As Head of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the Middle East Fazeela has responsibility for leading the operations in 11 countries. Representing more than 20,000 students, affiliates and members across the region, who work in all sectors and all levels of business across the Middle East.
Fazeela is responsible for growing the understanding of the value that professionally qualified ACCA accountants bring to businesses and economies in the region. Managing and building relationships with regulators, business leaders and strategic partners she works with the network of members to influence debate on key issues that impact the ongoing economic development of the region. Fazeela also works with educational institutions and government bodies to encourage new generations to undertake a career in accountancy and finance.
Fazeela is an FCCA member since 2004 and has over 15 years of experience in the field of accounting and finance. Fazeela has been the Head of Education for ACCA in the Middle East for the past 4 years and she previously was a Senior Manager at PwC Academy in Dubai. Prior to moving to the Emirates Fazeela managed and owned an accounting practice in the UK providing professional financial services to a variety of clients who were private individuals, small businesses and large enterprises.
Fazeela studied her Bachelor’s degree from University of Birmingham and her MBA from University of Strathclyde. She lives in Dubai with her husband and two children.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Fazeela Gopalani, Head of ACCA Middle East, Wife, Mother of 2, born in Malawi, raised in the UK and now living in the UAE. I live by the saying “if you fail to plan, your planning to fail”.
Tell us about your education.
I studied for my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Birmingham and followed this with the ACCA Qualification along with attaining my MBA from University of Strathclyde.
What or who motivated you to choose finance and accounting as a field of study?
Accounting in my blood thanks to my father who was an ACCA member and ran a successful accounting practice in the UK, providing professional financial services to a variety of clients who were private individuals, small businesses and large enterprises. It was a simple decision for me to follow in his footsteps. From an early age I was convinced of the power of the ACCA qualification and I truly believe that working for ACCA and inspiring others to follow this career path is the utmost tribute to my father.
What does your role as the Head of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the Middle East entail?
As Head of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the Middle East, I’m responsible for leading the operations in 11 countries and representing more than 20,000 students, affiliates and members across the region, who work in all sectors and all levels of business across the Middle East. One of my fundamental roles is as a thought leader and a conversation starter for all things “accounting and finance profession”, in the Middle East, with the purpose of growing the understanding of the value that professionally qualified accountants bring to businesses and economies across the region.
Managing and building strategic relationships with regulators, business leaders, partners and the ACCA Middle East stakeholder network to influence debate and conversation around key issues that impact the ongoing economic development of the region is a core part of my role. Alongside linking up the challenges within the accounting world in the Middle East and shining a light on global topics such as sustainability, the audit regulatory environment, digital innovation with the profession and elevating the need to promote and advocate women in the finance function.
I work closely with many educational institutions and government bodies across the region to encourage new generations to not only understand the importance of the almost pandemic proof profession, but the significant role a professionally qualified accountant plays in building economies, thus encouraging the next generation to consider and undertake a career in accountancy and finance, whilst raising the importance of the financial literacy agenda being embedded at an early age.
Through my leadership I ensure that, ACCA is seen as a force for public good and remains true to its core values of building a sustainable global profession by re-investing surplus to deliver member value by leveraging our respected research, continue to answer today’s questions that prepares us for tomorrow, actively encourages continued professional development and continues to shape and develop the accounting and finance profession for the next generation.
How and when did you land in Dubai?
I came to the UAE in 2009 with my family, having sold my successful practice in the UK and looking for my next challenge. I love living in the Middle East, for me it’s home and I’ve never looked back.
Can you update us more about the ACCA’s value in Kuwait? How many students annually register for the ACCA qualification from Kuwait?
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a professional qualifications body based in the UK and widely recognised across 176 countries in the world. We offer class leading accountancy qualification to students who are committed and motivated. We have a worldwide reputation for excellence and our rigorous qualifications are recognised and respected across the globe. When students chose to study with ACCA, they can take their career in any direction, open doors to the best and most interesting roles all over the world. And become one of the sought-after finance professionals this fast-changing world needs. As a leading Accountancy Qualification we are ever so proud to be the first choice for students and professionals within the Middle East region in helping them shape their careers. In Kuwait ACCA stands as a highly recognised qualification for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in Accountancy and Finance. This is owed to our strong relationships with key educational partners, employers and relevant bodies in the country. We have hundred’s of students each year pursuing ACCA qualification post finishing high-school or university.
