Back when Numair Khan was 10 years old and on the cusp of beginning home school, he was given an Xbox. Playing proved habit forming – ‘addictive’, in his own words. Then he went away on holiday and returned to find it broken. When offered a new console, the young, soon-to-be fully qualified accountant turned it down.
‘When it stopped working, the amount of focus I had for my studies went up so much,’ he says. ‘Even when my parents offered me a new Xbox I told them I just didn’t want to get back into video games because I knew how much attention it takes.’
'Tax is pretty difficult. I got through it, but it wasn’t fun'
It was a wise-head-on-young-shoulders moment that demonstrates how a teen could become the second youngest student ever to become fully qualified with ACCA (the youngest beats Khan by just two months).
In fact, Khan, based in the Southampton area of Bermuda, qualified with ACCA in March this year at the tender age of 14 (he turns 15 this month). And if that’s not too difficult to take in, his sister and study partner, Unaysah, 17, is also expected to qualify soon.
After 17 strenuous exams (13 ACCA assessments plus four others as part of a Foundation in Accounting), Khan has spent what would have been his early secondary school years completing accountancy training and running the gauntlet of a syllabus designed for adult students. His first examination took place in December 2017 and he finished the last one this spring, working an average of four hours a day over the years except in the fortnight prior to exams, when the study day might stretch to maybe seven or eight.
‘I always had motivation,’ Khan says of his time buried in ACCA studies. He adds that his parents – Muhammad, a partner at Deloitte, and Samina, a doctor not currently practising – were always ready to provide incentives, such as outdoor activities, to work hard. Plus, there were his own concerns. ‘I never liked the feeling just before an exam of knowing that you had not studied enough,’ he says. ‘I always kept that in mind.’
The decision to educate Khan and his sister at home came after their parents concluded that mainstream education was not moving as fast as their children could learn. There followed a spell using a US home-schooling system, but that seemed pedestrian, too.
What they had in mind was the potential for the siblings to gain a professional qualification early, by the age of 18, setting themselves up to then take any career direction they should choose. A discussion followed on which route to take, and they settled on accountancy.
It so happened that ACCA had recently been accepted as an equivalent qualification in Bermuda, which had the added benefit of not requiring pre-qualifications (as long as the Foundation exams were passed) and offered the added benefit of including a degree from Oxford Brookes university in the UK on completion.
Comfortable with numbers
But Khan had other reasons, too: being around his father and other accountants made him confident with the topic. Plus, he was already at ease with the basics. ‘Ever since elementary school I was comfortable with numbers,’ he recalls. ‘So, when I started giving this a try, it wasn’t too difficult for me to grasp the concepts.
‘But I also saw that as you progressed you can work from home, and that was something I also wanted to do.’ It was, he says, always ‘more enjoyable’ at home when his dad was there working, too.
Khan has other skills, including a prodigious memory; he has, his father says, memorised the entire Quran in Arabic and can recite from memory.
But what did he like best about his accountancy studies? Financial management comes out top of his preferences. ‘That was one of my favourite subjects,' he says. 'I really understood the whole idea and the concepts pretty well.
‘The most difficult for me was probably audit at first. But later on, I got the hang of it. Tax is pretty difficult. I got through it, but it wasn’t fun.’
Audit was, in fact, Khan’s only stumble and the only retake on the way to qualification. He had to travel to New York for the exam because he found himself ready to go midway between Bermuda’s annual exam sessions.
Things did not go to plan, though. ‘We were in the middle of Times Square and there’s so many distractions around you, it’s not easy,’ he says candidly.
This was March 2020, but he and his father managed to fly home, narrowly missing the imposition of lockdowns. Back home in Bermuda, he nailed the audit exam.
Game, set and match
Khan’s time steeped in accountancy does not, however, detract from taking full advantage of what Bermuda has to offer. His studies are balanced with cycling, diving and sailing, as well as his other passion: tennis. Recently, he has been keeping a close watch on the progress of his favourite players at Wimbledon.
‘I’ve been playing tennis for the past couple of years and I’ve been getting pretty good,’ he says, letting slip that the sport could offer another potential future if he is good enough (though he quickly adds that he has to be realistic).
Meanwhile, Khan’s time with accountancy may be brief: his next step is to study actuarial sciences and he’s already learning the calculus needed to master the discipline.
But would Khan change anything about spending his teens studying for the ACCA Qualification? ‘Maybe I would have made myself study harder for the audit exam,’ he says. ‘That way I could have passed it first time.’ We’ll take that as no regrets.