This article was first published in the May 2019 Malaysia edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

Engagement with young finance professionals and connecting them with more senior ACCA members and leaders from other professions are key goals of the ACCA Young Members’ Network, according to its committee members.

Established by ACCA Malaysia in 2018, and officially launched in January 2019, the ACCA Young Members’ Network is open to young professionals aged under 40. The network will spearhead the engagement and advocacy of ACCA students and affiliates in Malaysia – focusing on collaboration within the industry, professional development for affiliates, creating awareness of ACCA’s initiatives and mentoring students in their ACCA journey.

The network aims to support career development of young ACCA members and to play a part in shaping the profession through cross-sector engagement and networking with senior and C-suite ACCA members, as well as offering mentoring opportunities.

The ACCA Young Members’ Network committee is chaired by Muhammad Razin Shah, finance director at Bahtera Kandi Sri Holdings, and includes Fauziah Khan, senior executive at the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA); Renganathan Kannan, partner at Tra Tax; Omar Faruk, audit manager at Lloyds.Earle.Panicker; Megat Solleh, assistant manager at EY Malaysia; Ray Ng Kar Teik, operation lead at Averis; and Tanusha Nair, tax manager at Petronas.

Muhammad Razin explains that the idea for the network took root in 2016 when he joined the ACCA Malaysia Advisory Committee. He and fellow committee members Ng and Renganathan considered the issues and challenges faced by young accounting and finance professionals, and looked at how ACCA Malaysia could best support them. 

Building a bridge

The network is, says Ng, ‘a bridge between the youth members and ACCA members as a whole’. With the demography of the membership evolving to the point where, today, more than 62% of ACCA Malaysia’s 15,000 members are now under 40, ‘it’s time to shift the focus to reflect the current membership’, Ng says.

Committee members understand better than most the challenges facing today’s young finance professionals. With ages ranging from 28 to 40, they believe that their own experiences will resonate. ‘We can share our experiences and how we have coped with challenges, and because we are around their age, they can relate to us better,’ Fauziah says.

Muhammad Razin points out that the network will also work closely with the ACCA Student Ambassadors Programme, which has enabled 92 student ambassadors to represent 21 universities. He adds that there are also plans to collaborate with MIA’s Young Professional Committee and other professional accounting bodies.

Supporting and encouraging students and affiliates in the progression of their ACCA journey is a key part of the network’s mandate, says Omar, and maintaining motivation is vital. ‘Students need more encouragement,’ he says. ‘We need to motivate them by telling them our stories and experiences.’

Affiliate support

In addition, the network aims to encourage affiliate members to complete the Practical Experience Requirement in order to become ACCA members. To this end, ACCA Malaysia is running affiliate sessions, which offer a step-by-step guide to achieving full membership. Through this initiative, Malaysia has currently achieved a conversion rate of close to 3%.

‘We want to close this gap and, in so doing, make the ecosystem sound,’ Renganathan says. ‘We want to show that we have a diverse membership, with people from audit, regulatory and shared services as well as corporate, so we understand the accounting ecosystem.’

Megat adds that many affiliate members are yet to experience all the membership benefits completely. ‘We want to bridge this by raising awareness about ACCA initiatives,’ he says. Omar concurs, pointing to the important role that CPD can play.

‘For example, we receive the latest updates on accounting standards and are able to update our knowledge, and this gives ACCA members that extra edge,’ he says.

Career progression

The ACCA Young Members’ Network also hopes that its events will provide a platform for young finance professionals to network with peers as well as senior finance leaders. Key to this is the recently launched ACCA Mentoring Programme.

‘Career progression is a priority for young finance professionals and we want to provide that platform through guided mentoring with C-suite members, as well as engagement sessions,’ Fauziah says.

Ng agrees. ‘What many don’t realise is the fact that ACCA is a global community, and there are many opportunities arising from that,’ He says. ‘I have personally benefited from networking through ACCA in the 20 years that I have been a member, whether it’s meeting students or having access to C-suite ACCA members.’

Renganathan says that networking events will not be confined to solely finance professionals, and will involve other sectors. ‘We also want to collaborate with others from law and engineering,’ he says.

Muhammad Razin believes that networking events can also strengthen ties members have with ACCA. ‘We need to add value to the membership by engaging with them, and then go a step further by looking at ways we can help them improve their skills and give them the opportunity to mingle with senior leaders,’ he says.

Apart from networking events, the committee also plans to organise workshops and conferences on other topics close to members’ hearts. This includes addressing some of the other challenges faced by young finance professionals – for example, mental health and stress management.

‘The transition from student life to working life can be stressful, so stress management is important,’ says Muhammad Razin, adding that a talk on the topic was held recently.

Young members, he adds, are also interested in honing their soft skills such as communication skills, developing their resumes, and even fashion advice.

Sreerema Banoo, journalist