What are the latest updates with the ACCA certification?
ACCA understands that in this ever-changing global environment young people require resilience and adaptability – skills that are proving to be essential to navigate effectively through whatever situations arise and part of her education agenda is to provide insights and tools that enable the next generation to possess some of the most important skills that employers will be looking for such as creativity, communication and collaboration, alongside empathy and emotional intelligence; and being able to work across demographic lines of differences to harness the power of the collective through effective teamwork.
ACCA believes that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society that supports both public and private sectors. That’s why we’re committed to the development of a strong global accountancy profession and the many benefits that this brings to society and individuals and why Fazeela acts as a conversation starter raising awareness around the integral role that accountants play to businesses and economies particularly within the Middle East using adoption of VAT, IFRS Changes, public sector moving from cash accounting to accrual accounting, embedding Islamic Finance and not forgetting to mention business sustainability during this current pandemic as validation, given the professions lead on this areas.
What differences do you see in the accounting practices in the Middle East and in the UK?
In most Middle Eastern countries, MNC’s and Local Entities are subject to or adopting IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and must prepare their accounts accordingly. While local GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) is aligned to IFRS, it is here and in taxation that key differences emerge.
The Middle East’s alignment to IFRS for accounting purposes makes financial reporting in the region quite streamlined for companies. Private entities need to follow the local GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), but in most countries it is aligned to IFRS. Differences do exist however, and one source of difference is the fact that IFRS as adopted by the region is sometimes behind the actual IFRS standards. This is because the region goes through an endorsement process, and this can result in a gap of approximately six months between the implementation of a new standard, and implementation in practice.
What options are available for students to study online due to the Covid-19?
Studying with ACCA is convenient and flexible with the option to learn at your own pace and at a time to suit you.
ACCA offers multiple study options whether it be full or part time. Study options include:
Studying for a professional qualification is a big commitment, so face-to-face tuition delivered to a group of fellow students at an Approved Learning Partner’s premises is an excellent way to stay motivated and on track.
As you learn the syllabus during the course, your chosen provider may teach you one or more of the ACCA exams, helping you practise questions and master exam techniques in preparation for the exam.
Online learning gives you the flexibility to organise your study and complete coursework in your own time and is a great option if you are working full-time or have no access to face-to-face tuition.
You could study completely at your own pace or you could take a ‘live’ classroom option – with online classes scheduled at specific times.
Blended learning courses use a combination of face to face tuition and online learning. This allows students the opportunity to partly control the time, place and pace of their learning whilst still having an element of face to face interaction with a tutor. What tips can you give students to get the best results using the online studies from home?
What are some of your hobbies?
I’m an avid reader and would love to own my own coffee/book shop and tuck myself away in the corner drinking coffee and reading. When I’m not reading I’m very much in to fitness, walking, trekking, cycling and running. Being so busy I’ve recently started practising mindfulness – It’s helped me learn to be present and clear my thoughts.
What are some of your favourite hangout spots in Dubai?
If I’m not home enjoying my family time in my garden, or baking a few treats, you’ll no doubt find me trekking along one of the many UAE beautiful hiking paths. There is so much to explore.
What advice would you give to students looking to make a career in accounting and finance?
The recent pandemic has highlighted the importance of the accounting and finance professionals. Accountants become the communicators of the future and not only are you entering a career path that is in demand and almost recession proof, you also have the freedom to move between industries and even become your own boss as it embraces an entrepreneur mindset.
We know that students go on to become the heart of any organization with the unique ability to work in an all-inclusive role that functions across the entire organization and maintains the wellbeing of the company.
Be sure to choose the right qualification that will take you places, will demonstrate that its more than just numbers. Its about being prepared with practical examples that allow you to confidentially apply the theory in to the real-life workplace immediately.
Your message on this International Women’s Day
I would say, think differently and think big! Believe in yourself and your capabilities and don’t let others shape and define who you are. Be authentic, and genuine in everything you do. Challenge that negative voice in that head and find your own voice and be who you want to be.