Sarah Perrin, journalist

Most parents would be pleased to see just one of their offspring become a chartered accountant. So the Rehmanjee family must have been more than delighted when three of the same generation chose accounting as a career. Between them, the trio hold a variety of accounting qualifications, but all are proud ACCA members and articulate their appreciation of the benefits their ACCA accreditation has delivered.

Their collective CV is impressive. Nisreen Rehmanjee FCCA is executive vice president, and head of corporate finance, group tax and social entrepreneurship at John Keells Group, the largest conglomerate in Sri Lanka. Her younger brother, Quaizaar Rehmanjee FCCA, is a financial and strategy consultant and corporate trainer. Their cousin, Moiz Rehmanjee FCCA, is group CFO of Hela Clothing, a company that provides sustainability focused apparel supply chain solutions. The three have a strong bond, and have lived as neighbours for most of their lives.

ACCA’s appeal and impact

Nisreen was set on accountancy from the outset and gained her ACCA Qualification in 2000, while Quaizaar and Moiz gained theirs in 2011. Nisreen was attracted by the ACCA Qualification because of its rarity value in Sri Lanka at the time, she says. ‘There was a perception that it was a really tough exam and I wanted to test myself,’ she admits.

For Quaizaar and Moiz, the choice was not quite so black and white. Quaizaar was initially interested in electronics and Moiz had leanings towards engineering, but both ultimately settled on accounting. ‘Accountancy gives you more opportunities to go up the corporate ladder,’ Moiz explains. ‘In corporate Sri Lanka, many board members have a finance background.’

All three trained at KPMG before moving into the corporate arena. In six years, Nisreen rose from accounts executive to director, staying with the firm for over nine years before taking her skills and experience to the John Keells Group, initially as head of tax strategy for the group.

In ACCA, you become part of a much larger family whose members can reach out to each other for knowledge sharing

Tips for aspiring members

Quaizaar: ‘The ACCA curriculum has a good balance of financial and management accounting. Even at the highest level, you need to understand how double entries work – when you look at financial statements, you can interpret them more extensively as a qualified professional.’

Moiz: ‘In finance, you are at the centre of all the information flows within the organisation. Use that information to make a difference to the business. Partner and engage with the business – but at no point forget the fundamentals of your accountancy knowledge.’

Moiz: ‘Be thirsty to expand your knowledge base. When out on audits, make the most of the access to client companies. You can just do the bookwork and check the accounts, or you can walk around the office space, meet people and understand how different companies work.’

Nisreen: ‘Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to the top. You need composure and experience to be able to deal with some of the challenges that will come your way.’

International credentials

Having the ACCA Qualification helped to establish her credentials with international colleagues. ‘At KPMG I used to travel a lot to other countries,’ she says. ‘It helped having the ACCA Qualification behind my name because people recognised what it stood for. It was like a badge of quality.’ She adds: ‘Having such a globally recognised qualification also gave me the confidence that I was no less than the best out there.’

As well as pursuing her career, Nisreen has been active within ACCA. She is a past president of the ACCA Member Network Panel in Sri Lanka, stood for election to its global council and has attended its international assembly.

‘ACCA is truly a global family,’ she says. ‘It shrinks the whole world. You become part of a much larger family whose members can reach out to each other for knowledge sharing. That’s important for a professional and it’s something ACCA definitely provides.’

Quaizaar spent four years at KPMG before moving into the corporate sector, progressing from financial analyst to CFO with a diversified company before joining Dialog Telekom as head of finance and revenue operations. After a couple of years, he set up his own consultancy business.

‘I started on my own, with the confidence that even if I failed, because of my experience and qualification, I could always go back to the corporate sector,’ Quaizaar says. ‘Fortunately, it worked out well. For over 10 years I’ve been an independent consultant helping companies with their financial and business strategies. The FCCA that follows my name has a big role to play when I get work. People know that this guy is OK – a strong institute has accredited him.’

Moiz, meanwhile, spent almost seven years at KPMG before progressing his career from finance manager to CEO by way of various companies, including conglomerate Hemas, Reckitt Benckiser (consumer goods), Teejay (textiles), Laugfs (energy) and now Hela Clothing, which has operations in Africa as well as Sri Lanka.

‘At Reckitt Benckiser I was FD for the Philippines operations,’ he says. ‘Working abroad in a multinational, the ACCA Qualification spoke for itself. It gave me the best credentials among the finance fraternity, which helped me pursue my career ambitions.’

Alongside their main roles, Quaizaar and Moiz also operate a corporate training business, which runs ACCA-accredited CPD programmes.

Agile working

During Covid-19, all three Rehmanjees have remained productive and been impressed by the ability of Sri Lankan companies to adapt, speed up their adoption of digital technology and embrace remote working. ‘I’m impressed with how businesses are adapting, including the shops around the corner,’ says Moiz. ‘Everyone is now comfortable with Zoom and Teams,’ adds Quaizaar.

Nisreen has enjoyed the increased flexibility of home working, as have the members of her team. ‘The consensus was we were more effective and we also had more time for ourselves,’ she says. As a result, working from home four days a week has become the new standard practice.

In what has been a truly awful year, all three are firmly of the opinion that finance and accountancy can be a force for good. As Nisreen says: ‘I truly believe the value systems of an organisation are set by its finance function, so that’s where you need to be if you really want to change the world.’