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The Inspiring CMA Journey of Rubab Fatimah Rizvi

By Rubab Fatimah Rizvi 

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time.”

These lines from the poem, A Psalm of Life, have always inspired me.

With a passion for growth and the drive for excellence, I have always aimed for achieving the extraordinary in all facets of life.

Academically I have been inclined towards Accounting, Economics and Finance. After completing my BSc in Finance with first honours and the highest grade in my class, I wanted to pursue Master’s and eventually enter the corporate world. However, due to certain personal circumstances, I could not go for Master’s that year and being a non-Saudi female meant I couldn’t get a job either because of the Saudization laws. I had a teacher for the course Money and Banking who often stressed the importance of professional certifications and at that instance, his words struck me and my quest for learning propelled me to register for the Certified Management Accountant [CMA] programme.

Morgan International, a renowned institution in the Middle East offering professional certifications including the CMA in partnership with the Institute of Management Accountants [IMA], USA was extremely welcoming. I registered for the course and was promised all the support that I required.

I was born with Congenital Glaucoma, a degenerative eye condition because of which I have little functional sight in one eye. This has never been my limitation but my driving force to face challenges and achieve the impossible.

I was the first visually impaired candidate to have taken the CMA and hence, it was a new experience for Morgan International and IMA and they were highly enthusiastic in providing all possible support. I was readily provided with a pdf version of the books and PowerPoint slides and got access to the Wiley test bank. I was fortunate to have the most capable teachers who read out the material from the board out loud while explaining the lessons. I was very active in class and always shared my insights into lessons and took part in discussions. My classmates never hesitated in reading out the questions or material to me from the textbooks during class work.

I use a screen-reader called JAWS [Job Access With Speech] on the laptop and do all my work independently. CMA is obviously a technical subject involving numbers, complicated tables and large calculations. However, my base in Accounting and Finance is extremely strong and I am very fast at visualizing tables and numbers so I absorbed the course material well. I am a very fast learner and devoted a reasonable amount of time towards understanding each chapter but practiced, practiced and practiced as many questions as I could.

I faced implicit challenges while studying because at times JAWS was not very accessible with online test bank sites or when questions or the course material had large tables or technical questions.

I have always been accustomed to working and studying independently using JAWS and the thought of having a reader during the exams made me very apprehensive. I had been granted extra time and a reader and scribe as well as permission to use my talking calculator.

There were few challenges during the exams not so much because of the anxiety or time constraint but because of getting used to the reader’s style of reading and that too on the very day of the exam.

Nevertheless, all the hard work bore fruit when I received the most awaited and splendid news of passing both my exams in my very first attempt! Not just that, I was the CMA Part II Exam Top Scorer in Saudi Arabia.

I have always aspired to achieve the extraordinary and accomplishing this milestone of my life is indeed gratifying. Mr. Emran Adam of Morgan International, Mr. Abdul Karim, Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Talib all deserve a special mention for their continuous support and guidance.

I did not just take the CMA because I wanted to prove my caliber to anyone but because I wanted to exploit my knowledge of Management Accounting and Financial Management. A lot of people are conditioned to believe that any person with a visual impairment cannot pursue technical fields of study and I hope that my experience with Morgan International and IMA can open avenues for aspiring CMA’s, regardless of their circumstances.

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The importance of audit planning

 

By Morgan International Staff Writers

Audit planning is a complicated process, and many businesses fall into the trap of using the ‘same as last year’ approach.  But this can be a major problem because it doesn’t consider changes that might have taken place within the business in the last twelve months or new projects or systems that have been implemented.  But why does your business need an audit plan?

  • The scenario

Let’s create a picture of why audit planning is crucial.  Imagine a business receives a request from their most significant client asking for copies of current and prior year audits and internal control documentation.  The company provides this information and shortly afterward receives notice of a lawsuit from the client.

The basis is that the audit firm didn’t detect an embezzlement scheme from an accounts clerk and that the company also failed to identify a breakdown in internal controls which led to payments to a fictional company.

