NAME: AF NESARUDDIN, FCA
Company: Hoda Vasi Chowdhury & Co.
Description: Founded in 1889; renamed Hoda Vasi in 1972. Hoda Vasi is one of Bangladesh’s oldest and leading Chartered Accounting and business services firms. It is now the Bangladesh representative firm of Deloitte.
Company Website: www.hodavasi.com
Current Role: Partner, Hoda Vasi Chowdhury & Co. (Practicing Chartered Accountant)
*Master’s, Department of Finance, University of Dhaka
*Bachelor’s, Department of Finance, University of Dhaka
*AF Nesaruddin (AFN)
GradInsights: So which of your services is holding the highest demand currently in the market?
AFN: The market of Bangladesh is a huge one. There are three types of market. One is the multinational market. In this there are three categories. The multinational foreign company works according to the standards, following a particular system set by the headquarters abroad. The second is the local market. This also has two categories. The bigger local businesses like banks and other financial institutions implement methods like ERP in order to compete with the foreign banks. There are many local organizations that have businesses working in the international standard, such as ACI Bangladesh and Transcom. Apart from these, there are also some firms that are trying to upgrade their business on their own terms, some of which do not feel the need for accountancy, and so try and achieve their ends by whatever means is available to them. Firms come to an auditor for two reasons: one is to fulfill the statutory requirement, and the other is because they need to show the audited accounts when filing for a tax return. They also need to show the audited accounts when they go for a bank roll. These are some reasons why small firms in the private sector come to an auditor.
GradInsights: Alright. So if somebody wants to enter Hoda Vasi at the entry level, what position will they be required to have?
AFN: They will have to be a graduate.
GradInsights: So Hoda Vasi is one of the four major accounting firms in Bangladesh, isn’t it?
AFN: No. Bangladesh has 160 accounting firms, out of which there are quite a few firms that are big. We are perhaps one of the top firms in this sector, yes, but there are certainly quite a few other large firms working beside us.
GradInsights: During recruitment, which parts of an applicant’s CV or personality are focused on?
AFN: We first look at their English language aptitude. Here at Hoda Vasi English is a must. A large gap is created in English for graduates coming in from the National University, who often have shortcomings in the proficiency of the language. We look at the applicant’s English skills as without good English, s/he would not be able to write good reports. As a result, when conducting an audit, two people will have to go in instead of one. Therefore we always pay attention to the English skills of an applicant. After that, we check their accounting capabilities, followed by a check of their family background and an observation of their manners and other such minute details. However, we do give priority to graduates from the Accounting or Finance streams. Integrity is very important in the auditing profession, therefore we do take the family background into account. They have to know how to fit into the formal atmosphere as well.
GradInsights: Has anybody who worked here gone on to work independently?
AFN: Yes, definitely.
GradInsights: Could you please give us some famous examples?
AFN: There are many. There is Mr. Ashrafuddin Ahmed of Ashrafuddin Ahmed and Company, then also one of his associates, Atik Khaled of Atik Khaled and Company. There are many others who have worked here and who have gone on to have their independent practices afterwards.
GradInsights: So when a firm is starting out, what scope does it have in the field? Does it take its clients from Hoda Vasi?
AFN: Our clients will not go to these independent firms, because our clients are companies. They come to Hoda Vasi for two reasons: good auditing and our brand name. They know that these independent new firms will not be able to promise them the brand name or the quality that we will.
GradInsights: Then how do they reach that level in the sector?
AFN: They don’t, in the same way that Bangladesh cannot compete with America. America has achieved its current status after diligently working for it for many years. Also consider India. India has progressed in many of its fields, like its legal system and its democracy. Even if Bangladesh wants to, it cannot achieve the same status overnight. It will take a considerable amount of time. Two things make a firm run: for a professional firm, the reputation of the firm itself and its partner are important. If the firm and its partners are well known, naturally companies will be inclined to choose its services as they will be assured of better services.
