Kamidu Ravindra became a Chartered Accountant in Sri Lanka before completing the ACA. Being a member of ICAEW has opened doors – and fulfilled a long-held ambition to visit London.
It was while studying for a degree in his home country of Sri Lanka that Kamidu Ravindra first heard about Chartered Accountants’ Hall in London – and decided that one day he would go there. “We had a subject in our degree programme called Advanced Accounting Theory, which explained the history of accounting,” he says. “ICAEW is one of the most prestigious professional bodies, with numerous connections within the global accounting arena, and I felt that it would be my honour to visit there as a member of ICAEW. I’ve had to delay for a year and a half, but I’m truly excited to see it in person.”
The opportunity to work around the world was one of the things that drew Kamidu to a career in accountancy. “I wanted to be in a competitive environment and challenge myself in order to achieve my full potential,” he says. “When I was thinking about higher education, it was a choice between accounting, biology or maths. I felt accounting would give me a clear progression: I could work in a multinational company and go up the ladder with a clear direction.”
As soon as he had settled on a career, he decided he wanted to become a member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka), the country’s professional accountancy body and the only organisation in Sri Lanka entitled to award the Chartered Accountant designation. “It is the prestigious qualification in Sri Lanka, and opens up a lot of opportunities,” he explains. “I worked for KPMG Sri Lanka, then KPMG Malta, and now I’m heading to Ernst & Young in London.”
Becoming a chartered accountant was no small feat, though: at the same time as juggling work and studying for his CA Sri Lanka exams, Kamidu was completing his degree in accounting and finance. “In order to become a chartered accountant in Sri Lanka, you need to complete a minimum of three years’ training. But the challenge I faced was that at the time I was an undergraduate student at university,” he explains. “So as well as studying for my degree, I was working in audit and completing my accountancy exams. On weekdays, I would go to work at eight, finish at five, then go to lectures in the evenings. At the weekends I was in chartered accountancy classes from 7am to 8pm. I did that for two or three years. I will forever cherish those days with so much pride.”
Like the ACA, the CA Sri Lanka qualification involves a combination of practical training and exams across three levels. “It’s not easy – they are competitive exams, and the pass rate for the professional stages is quite low, around 10-15%,” says Kamidu. How did he stay motivated, especially working and studying seven days a week? “Quality networking was the key – I was fortunate to be surrounded with supportive family, friends and colleagues. If something went wrong, I knew that there was someone I could lean on,” he says. “I was inspired by my brother, too – he is a chartered accountant – and by my colleagues at KPMG Sri Lanka. Not only that, but I was surrounded by role models in the office every day – all the directors and managers had followed the same path, and I could see that they had achieved the most success in their careers.”
In 2017, Kamidu completed his degree and his CA Sri Lanka training. But he wasn’t done yet. “For two or three years, my life had been all about completing exams,” he says. “As soon as I’d finished the CA Sri Lanka qualification, I wanted to embark on a global qualification. And without doubt, my first choice was the ICAEW ACA.”
He says the CA Sri Lanka pathway opened up a ‘golden opportunity’ – his existing qualification meant that he was exempt from 12 of the 15 ICAEW ACA exams. “And, more importantly, when it came to completing those three exams, two were related to theoretical subjects that I already had the required knowledge for,” he explains. The Case Study presented more of a challenge, and Kamidu sat the final exam three times before qualifying in 2020 with the help of a UK tuition provider.
By that time, he had relocated to Malta, an opportunity that came about while he was working for KPMG Sri Lanka. “I had already mentioned to my managers that my goal was to work in the UK or Ireland,” he says. “I really wanted to improve my soft skills, especially my presentation skills, so I was looking for a new opportunity. KPMG has an internal transfer system, and my managers were very supportive, so I was able to come to KPMG Malta.
“The first few months were quite challenging, being in a new country and a new culture. But almost as soon as I got here I thought, ‘I need to finish my ICAEW and then look for opportunities in the UK.’ There was obviously quite a downturn in the job market in 2020, and I had a couple of offers that couldn’t progress because of the Covid restrictions. Then the opportunity at Ernst & Young came up at the beginning of the year. At the moment I’m specialising in insurance, and London is the best place in Europe to be for that, with Lloyd’s of London. I’m really excited.”
Kamidu has never been to London before, but is relying on his network of fellow chartered accountants and friends to help him get settled. He is also hoping to get more involved with ICAEW, both in terms of social activities and professional development opportunities. “The knowledge matters, but it also matters how we present our knowledge. I believe there’s room for me to improve on those soft skills, and ICAEW will be a really good way for me to do that,” he says.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, Kamidu has supported ICAEW at virtual events helping to promote a new student scheme launched in collaboration with CA Sri Lanka. Students can now obtain membership with both CA Sri Lanka and ICAEW simultaneously, with no additional exams or training required. By sharing his experience of ICAEW exams and the benefits of ICAEW membership, Kamidu has inspired a new cohort of aspiring ICAEW Chartered Accountants.
“For me, the ACA is proof that you can do something remarkable. I always recommend it to other Sri Lankan students: they have a convenient pathway as they can study the CA Sri Lanka and ICAEW subjects simultaneously, so it’s a great opportunity for them,” he says. “Being a member of ICAEW has already opened doors for me: some of the other roles I was considering, in Ireland and Switzerland, were with employers that were only considering ICAEW Chartered Accountants. I’m also thinking about completing an MBA and chartered insurer programme in the future, and the qualification could give me exemptions for some of the modules.”
For now, though, there’s the move to London to focus on – and that visit to Chartered Accountants’ Hall.