ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

"If they can, I can too"

Author: ICAEW

Published: 24 May 2022

Role models are crucial in Chartered Accountancy, especially for young Black people, according to student focus group research conducted by ICAEW. Three Black chartered accountants tell their inspirational stories and give their tips for excelling in the profession.

People with a minority background need to see more diverse ACAs to feel like they belong in the Chartered Accountancy profession. As part of its goal of attracting diverse talent, ICAEW has sponsored the second event in ‘The Broadcast’ series focusing on careers in finance and professional services.

The Broadcasts aim to help young Black people succeed in graduate jobs by collaborating with Black students, Black talent and employers to create events, workshops and content. In the first event in the series, ‘Mapping Out Accountancy’- Denise Loeri Fernandez and Kudzai Malunga describe their routes into accountancy, their experiences within the profession, and support available for Black talent.

In the latest Broadcast, ‘If they can, I can too’, three Black Chartered Accountants share their guidance and advice to help students accelerate their careers in finance and accounting. Self-belief and confidence and having visions for the next five years are key tips for those starting out on the ACA journey.

The speakers

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Modupeola Adeyemo completed a BSc in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Greenwich in 2013, then returned to Lagos and worked in asset management. She returned to London three years later, completing her ACA training at PwC in 2021. She now works as a risk and controls specialist at Japanese investment bank MUFG. Outside of work Modupeola has created a platform for mentoring women from Africa and connecting them to global mentors, called Beyond Rubies.

Also Nigerian-born and bred, Biyi Oloko moved with his family to Herefordshire in the UK at the age of 15. At Newcastle University he completed a BA in Economics and Accounting in 1984, and trained with Moores Roland, then based in Brighton, Sussex. His long and varied career has included spells with KPMG, heading up EY’s Lagos practice, and a secondment in Nigeria to work for another state government. He is now director at Stephen Simeon.

As a senior associate at PwC since 2021, Vivian Latigi works in the firm’s risk service line, helping organisations manage their risk and optimise opportunities. She became ACA-qualified in 2021, completing her training at the firm Blinkhorns Accountants. This came after receiving a BSc in Accounting and Finance from the University of Leicester. Vivian lives in London and is originally from Uganda.

Top five tips

When embarking on her journey in Chartered Accountancy, Vivian saw a tweet from Monique Malcolm-Hay, a founder of New Gen Accountants, and a Black woman who had just qualified. “At the time when I joined the field there was low representation,” she says. “I saw her tweet and it boosted my confidence – I found it inspiring.” All three speakers recognise the importance of having people to advise, inspire and champion Black ACA students.

Here are their five tips for success:

  1. Students should get someone who relates to them and can support, guide and advocate for them throughout their training and career – whether a mentor, navigator, career coach or sponsor. “I have mentors to help me navigate through interesting waters,” says Biyi. “Somebody who has experience, who can relate to your skillset, challenges and issues and be willing to help guide you. It’s difficult to get to the top but if you have a hand helping you will get there sooner.” Firms may have mentoring programmes, or students could find mentors through their education provider, for example.
  2. Small practice is a great way to get wide and varied experience from many areas in the accountancy business, and provides a unique variety of skills that can set students apart, particularly if they go onto a bigger firm. “It teaches you a range of skills and you are able to adapt really well to new environments,” Vivian says.
  3. British Black students should also try and get invaluable experience working in an African country, Biyi believes, for experience of “being among people who look like you” and “broadening the mindset”. “It’s worthwhile to get your firm to second you to an African country because you have a reference point,” he says. “If you have doubts about yourself or you need confidence, take some time out and go and work in one of the African countries.”
  4. Before choosing their career path, students should do their research. Getting opportunities to learn about the industry and network with people is crucial, and students shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions to identify if the industry, role or company is one they would enjoy and progress in. “Network,” says Modupeola. “Don’t be shy. I’m learning how to use my voice and I am learning how to be present.” As well as attending networking events or social events within the industry, students can use social media to network with other professionals.
  5. Students should seek out and use any support systems and networks for Black people working within the company or industry – such as ICAEW’s Black Talent Members Community or New Gen Accountants. This will allow them to connect with other people, share stories, get support and know they are working for a firm that is listening to under-represented groups in the workforce. “Handholding totally makes a difference in making you feel more confident and supported in your role,” Modupeola says.

For more information on the work ICAEW is doing for Black talent and in diversity and inclusion, please visit the D&I Hub. Welcome Inclusion is ICAEW’s diversity and inclusion content series.

Diversity and inclusion at ICAEW

Diversity and inclusion is a key pillar of ICAEW's strategy. Discover relevant content, from topical articles on chartered accountancy to professional resources to help you thrive at work.

D&I hub promo