For this Perspective article, an interview has been conducted with the ambassador of the NBA: Said el Ouazizi (RA). The NBA (Koninklijke Nederlandse Beroepsorganisatie voor Accountants - The Royal Netherlands Institute of Chartered Accountants) is the professional body for accountants in the Netherlands.
Could you introduce yourself briefly, and tell us about your previous educations and jobs?
My name is Said el Ouazizi, 39 years old, I am a Register Accountant (RA) and currently working as internal auditor at the NN Group. I have been to the former HES (Hogere Economische School), now part of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, to follow the AA accountant program. After the HES, I joined the Erasmus University do the RA variant.
I started my professional career at the ING Group as an auditor, where I saw several business units as an internal auditor, such as the ING Bank and then I made the switch to the NN Group, the insurance branch of the former ING. I was part of the Dutch insurer, but have also been abroad. Furthermore, I am specialized in data analytics and currently specializing myself in anti-fraud, my goal is to combine both things to be even more effective in fighting fraud.
What is the NBA and how does your work as an ambassador look like?
The NBA is the professional body for accountants in the Netherlands. If you want to be registered as an accountant, you will be registered in the register that is being maintained by the NBA. About 22,000 accountants are registered at the NBA, both AA and RA. The NBA is our advocate, to ensure quality about education: how does the curriculum look like? What kind of theoretical knowledge do the people need to have before they can call themselves an accountant? The NBA also decides the regulations and guidelines, quality is very important to us.
My job is to promote accountancy at schools and universities, as there are many prejudices about the work of an accountant. I do this through practical guest lectures at schools, to give students an idea what it means to be an accountant. Accountancy is not just working on invoices somewhere in the attic, but real people work: you are THE person to advise an entrepreneur how to make and keep a company financially healthy.
How did you end up at his position?
I was already working for a couple of years. Being the ambassador is a side job, as my full time job is internal auditor at NN Group. I saw there was an option to become an ambassador on the NBA’s website.
I enjoy it to be in front of a classroom and tell about my work: why I like it and other people should consider it as well. Currently I am about 4-5 years the ambassador and still love it and also talking about it. The fundament you create as an accountant can definitely help you in your future life, also if you consider a career change. During your work as an accountant you learn how to shape an organization, how to evaluate it and you get know-how about the law. This is a great base, no matter if you stay in the accountancy world or not.
What is the most special thing of your work?
One of the most special elements of my work is that you make organizations better! A CEO/CFO, who is daily busy with the firm, might not see everything. You, as an auditor/reviewer, can help them and improve the organization with advice about the processes. I also enjoy seeing different organizations, with different psychologies everywhere. This also leads to a continuous development for you as a person. As an accountant you can see the entire spectrum of the company’s activities, there is never a dull moment.
Talking about dull moments, in a recent article I read that the young accountants experience a huge workload, what is your opinion on this? Would are potential consequences?
I am worried about that as well, it is not a nice environment. Most of the time it is at the Big Four, for the external accountants. Budgets are under pressure: you need to do more work in less time. As a young professional who just started as an accountant, is it quite difficult to find the balance, and then they might say: “I do not like it anymore, I work 60-80 hours a week, only running through the debtors, that kind of work, I dislike this work.” It is a pity, and the responsibility is at the firm.
Burnouts or mistakes in the work can take place. You won’t experience the importance of your work, as you are only running from A to B to meet the deadlines. You need to keep learning, but with a high workload are you only running through a checklist at your customers and looks more like working by a conveyor belt…
What is the NBA doing with this information?
We are trying to interest young people for the profession. But if we are promoting that being an accountant is awesome, and articles like this show a high workload, that leads to less fun, we need to react on it. How are we going to solve this all together? It is no news that budgets are under pressure and that there are deadlines, but now we see the effects. Tackling this issue is a joint responsibility. The firms, but also for us: how can it be solved, but not by letting the accountants work for 80 hours a week?
It is something that you cannot solve in one day. The voices saying it is not nice anymore, are becoming louder and louder, which is something to pay attention to, as it is a really nice profession, working on very useful things. There should be a work-life balance, with room for development instead of only running through the checklist with limited time.
How does the future of accountancy look like, with respect to all the technological advancements?
Every industry is subject to technological advancement. I see it as opportunities, especially for the SME firms, the AA-accountants. Bookkeeping programs are already reducing the workload, this creates a space to actually help the firms with your advice. There is more time to spar with the entrepreneur, which is the best part for the well-educated accountant. You did not go to class for years to enter invoices.
There is also no need to worry about the future of your work. Accountancy will survive, no matter the economy. Furthermore, there is even a shortage right now (which also is a reason for the current higher workload). Nevertheless, it has a bright future, and you are educated broadly and specialized.
What is your advice to students interested in accountancy? What are the prerequisites?
My advice is to not exclude accountancy immediately. Think about the work of an accountant. How do you learn about the job of an accountant? Get in contact with one! The NBA has information at www.accountantworden.nl, and you can request a guest lecture. Start thinking about it as soon as you have all the information.
- Accountancy is not only numbers, but affinity is definitely needed: each transaction ultimately is reflected in the financial statements!
- Analytically strong
- Strong communication skills - you are the one in contact with the entrepreneur and advise the steps to take
- Also important to listen! What is it really about? Be able to seperate the essentials from side issues
- Able to read between the lines. Private life of entrepreneur is also playing a part in the company. Be able to support the entrepreneur, to keep his company healthy.