  • The problem

So how can this happen?  Problems often arise from audit planning that use ‘same as last year’ approaches, known as SALY in auditing.  This approach focuses on getting the job done quickly, using checklists or a highly compartmentalized approach to the audit that saves time.  But this doesn’t incorporate any new changes, new systems or new projects that the company has added during the year.  It also assumes that the process last year was working comprehensively – without checks, this might not be the case.

Planning an audit

There are three main components of a successful audit: timing, risk assessment, and team composition.

  • Timing

Timing is about more than when the audit will take place.  It is a continuous process that starts when the last audit ends and finishes when this audit is complete.  It should take any control deficiency noted in a prior audit and address this before moving on.

  • Risk assessment

Risk assessment is where the audit looks at the client and the environment of the business to create a holistic view of the regulatory, internal and external factors that may influence the audit.  It can identify areas of greatest risk and spot errors that can lead to professional liability claims.

  • Team composition

Team composition looks at the experience of the team, the use of experts and schedules who will review what.  This ensures the right people are conducting the right parts of the audit for maximum success.

Investing time is a crucial part of an audit to ensure the business doesn’t fall into the SALY category and miss potential problems.  Planning the audit should be flexible and adapt to the business as it is now, not as it was twelve months ago to have the maximum effect.

Every company is unique, and Morgan’s bespoke workshops are designed to reflect this. We listen to your precise needs and design a workshop that matches the diverse expertise of our instructors with your professional goals. Click here to choose the workshop for you https://www.morganintl.com/workshops/#

Potential areas of risk for the 2017 audit cycle

 

By Morgan International Staff Writers

When a business is entering the audit cycle, there are some primary considerations that it should take with regards to the audit and potential areas of risk that might be within the business.  These need particular attention – how the auditor will plan and execute their audit, the tools being used and other more complex areas of the process.  The business should also consider the auditor and indeed their suitability for the role.

  • Auditor independence

The auditor needs to be a completely neutral person who isn't affiliated with the company or connected companies in any way to ensure that the audit is consistent and high quality.

  • Multinational audits

If the auditor is from outside the country, it is important to check the professional reputation and independence of the auditor with companies and professional bodies in their home nation.

  • New accounting standards

If the company has transitioned to any new accounting standards during the year, this is a high risk for the audit cycle as the overlap could leave areas of vulnerability.  New standard approaches are being encouraged for revenue recognition, credit losses and preparing the financial statement.

  • Economic factors

All businesses can be affected by certain economic factors – the rise of fuel prices is a classic example.  Ensure these are factored into the audit cycle appropriately.

  • Financial reporting areas

Potential areas of risk include the assessment and management of ongoing concerns by the auditor and that the procedures of evaluation and testing can cover earnings in foreign jurisdictions.

  • Ever increasing transparency

New rules require the disclosure of more information in auditors including the role of an engagement partner and other participants so this needs to be factored into the audit process.

There are also other considerations that should be used to look for risks and problems within the method including:

  • Engagement quality review
  • Improper alteration of documents
  • Cybersecurity risks
  • Software audit tools
  • Auditor’s reporting model (if a new version is pending approval)

Controlling risks

An important part of the auditor’s role and that of the company using their services is to identify and handle the many risks within the audit cycle to help minimalize or remove them entirely.  By considering areas such as the economic factors affecting the business and any new accounting standards employed by the business, areas of risk can be identified before the audit and made certain to give the correct attention during the undertaking.  This makes for a more successful audit process.

 

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How and when to grow your company’s accounting function

 

By Morgan International Staff Writers

In many cases, when a business first starts there’s no need or the budget to employ a full time accounting professional.  As the business grows and the accounts become more complex, there is sometimes the need for more advanced software or even a part-time professional.  Sometimes the services are outsourced to someone outside the company.

Finally, the company reaches the point of having one or more professionals working full time on the accounts.  But how do you know when your business reaches the stage and is ready to move and grow?

