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My ICAEW CFAB experience: Doan's story

Doan Ba Hai recently became Vietnam’s 2nd ACA Chartered Accountant in July 2020 having chosen the ICAEW CFAB route. Currently working as an Audit Senior at Deloitte & Touche LLP in Singapore, he shares his experiences of taking the next step after ICAEW CFAB, the skills he has acquired and advice for current students.


Tell us about your career journey and what you do day-to-day in your role.

I have more than five years of working experience in financial audit across the South East Asia region, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. Currently I am an Audit Senior at Deloitte LLP, Singapore. In this role, I am the senior-in-charge and manage the audit team daily to perform interim and year end audit of clients, both public and private, in various industries and areas.

Why did you choose to study ICAEW CFAB over other qualifications? 

During my student time, I had to decide which professional qualification I should pursue. In Vietnam, we have CPA Vietnam, but it requires a candidate to have at least four years of working experience before taking the exam, which was not suitable for me at that time. I also heard about other international qualifications, when they approached students like myself by running various marketing efforts, which raised a question mark on my mind about true value they bring to us. After careful consideration, I chose ICAEW CFAB. 

What skills did you acquire from studying ICAEW CFAB that have helped your career aspirations?

By studying ICAEW CFAB, I gained a lot of skills which are necessary for my career aspirations. Some of those came from the long question in the Accounting and Principles of Taxation exams, which requires student to have the ability to analyse, have a broad and overall view on the scenario, and resolve the requirements in the most efficient solution. All of those skills are needed by those who want to work and build their long-term career in the accounting and auditing area.

When you completed ICAEW CFAB, why did you decide to study the ACA and become a chartered accountant? 

To be honest, my first and primary objective when I chose ICAEW was to study and complete ICAEW ACA, not ICAEW CFAB only. Then, when I completed ICAEW CFAB, being the first student who did it in Vietnam, I immediately decided that I would move on and go ahead to the Professional Level exams in ICAEW’s ACA qualification without any hesitation or worries. From that moment, I knew that becoming an ICAEW chartered accountant was one of my top priority in the next couple of years.

What skills did you acquire while studying for the ICAEW CFAB that helped you when studying for the ACA?

I think the skill that help me most when studying for the ACA is time management. Actually, when taking ICAEW CFAB exams, you are required to complete long form questions (in some exams) and various multiple-choice questions within the allocated time, in which you have to read and understand the requirements, analyse and make the computation, then come out with the answer. Therefore, the time pressure is always on. So, without improved time management skills, it is unlikely to finish the exam within the time and receive the pass result. That skill is demanded in students who take ACA exams, in which the requirements are higher.

What are your top tips for ICAEW CFAB students progressing to the ACA?

Nothing more than “to be confident and believe in yourself”. Although the ACA is considered more difficult than ICAEW CFAB, and progressing to the ACA is more challenging, a lot of people do it, then you can do it also. I affirm that there would be some difficulties on that journey, but you will find it to be worth it and well-deserved for all your efforts once your ACA progress is completed.

Do you think there is such a thing as a stereotypical accountant? If so, how do you challenge this stereotype?

I believe that, to some people, they have some stereotypes about accountants. For example, they can think of accountants as a boring and introverted, while the truth is quite different. Actually, we, as a group of accountants and auditors, normally remind our-selves that we “work hard, play hard” by joining various fun activities at the weekend, or making jokes with each other after working hours to relax and recharge our batteries. By doing so, the others can see that accountants are interesting and outgoing, which is not like the way they previous thought.

Do you have any exam tips for students studying their ICAEW CFAB qualification?

Firstly, practicing questions frequently. I believe that nothing is better than practice, as you can deepen your knowledge, close the knowledge gap, and improve your skills. Those all can increase your chance to pass the exams and have invaluable experience to your future career.

Secondly, studying in a group. Obviously, you and your friends, or classmates, can discuss with each other, share the study tips or improve own weaknesses in each person. In my experience, it is likely that all of you can be better together.

Do you have any exam tips for students studying their ACA qualification?

First of all, preparation early and allocate enough time to study. Please do not wait until your study leave, or short time before the exam date to start studying, as it will impact negatively on your chance to gain all necessary knowledge and skills for the exam. In addition, I strongly recommend utilising your free time to study, eg, at night after work, or at the weekend. By concentrating on work and completing the required tasks during working hours, you are able to allocate some time to study further at night, then accelerate your progress.

Secondly, treat the question like the real scenario at work. In other words, do not think of them as technical exams, but instead real life issues that you will need to reply to bosses or clients in your daily workday. By doing so, it will help you find the solutions easier and explain your answer in the more natural and fluent way.

What do you love the most about what you do? 

Working in audit inspires me every day, as I have the chance to work with clients in various industries, in different sizes and stage of development, in which their issues are unlikely to be repeatable. Clearly, sometimes it challenges me a lot, however, it also boosts me to the new height of my knowledge and experience after all.