Interview with Mr Aamir Ijaz Khan — Executive Director, ICMA Pakistan
PAGE: Kindly tell me something about yourself and ICMA Pakistan:
Aamir Ijaz Khan: By profession, I am a Fellow Cost and Management Accountant and have on my credit around 19 years of diversified experience in the areas of Client Servicing, Project Implementation, Business Repositioning, Financial Management and Compliance. I am also a SAP, FICO Certified Consultant. Prior to joining ICMA Pakistan as Executive Director, I was serving as Head of Quality Assurance at M/s. Innovative Pvt. Ltd. I had also worked as Audit MIS Expert (Punjab) in a World Bank funded project named “Project to Improve Financial Reporting & Auditing” (PIFRA) and as Executive Financial Accountant at Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).
At ICMA Pakistan, I held a number of positions including Chairman of Lahore Branch Council (LBC) during the period from 2011 to 2013. Being a pioneer member of Quality Assurance Board of ICMA Pakistan, I remained a vocal participant for the first four years of its inception. I also served ICMA Lahore Toastmasters Club as its Founder President.
Currently, I am a member of the Management Committee of MENSA International – Pakistan Chapter. As a professional trainer and motivational speaker, I have conducted a number of training sessions and workshops. I have contributed various papers on national and international forums on themes of growth dynamics of Pakistani services sector and Pakistan economy, economic sectors’ strategic dynamics, budgetary measures etc.
As far as ICMA Pakistan is concerned, it is one of the premier professional institutes of Professional Accountants, established in 1951 with the name and title of Pakistan Institute of Industrial Accountants (PIIA). The institute received its charter under the Cost and Management (CMA) Act, 1966 of the Parliament. Later, it was renamed as the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan. Under the CMA Act, 1966, ICMA Pakistan has been entrusted with the responsibility to provide education, examine competencies and confer internationally recognized post-graduate professional certifications of Associate Cost and Management Accountant (ACMA) and Fellow Cost and Management Accountant (FCMA).
ICMA Pakistan is the founding member of International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) since 1977; Confederation of Asia and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) since 1980; South Asia Federation of Accountants (SAFA) since 1984 and the only current participant of International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) from Pakistan. The Institute has over 6,000 members, out of which more than 1,000 members are serving abroad. These members are serving at high-profile positions such as CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIAs, Company Secretaries, Financial Analysts, Public Practitioners, Management Consultants, etc., hence making significant contributions towards business growth and economic development. Over the years, the Management Accountants produced by the Institute have met the requirements of industry and business as they are trained to turn knowledge into value addition.
PAGE: How would you comment on the training programs for the members by the professional bodies?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: Rapid development in all professional fields renders it almost mandatory to keep oneself abreast with the developments taking place globally so as to adjust to the emerging needs and requirements and to enhance competence level to keep pace with such developments. The professional bodies around the world are fully cognizant of this fact and one of the crucial roles is to design and implement professional training programs for their members serving in the corporate sector as well as public sector organizations.
As far as the professional accounting bodies are concerned, they have to adhere to the International Educational Standard (IES) of International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) that prescribes the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirement for professional accountants in order to develop and maintain the professional competence necessary to provide high quality services to clients, employers, and other stakeholders, and thereby to strengthen public trust in the accountancy profession. CPD activities, interalia, also includes training and development of members in relevant areas related to their profession.
ICMA Pakistan also has a well-placed CPD program for its members, which is being looked after by an exclusive directorate. The very purpose of such training programs under CPD is to prepare our members to keep pace with global developments and get their presence and their professional abilities felt in organizations where they are serving.
PAGE: What benefits are the members of professional bodies getting through CPD hours session?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: A professional need to be fully equipped in his professional life and well aware of developments in his field to perform in a better way and to outperform others in this era of severe competition. Needless to mention that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) indicates how one has made efforts towards his professional development whereas CPD hours denote the number of hours put in this respect. Almost all the recognized Accounting professional bodies in the world are conducting various courses, seminars, trainings etc and award CPD hours certificates, which strengthen the credentials of their members. Some institutes also impose a condition of attending a number of CPD hours before being awarded the membership of that institute.