Starting a business

  • DIY services

When you start a business, it is crucial to start accounting from day one or things can quickly get out of control.  Many companies use software such as QuickBooks to set up a connection to their bank account, automatically handling basic accounting functions.  It can take care of bookkeeping tasks such as; business income, business outgoings (expenses) and invoicing clients.

Sometimes the task may be outsourced to a freelancer on a regular basis.

  • Tax preparation

As the year progresses, there is the need for tax preparation.  This is a different job to bookkeeping and the professional required is often a different one.  The software can do some of the job, compiling the information needed.  Often a freelancer can be used to submit the actual self-assessment or corporation tax returns to ensure it is done correctly.

Growing the business

  • Freelance services

As the business grows and people are employed by the company, the accounts become much more complex and a part-time accounting staff member is often used alongside the software.  Alternatively, a regular freelance service can be used on an ongoing basis to handle tasks such as payroll, tax and bookkeeping.

  • Cash flow monitoring

Accounting is about more than just tax – it is the measure of the financial health of the business.  Therefore, the accounting department, whether one part-time staff member or a room of full-time staff, are responsible for providing reports and information to help monitor the cash flow of the company.  There may also be compliance issues to consider depending on the industry.

The larger business

  • In house specialists

When the business reaches the stage of multiple employees, multiple contracts with different customers or a range of products, then a full-time accounting person is often needed – sometimes a team of them.

 

  • Compliance and company reports

There may be one person handing general bookkeeping and payroll while another handles invoicing.  Tax and compliance issues may be another person’s area of expertise or there may be an overlap.  There should be someone responsible for compiling those crucial reports into the financial health of the company.

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7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Accountant

 

By Morgan International Staff Writers

For many small businesses, hiring an accountant can seem a bit daunting. They are often not really sure what they are looking for, and what will make an accountant a good fit for their firm. To some it may seem like all accountants and practices are the same, but this could not be further from the truth. So we are here to help you with 7 questions to ask before hiring an accountant.

 

  • How long have you been in business?

Avoid a start-up as you will benefit from an accountant who has experience of the challenges that small businesses face.

 

  • How many clients do you personally manage?

You want to make sure that the accountant will have sufficient time for your business, but equally if they have just a few clients, it may raise alarm bells about why they have been unable to attract/keep more clients.

 

  • Do you have references?

This is crucially important. You need to see references from current or very recent clients who have lots of good but honest things to say about the accountant.

 

  • What is the charging structure?

You need to be clear how fees will work. Be cautious that where there is a fixed fee, it includes all of the services you would expect to be included. You do not want to be surprised by unexpected expenses.

 

  • Will my account be managed by on person?

For consistency, it is advantageous for one person to manage the account. Of course you expect there to be cover when that person is away.

 

  • How often will I receive a P+L?

Some firms will prepare a P+L on a monthly basis which is very useful to keep a track on business profitability, particularly for small businesses.

 

  • Can you provide advice?

You will likely have plenty of questions about taxes, expenses lines, and so on. You need to feel confident that your accountant will be readily available and happy to answer those questions.

 

In summary, hiring an accountant is a big decision for businesses. Make sure you take the time to ask the questions above, and anymore you might have before you make an appointment.

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UAE Fintech Industry Surging

 

By Morgan International Staff Writers

Fintech is big news, both in the UAE, and globally. It is a fairly new financial industry using technology to improve financial activities, often through automation and making use of sophisticated tech such as artificial intelligence. The introduction of disruptive technology in the UAE and wider Middle East is likely to be advantageous for customers but will challenge the traditional banking model. The key areas where fintech has thus far been pervasive are insurance, trading, and risk management. In July 2017, The Dubai International Financial Centre’s Fintech hive selected 11 start-ups to partake in a 12 week accelerator programme which will offer them the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a number of investors in November 2017. Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) announced in August 2017 that it was assessing 22 applications from fintech startups to take part in a regulatory laboratory sandbox programme. This allows successful participants to develop their ideas alongside financial services firms in a lighter touch regulatory environment.

