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Achieving a professional state of Zen interview with Kabeer Naqvi FCCA

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Name: Kabeer Naqvi FCCA
Job title: COO
Employer: U Microfinance Bank

How did you become a finance professional?

I was born into a military family in Quetta, Pakistan. My early years were spent all over, because my father was posted in different parts of the country. Ultimately we settled down in Karachi where I did my O-levels and further education. I started work very early because I had to fulfill the three years practical experience requirement (PER) that ACCA requires to become a member. Honestly, if I did not have that foundation or understanding that ACCA helped me develop, my work life now would be very different.

How did you get to where you are now?

I have a lot of experience, especially in microfinance. Initially, I worked in various commercial companies in Pakistan, working in internal audit, before joining EY Middle East as a tax consultant. My journey in microfinance began in 2006 when I joined Tameer Microfinance Bank as a manager and went on to become CFO after only five years within the company. In my time with Tameer it became the largest microfinance bank in Pakistan with 45 branches and 65 sales centers and over 150k active loans.

I then got the opportunity to take over Ubank Microfinance and move from Karachi to Islamabad. When I first arrived at Ubank it was going through a very tough phase – we had capital issues, we had losses. We started work and in two years the loan book increased from PKR600 million to PKR9.3 billion, the deposit book increased from a PKR1 billion to PKR13 billion. The losses were wiped out completely – we have very healthy profits now. This has been an incredible journey where the bank grew 1100% and we’re the fastest growing microfinance bank in the country.

I think that I’m finally where I want to be. I don’t think many can achieve such a professional state of Zen and I’m very thankful and grateful. I can comfortably say I do not want to be anywhere else but where I am today.

How has ACCA helped you achieve such results?

Understanding the numbers from my past life as CFO of Tameer and, obviously, my ACCA membership were the key success factors, because I understood the back end so well, which is precisely what was needed to turn this place around. I therefore give a lot of weight to my ACCA training and my life as a finance professional to have delivered what we have.

How do you maintain a good work-life balance?

I like to get up early – actually I don’t have much choice, we have young children so we’re early risers in our house. I like to have breakfast with the family, then arrive at the office before the official start time, make my own coffee, read some news and then get on with the day.

But unwinding is important, so I make sure I go for a long run, I’ve enrolled at a gym, I’ve taken up riding a motorcycle which is an absolute joy. It changes you, when you sit on it, when you’re on the road, it really helps me unwind.

And hitting the road is also an essential part of my job. The line of work we’re in we need to get out there, to see where the rubber meets the road, meet our customers, our people. Every quarter myself and the leadership travel about 5000km across Pakistan.

How can work make the world a better place for future generations?

I think the world would be a better place if people were more empathetic towards one another. And for that I think the human connection is very important. We need to initiate work that will have a multiplier effect, which will live beyond our time and help us develop a better world, one we want to leave behind.

Watch Kabeer’s full interview

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