The main benefit the members of the professional bodies are getting through CPD hours session are that they not only comply with the requirements that lead to the completion of prescribed CPD hours to become a recognized member or to upgrade their membership from ‘Associate’ to ‘Fellow’ level. Additionally, through the CPD programs and trainings organized by their respective parent institute, they are able to enhance their knowledge base and update the desired skills and techniques that help them to improve upon their professional excellence at workplace. It is now a global recognition that more CPD hours one possesses, more chances for advancement are available to him.
PAGE: How could the communication skills be enhanced through training programs?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: Effective communication skills are pre-requisite for success not only in one’s professional career but also in every aspect of life. People with good communication skills usually enjoy better interpersonal relationships with friends and family. Many jobs require strong communication skills, which is now-a-days termed as a key interpersonal skill to a productive workplace. This facilitates the employees to work together cohesively and professionally. Hence, good organizations regularly organize training programs to improve their employee communication skills and also to train them to enhance their maturity level to handle all types of situations with a flexible, genuine, and self-confident approach, and build collaborative relationships based on trust and respect.
The trainers who impart training on communication skills try to inculcate the skills and behavior in employees on how to communicate with different sub-groups and overcome difficulties in effective communication in accordance with the mission and goals of the organization. Communications training can assist leaders to develop the ability to perceive how various individuals and subgroups relate to each other and make appropriate interventions. The training programs are also helpful in improving interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, problem-solving, negotiation and other skills.
PAGE: What must be done to catch up with latest trends and outperform the other competitors?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: I think there is a need for a holistic review of the emerging challenges at the national and global fronts for the professional accountants in Pakistan, especially the Management Accountants. The most important emerging reality is the technological advancement that is also going to impact the accounting profession. Some of these technology trends that have almost started to influence the job markets of finance professionals, mostly in advanced countries, are artificial intelligence, robotic accounting, big data, block chain and cloud computing etc. A professional accountant of today must be fully aware of these emerging realities and need to align itself with the new job requirements and skills through continuous learning and training.
As far as the role of professional accounting bodies like ICMA Pakistan is concerned, it has to design such program, courses and training programs that build the capacity of members and enhance the IT-related skills-set to meet the challenges of developing job markets. They may also be trained to apply the processes learned and integrate these processes with IT programs, all professionals in the field shall need to be able to merge accounting and IT.
PAGE: Your expectation from the incumbent government for the promotion of the education sector:
Aamir Ijaz Khan: In my view discussion on expectations from the government would be meaningless unless a review is done on commitments made; intention to fulfill the same, challenges to be faced in the accomplishment of the task and finally the availability of resources to tackle the challenges.
The present government has highlighted the priority of getting 25 million children reported to be out of school into formal education. It shows its commitment by enhancing the allocation of budget to 4 percent of GDP for the education sector. It also committed to ensuring that those students who do not attend the schools get a worthwhile education. Though willingness of government is above doubt; however, the central challenge of educational reforms in Pakistan is to improve the education quality and tackle other issues which hinder the growth and development of the education sector. Most prominent problem is the availability of sources/funds required to implement manifesto.
The present economic condition marked by immediate requirements of debts servicing, devaluation of currency, increasing C/A deficit, low tax collection and other related factors as compelled the government to cut down its budget allocation for education, contrary to its earlier commitments of increasing the same. It is worth mentioning that alarming foreign debts brought the country on the verge of default a few months back. This default was averted with the help of friendly countries. The C/A deficit is under reduction due to change in import policy and it is assessed that soon country will be out of this difficult situation and the government will be in a position to divert its attention to implementation of its manifesto of provision of good education to every child. To say much in this respect under prevailing economic conditions will be premature.