Some of the key innovation areas utilize innovative technologies/areas such as:

  • Blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin
  • Smartphones and apps
  • Robo advisers and robo investors
  • Contactless cards
  • Payment solutions

 

These innovations and new industry entrants pose a significant threat to traditional banks and financial advisors, who will be forced to innovate and diversify themselves to survive. There are of course likely to be opportunities for the traditional players to team up with the innovators which will permit old business models to be updated.

 

In summary fintech allows financial services to be delivered more quickly, cheaply, and conveniently. There are still some concerns around security, but as these issues are resolved, expect to hear a lot more about innovative financial technology solutions in the months and years to come.

 

 

 

 

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VAT Implementation in Saudi Arabia

 

By Morgan International Staff Writers

Last month in Saudi Arabia, businesses were hurrying to meet the deadline to register for VAT – value added tax. Many had expected the deadline to be the end of September, so this was a surprise for many, and put added pressure on businesses to comply in time to avoid attracting financial sanctions.

 

Those affected are required to register with Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT). The registration deadline is part of the effort by the Gulf Cooperation Council to replace oil revenue lost from barrel prices remaining low. They are attempting to address the shortfall with the imposition of an indirect tax of 5%.

 

Who is in scope for VAT? Businesses selling goods/providing services with sales in excess of 375,000 riyals which is approximately $100,000. For those with sales of less than 1 million riyals, they are permitted to delay registration until Jan 1 2019. For businesses with turnover above 187,500 riyals, but below 375,000 riyals, registration is voluntary. With respect to the kingdom’s 250 largest businesses, they were automatically registered for VAT.

 

There are of course penalties for failure to register and/or pay. Failing to:

  • Apply for registration by the deadline - 10,000 riyals.
  • Submit a tax return within the set timeframes – 25% of the tax due.
  • Pay the tax due by the deadline – 5% per month
  • Keep proper records – 50,000 riyals

 

The GAZT said in a statement that they are developing a wide range of resources to aid businesses in understanding their tax obligations. A business is of course responsible for their registration and internal processes, but reporting and payment will be done through an online GAZT portal.

This will be a step change and a challenge both financially and from a process perspective for Saudi Arabian businesses. There will be support available from the GAZT – but it will be interesting to see how effective implementation of the new indirect tax is.

For those with specific queries in relation to VAT, it would be worthwhile seeking advice from a qualified accountant.

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Seven Tips on How to Be a Great Leader in a Crisis

By Morgan International Staff Writers

Projects should run smoothly, but invariably different forces conspire to create problems and great leaders are defined by how they react to those issues and deal with the problems.

Look for early warning signs.  A crisis rarely just happens, and it is usually apparent that something is going wrong before it happens.  Learn to look for the early signs that something is starting to go wrong – such as team member reports or unexpected results – and prepare a contingency plan.

Respond with quick, effective, decisions. A crisis can be made all the worse by procrastination and poor decisions.  As a project manager, you are expected to be able to make quick decisions, based on your project knowledge, to prevent a crisis becoming disastrous.

Face reality. In a crisis, it can be easy to ignore the hard facts and look for the positives, but that can lose you valuable time.  Learn to look at a crisis for what it is – something going badly wrong - and determine how you are going to remedy it and not learn to live with it.  You can’t make realistic decisions unless you face the reality of a situation!

Manage communications effectively. Others are going to want to know about the crisis, and you need to learn how to impart that knowledge in a salient information only.  Senior managers won’t want waffle – they want to know the facts and what you are going to do about it.  In a serious crisis, you may need to respond to the media too, so be prepared for that.

Manage team ideas. In a crisis, your team are the people who will help you overcome it, but they need careful managing.  Get them together early on and work out ideas using standard tools such as brainstorming to overcome the problem.

