From Nigeria to the US

Rotimi Diyaolu FCCA CPA sits behind a desk in New York City as the controller of Bellevue Hospital Center, the United States’ oldest hospital. He's come a long way since 1989 in Lagos, Nigeria, when his career almost took a very different path


Armed with a degree in agricultural sciences from the University of Ilorin, Rotimi was facing the prospect of a future in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, which had limited opportunities for an ambitious, fresh graduate. Fortunately, as part of an obligatory graduate national work programme, he was engaged in his home town of Lagos at the Agricultural Finance Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria, which he describes as ‘a career defining moment’.

Working at the central bank and in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, Rotimi found his interests turning from agriculture to finance. For the following three years he undertook evening classes towards the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria qualification.

‘Personally it was a difficult transition for me,’ he says, ‘as I had no previous background in accounting or finance, so it took me three attempts to pass the foundation exam, but I got there in the end.’

So, why ACCA?

London followed along with the serious decision of which full accounting programme from one of the UK’s major bodies to choose. He explains his decision to go with ACCA had four key motivators:

  1. It offered the most convenient entry point for non-accountants
  2. Brand recognition outside the UK
  3. The opportunity to earn the Oxford Brookes University (OBU) degree along with the ACCA Qualification
  4. The chance to study and write exams under the International Financial Accounting Standards (IFRS), which was the future of financial reporting, while also providing a sought after convergence with the US accounting standards.

Points three and four were crucial for Rotimi: ‘I needed the OBU degree in accounting to provide a baseline to my career, as my first degree was not in finance. I needed to carefully craft my career properly from the get-go, as I knew I was going to finally relocate to the US after completing my studies in Europe. As it turned out, taking the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) exams would not have been possible without the OBU degree.

‘The OBU degree has positively impacted my career in the US because without a degree in accounting it would have been a tough sell to get a job. The baseline requirement for a job posting is a degree in accounting, while certifications, such as ACCA, will confer extra advantage.’

Indeed, Rotimi would strongly recommend to any ACCA student who doesn’t already have an accounting or finance-related degree to seriously consider the OBU option.

‘To be an accountant, a degree in accounting should form the foundation to build on your certificate,’ he says. ‘While the certificate may not be readily convertible due to lack of reciprocity across global borders, a degree can form a buffer zone and help launch your career in every situation in which you find yourself.’

With the mantra ‘a career not growing is a declining one’, where’s next for Rotimi?

‘My aspiration is to be the CFO of a reputable organisation someday. I’m perhaps not too far away from that goal. I also hope to explore the world of entrepreneurship at some point down the road, which I know my ACCA and MBA qualifications have equipped me well for.’