BSc Accounting and Finance - Inam Illahi


BSc Accounting and Finance

Years at UEA

2011-2014 (graduated 2014) 

Current role

Inam works as a Senior, Financial Services Audit in the financial services team at EY, one of the Big Four global accounting firms.

After graduating from UEA, he’s worked in Karachi, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, and he spoke with us about his rich career experience since completing his Accounting and Finance BSc.

Could you talk about your current role? 

I work with EY in their Dubai office and I'm part of the audit team, specifically the Financial Services audit team.

I have been with the that team in Dubai for around three years.

I have been given responsibility for a specific number of clients that provide the services of currency exchanges. Dubai and the UAE rely on these services a lot because there are a lot of expats; this is one of the booming businesses over here in in the Middle East.

Once I finished up my UEA education, I returned to Pakistan and I was looking to get into the accountancy profession services. I got an opportunity to do a graduate internship with EY in their Karachi office.

When the EY graduate roles opened in the rest of the Middle East for the 2015 intake, I applied and was called to an assessment centre in the Abu Dhabi office. I then took up my ICW training agreement with them. 

Once I was offered the role, I spent around three years working in general audit with the Abu Dhabi office, and then they transferred me to Dubai for my ICW education purposes. Given that I was already a trained auditor and knew about the EY business by that point, they decided to place me in the Financial Services group because I had a lot of experience with core financial services such as currency exchanges.

I have been with EY Dubai since 2018, performing these currency exchange audits. Also, a mixed portfolio of investment, securities and wealth management.

What drew you to BSc Accounting and Finance at UEA?

I came as an international student to do the foundation year in business in order to understand what I really wanted to do.

It was new for everyone in our family; my parents had been doctors and usually in our family, people go towards medical education or engineering education. No one could guide me on what business education is and what specialisation I can do. 

While doing the foundation study, I figured out that the safest route for me would be accounting and finance because I am someone who isn't really creative. When I was narrowing down my options to where I can study accounting and finance, UEA was one of the best courses that I could take and was willing to accept the foundation course as an entry.

I understood that there was a mosque over there. There are halal restaurants available over there. It felt like I could be comfortable in studying rather than having to figure out a whole new culture coming from Pakistan. Once I came to the campus it felt like home and it felt like a safe space.

Were there any skills you learned on the course that you use today?

There are definitely technical skills.

There were accounting courses throughout the three years of education, so you started with introduction to financial and management accounting, then you had to choose which route you want to go down. 

I chose advanced financial accounting at that stage. By that point, having had all these employability sessions and understanding what employers want and what kind of routes you can take into accountancy, I decided that I would become a chartered accountant rather than a management accountant. Building your way up into financial accounting from year one to year three was very necessary. 

Did you use any services at UEA to think about your career?

CareerCentral was one of the departments that I constantly went to, because every summer when I returned to Pakistan, I used to do an internship over there.

Each year, I would have a discussion with them about my CV, like these are the extracurricular activities I have done, this is some volunteer experience. How can I use this to make my case for an internship? Because of that initial assessment and initial help, I was able to land a banking internship and professional services internship with the Big 4 during my year one summer and year two summer. 

For EY, when I did my assessment centre in Abu Dhabi, it was a similar experience to what I had done in the UK. These experiences of building a proper CV and doing the phone interviews and getting prepared for the assessment centre eventually all helped. 

Did you do any extracurricular activities?

I was the International Student Ambassador for the International department.

That was my last year of university. I also used to be employed with the UEA students' union at the shop and I used to volunteer with a few of the societies.

One of them was the Accounting Society and the other one was Pakistani Society.

The general tips which I got from CareerCentral at that time was that you just need to show some work experience. Any work experience is good work experience and you can showcase to your new employers or future employers how you can transfer those skills, so they actually helped me in pursuing the Union job. I also used to work at a restaurant. All of these were a combination of my time at the university alongside my studies.

Did you have any particular career aspirations?

The foundation degree initially helped me understand that what I want to do is numbers.

Accounting is fine by me because it's a safe site for me to play. I am not a creative person, but having to play by the rules of accounting and how to prepare financial statements will be something which I will be happy to pursue. That led me to the university education, but once I came to UEA I still had no idea how to pursue a career in this. 

There's a UEA mentor mentee program where alumni mentor the current students as to what careers they want to pursue. I signed up for one of those sessions during my second year and I spoke with a with an alumnus who is now a banker who had actually studied Law. So that is one example that by him studying Law, he ended up becoming a banker after his education so things can go different ways over there.

There were a lot of career fairs each year. I particularly remember at the beginning of each year there used to be a big careers fair at the Sportspark and there I saw the representatives of ICW who told us about how you can pursue this qualification.

All this throughout the first couple of years helped me build in my mind that this is the thing which I want to pursue, and I will be going along with this from that point onwards.

By the time I came back to Pakistan, I was extremely focused that what I want to do is go to a Big 4, train for my ICW and work in professional services, particularly accountancy. In just a short few months, I had started my role as a graduate intern with EY.

What’s your favourite thing about your current role?

There are new aspects to each client.

Every year, when you have some spare time or when your usual clients finish, you are given a different business which you have to do a quick turnaround of. That opportunity, where you get to learn new things or apply your accounting concepts onto a new client, is something which always excites me.

This is an opportunity for me to showcase that same performance and showcase to our clients how EY can help them in turning around a quick audit and giving the management assurance that their financial statements are prepared well or whether the business is going well or not. These kinds of challenges which I get apart from the usual busy season scenario of auditing currency exchanges, that is something that definitely I look forward to.

The ICW education has not been the one of my smoothest transitions. There is a challenge of being constantly overworked or not having the time to actually study when the exams fall near. That being said, I have achieved the part qualification status and I do intend to pursue it when I feel that I have the time and when I have the ability.

EY has been very rewarding and it's a career which keeps giving. Being able to audit financial statements and moving to different clients has given me the grasp of the how an organisation completely operates in terms of their business as well as their finances. 

I want to stay with EY long enough to complete my Master’s degree over here and then from that point on, see what next to do about it. 

Do you have any words of advice for prospective Accounting and Finance students?

Just make the best of your time at UEA.

There are many facilities for Muslims, non-Muslims, any other faith you come from. There are good places to eat, good places to relax and there is a 24/7 functioning library where you can get all the books and all the resources you need.

If you make the use of the best use of the time, either by volunteering or doing jobs, you can walk away with brilliant experience and that experience will constantly help you throughout your career, whatever you choose to pursue from there on.

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