Cabbie’s daughter fights for fairness
ACCA’s values are my values too…
"If we are not careful the CEOs and the CFOs of the future will be the sons and daughters of the CEOs and CFOs of today, and on into the future. I believe that is wrong without giving others an opportunity…"
Datuk Zaiton Mohd Hassan has achieved plenty in her career.
She has filled many senior roles in auditing and in banking, gained a wealth of expertise and experience with PwC; and she launched and managed Malaysia’s second national ratings agency - an innovation which brought modernity and maturity to the finance industry.
And through it all, she has been fired by a single motivation: to show children from underprivileged families that they can make a mark in the world just like she did, and to reach out a hand to help them do it too.
‘I am a cab driver’s daughter from Singapore, and I was determined that I would find a way to make a good living in a good profession,’ Zaiton said.
‘Accountancy and ACCA gave me a way to do that, and now I do what I can to help children from backgrounds like mine, so that they can have a good career too, and make a good life for their families.’
Zaiton is CEO of MyPAC - the Malaysia Professional Accountancy Centre – in Kuala Lumpur, a non-profit dedicated to helping students from poorer backgrounds find careers in finance. It has a special focus on Malay youngsters, who have been greatly under-represented in professional life.
‘I knew something had to be done, and I was eager to do it,’ said Zaiton.
‘Malays are the biggest group in Malaysian society. About two thirds of the population is Malay, yet only 7% of professional accountants are Malay,’ she said.
‘In the four years since we started we are proud that we have produced 662 ACCA affiliates through our project.’
‘That is 662 examples, 662 stories of young people who have taken an opportunity to build a career and to make a future, and it fills me with joy.
‘It is impossible to describe just how much difference this project has made to those families, but I will tell you about one.
‘A young man came to us to study as an accountant. He is from a humble background. His father was blind and unable to work. The young man got a very good job with EY in Malaysia, and can now support the family and look after his father. I struggle to imagine what their life might have been otherwise, if he had no career, no job, and they were isolated in their home during the Covid-19 emergency, with no money and no chance of getting any money.
‘That is just one family whose chances have been transformed.
‘The students pay nothing. They give back by volunteering at weekends to mentor younger students. It works.’
Zaiton knows all about the power of opportunity to change lives, and the role ACCA can play in that.
‘It is quite simple. I owe ACCA everything, and my life in finance has been so rewarding’ she said.
"I was fascinated by the business pages. I’d spend hours looking at the share prices, trying to work out what they all meant, why the numbers went up and down…"
‘The reason why I chose finance in the first place is quite unusual I suppose, and it is all due to a newspaper,’ she said.
‘We were lucky when I was a girl, because we had a newspaper at home every day, which was uncommon for families like ours.
‘My brother worked in the print room at the Singapore Straits Times and he brought home a paper. I was fascinated by the business pages. I’d spend hours looking at the share prices, trying to work out what they all meant, why the numbers went up and down. I was 12, and it fired my imagination and I made up my mind I wanted to work in finance one day.
‘When I was old enough I researched all the jobs and the qualifications available, and ACCA stood out. All the others were quite narrow, but ACCA was very broad. It was very versatile, and it looked a good way to gain the widest possible knowledge. Plus, it was open. You didn’t need to be well-off or well-connected to get a place. So that was my choice, and it was a good one. ACCA has brought me everything I have. More importantly it has given me a platform to help others to follow a similar route.
Bad for business
‘That is so important, because if we are not careful the CEOs and the CFOs of the future will be the sons and daughters of CEOs and CFOs of today, and on into the future.
‘I believe that is wrong without giving others an opportunity ; I believe it is unhealthy for society, and I believe it is bad for business too. That is why it is vital that we give all boys and girls, from all walks of life, a chance to make it. I live by these values, and they are the values of ACCA too.’