GradInsights: We know that there are many realities of working in Bangladesh, like the political turmoil, as well as economic realities existing consequently. Have you faced any such realities when you were working?
AFN: Well, the only reality that you could come across in this field is the influence that political figures might try to impose on you. But even they know that it is no use trying to manipulate us, because they know that Hoda Vasi and partners will not go beyond their boundaries. They have tried to influence us into doing their work, but have never coerced us into doing what they wanted to be done. If they even tried to do so, we have politely declined to work for them, asking them to request the services of any other firm.
GradInsights: You yourself are an FCA. Many CA graduates are now also going on to become business leaders and undertaking other entrepreneurial ventures. For example, Mr. Mostofa Kamal FCA has established the Lotus Kamal group. What is the feasibility if one chooses to go forth in this venture, and how does it help the business?
AFN: Being a Chartered Accountant definitely gives the business more insight. While graduates from other streams get a bird’s eye view of the business, Chartered Accountants know the ins and outs of the business, right from its entry level to the top. They have seen everything, thus their forecasting and insights will obviously be better than many others. However, it is my personal belief that many Chartered Accountants are not sufficiently learned in the subject of Macroeconomics. Other than this, almost every other aspect that they are required to have, a Chartered Accountant will be better educated and more capable than many of his contemporaries from other streams, because they have had the inside access.
GradInsights: Nowadays many people are also obtaining the CFA degree. Is it similar or equivalent to the CA degree?
AFN: Many people are obtaining this degree, but this is for the field of investment banking. In Bangladesh, we do not need CFA. Most firms working here need the services of a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) rather than a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst). A CFA is needed, yes, but not on the wide scale.
GradInsights: And why would you say many firms choose a CA to be on their Board of Directors? Is it because of their integrity?
AFN: Not because of their integrity, but because they have got inside observation. The Board makes most of the business decisions. A CA has got inside observation, as well as the auditing mind, which makes them catch mistakes more quickly; and their insight is therefore very valuable to the Board.
GradInsights: Which of the two degrees will be considered more valuable; a CA degree obtained from Bangladesh, or one obtained from the UK?
AFN: The prima basic, as it is called, is definitely more valuable if obtained from the UK. The amount of exposure and experience that can be gained from there is definitely better. There is a lot to be learned if one even simply roams about in London. Another thing is that graduates from Bangladesh cannot audit for big firms abroad. However, here, the graduates almost always work for large firms when they work locally, and are the leaders here. Therefore if they choose to go abroad and work, they have lesser scope to work for bigger organizations than they do here.
GradInsights: So would the advice for young professionals be that even if they have obtained the CA degree from abroad, that they should practice in Bangladesh?
AFN: Not really, as they would need to be in practice with a firm here in Bangladesh continuously. There are two papers: Company Law and Tax. Taxation here is very different than it is abroad; therefore a degree from abroad will not be best fit here.
GradInsights: The FCA title given to Chartered Accountants is given by which organization in Bangladesh?
AFN: The Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh, also known as the ICAB. It is the regulator of this title.
GradInsights: One last question. You have been in this sector for many years, so how do you view the economic prospect of Bangladesh in this sector, given the active exuberance of the youth of the country?
AFN: Enormous. I have spoken to many clients over the years, and there are several reasons as to why Bangladesh could flourish in this sector. Firstly, it is due to the availability of cheap labour. Next comes the moderate weather, which makes it easier to work in any season, as opposed to other countries. There is also the hardworking and perseverant nature of the people here that has increased Bangladesh’s economic prospect. Most importantly, there is a gap here in the job sector in this field, as there is a greater demand for chartered accountants here than there is a supply for many different reasons.
GradInsights: Would you give any last words of advice to the young professionals who want to enter this sector?
AFN: I would like to say that the youth must enter this sector as it has a huge gap in it. For those who do choose to enter it, they should definitely do so if they want to have an independent profession and a dignified life. Along with that, they should also have a well-thought out plan to come into this sector, and I feel that they should face no problems henceforth.
GradInsights: Thank you sir.