Encourage problem solving.  As a project manager one of your main roles is to get the best out of people, and a crisis is the one place where your people have to excel. Usually, your team will look to you for direction but in this instance, you need to encourage them to find the answers within their own areas of expertise.

Be determined.  As a crisis grows, others outside the team may try to take over and pull the project from you.  In these cases, you need to stick to your principles and ensure that you have control.  If you lose governance of the team and the situation, it could turn out much worse.  Be determined and own the problem, right until its conclusion.

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Auditors focus on fraud detection

By Morgan International Writers

Whether they like it or not, auditors are increasingly being expected to focus on fraud detection. In fact it is becoming a responsibility, as in the event that there has been fraud and the auditor does not discover it, there is a significant chance that they will be sued by the company. This applies to companies both small and large. This not only applies to CPAs, but also to internal auditors and government auditors.

One of the ways in which auditors will be seeking to prevent fraud will be through risk management – that is having the appropriate controls in place over financial reporting. Furthermore, auditors are finding themselves dragged into conversations about cyber security as clearly one of the major ways fraudulent activity is carried out is via the internet and access to the corporate network. This again expands the scope of the auditor in a way that is unprecedented.

There have been advances made from a technology perspective which aid fraud detection such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. When there are large volumes of data, computers are very efficient at identifying irregularities. Furthermore they are able to ‘learn’ typical patterns of behaviour and therefore highlight any irregularities which could be fraud.

The good news is that discovery of fraud, and risk management is covered in detail within the CPA. The concept covered as explained within the 2017 course content is:

“Assessing Risks and Planning Further Procedures – Identifying and assessing risks of misstatement due to error or fraud and developing appropriate engagement procedures, including understanding and calculating materiality and considering specific engagement risks, as well as incorporating concepts such as group audits, using the work of the internal audit function and the work of specialists.”

In summary, as the occurrences of fraud not only increase in volume but also in complexity and seriousness, responsibility has fallen to auditors to identify it when it occurs and to put in place processes and procedures to prevent it from happening in the first place. This is a big responsibility, however the CPA syllabus has the requisite content to equip a new accountant with what they need to fulfil their role.

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Received Your CFA Exam Results? Failed? What Next?

By Morgan International Staff Writers

The CFA is widely considered to be Wall Street’s toughest exam. However that does not stop approximately 170,000 students worldwide turning out for it. Less than 50% pass the CFA exam, and therefore there will unfortunately be a lot of people who have not received the result they would have liked. However rather than start to doubt yourself, we are here to give you some top tips of what to do next and to pass next time around!

 

  • Pause and gain perspective

It would be very easy to fall into a depression and tell yourself you are not good enough etc. However failure is built into the system, and it is statistically likely that you will fail an exam at some stage. Many extremely good candidates will fail, but they will also get up, dust themselves off, study again, and pass the next time. So take some time to gather your thoughts and gain some perspective. It is not the end of the world and you can take it again. Of course next time you will be armed with experience of already having sat the exam before.

 

  • Evaluate

One you have taken that bit of time to get over the initial disappointment, consider and evaluate where you think you may have gone wrong. For example were you underprepared on particular topics and over prepared on others? Perhaps you did not sufficiently use the CFA curriculum books, or you did not do enough practice questions. Do the gap analysis and fix it next time.

 

  • Get back on the horse

Book in your resit. This is probably the simplest of the stages but for some the hardest as the fear of failing again can feel overwhelming. Remember you have the benefit of knowing where you went wrong last time! This in itself is invaluable.

 

  • Contact a training provider

It might be that you think you could benefit from some additional help with your exam preparation. There are a number of organisations out there such as Morgan International who have vast experience of helping students such as yourself overcome failure and pass with flying colours.

 

In Summary

Failing an exam is tough, particularly if you have done as much preparation as you feel you could have done. However you must remember that statistically you are more likely to fail than pass. This is of course not an excuse of any kind, but it should allow you to put things into perspective, fill the gaps in your knowledge, and pass a resit.