.

“It was tough. I was crying sometimes, but when the results came out I was gaining level after level, and it was rewarding,” she says. “There was a point where I was struggling but if you believe you are going to do it, you are going to do it.”

And she did. Ms Al Zaabi passed each level the first time, graduating in just two years and three months, significantly shorter than the three to five years it takes on average to complete the programme.

ACCA, the global body for professional accountants that has 170,000 members and 436,000 students in 180 countries, has now launched a national chartered accountancy qualification for the UAE, in cooperation with the UAE Accountants and Auditors Association (AAA) to enable Emiratis and residents get globally and locally relevant qualifications. The partnership means ACCA members such as Ms Al Zaabi are eligible to apply for membership to the AAA, allowing them to use the titles ACCA and UAECA after their names.

“We are very serious about improving the profession,” says Ahmad Darwish, the head of the chartered accountants committee in UAE AAA, and the manager of the management accounting team at DP World for the region.

“We initiated a project called AAA 100 to have 100 Emiratis qualified by 2021 with ACCA and the UAECA qualification. We just started this programme this year. And we are hoping to have more than 20 or 30 this year.”

United Arab Emirates Chartered Accountant (UAECA) has ACCA qualification as its basis and provides a unique opportunity for UAE nationals and residents to get a globally and locally relevant qualification.

Demand for accountancy is growing across the UAE, says Stuart Dunlop, the regional director of ACCA.

And because the partnership supports the government’s initiative to develop the profession, students will also benefit from improved career opportunities as more employers choose to work with the programme in the future, he adds.

And it is not only the professional bodies and government that hope the UAECA will attract more Emiratis to accounting. “We welcome the news that the UAE AAA have joined forces with the ACCA,” says Toby Simpson, the managing director at Gulf Recruitment Group.

“This is not because we will view the qualification any differently, but because we hope it encourages more participation from local graduates in the accountancy sector and further strides forward in accounting standards, governance and transparency in the UAE.”

Ms Al Zaabi completed the programme in January.

Graduating from school with a 97.3 per cent pass grade, Ms Al Zaabi wanted to study science, geology or maths, and opted for accounting because the others were not an option for her in Abu Dhabi, where she had to remain because of family commitments.

She graduated with distinction from the Higher Colleges of Technology to join the Mubadala Development Company soon after as a finance trainee in January 2011.

“They had this new programme that was a finance trainee development programme. I joined like that as a fresh graduate and I was the first one, so it was a very exciting experience,” she says. And being the first, she had the opportunity to shape the trainee programme and help select the qualification she would be studying for.

They considered many qualifications, but chose the ACCA because there was a variety of good training providers in the country.

The qualification was also comprehensive, covering core accounting, management accounting and investments, which help create a “well-rounded” accountant, says Ms Al Zaabi, who is now a senior accountant at Mubadala.

But it was only when she was working that she learnt the true value of the vocational programme.

“When I graduated from the college with a bachelor’s degree I thought, that’s it. I’m ready to work. But when I came to an organisation like Mubadala it was totally not enough. Mubadala is just a competitive environment where you need to prove yourself all the time,” she says.

With each level that she studied she became more familiar with what the subject matter being discussed in meetings.

“When I finished I felt OK, now I understand 80 per cent of what they are saying and also I can continue giving more comments. I can’t say 100 per cent because the world is always moving,” says Ms Al Zaabi.