Sexism, Racism And Religious Chauvinism Have All Been Part Of My Professional Career

Dr Nur Bano Ali is a practising Accountant and Business Advisor and has been a part of the Accountancy profession for 30 years. She is the Managing Partner of Aliz
06 Dec 2014 00:20
Sexism, Racism And Religious Chauvinism Have All Been Part Of My Professional Career
Women in Business president Nur Bano Ali. Photo: Maraia Vula

Dr Nur Bano Ali is a practising Accountant and Business Advisor and has been a part of the Accountancy profession for 30 years.

She is the Managing Partner of Aliz Pacific,  (an internationally affiliated) one of Fiji’s most respected Chartered Accounting and Business Advisory firms, working locally and internationally.

She holds a PhD from the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, the subject matter of which was the Fiji Development Bank and its effectiveness as a development institute in Fiji.

She is one of Fiji’s most prominent business people and is a representative of private sector interests through her role as President of the Suva Chamber of Commerce and Industry  (the Capital City, and largest such organisation in Fiji).

Her knowledge, skills and qualification allow her to operate in local, regional and international circumstances with great ease, mediating between international and local stakeholders to successfully manage their interest and expectations.

She is the current chairperson of the South Pacific Stock Exchange.

Why did you decide to become a chartered accountant?

My decision to become an accountant happened while waiting in the enrolment queue at USP. I did not know what degree to pursue, but I knew I wanted to be in business. So I chose what I thought at the time would lead to that.

This was because I grew up in business and hence the inclination.

My grandfather and grandmother, followed then by my parents, founded and owned a pioneer bus business and cinema in Sigatoka (my home town). I had never taken any book-keeping or Accounting subjects in high school. In fact I did not even take arts subjects. I was more of a Chemistry achiever.

So Accounting was totally alien to me other than the record keeping I saw with my father’s business.  My focus has always been based on commercial principles.

It was easy enough to pick it up and once I enrolled in my undergraduate degree I just kept going.

My father in supporting my decision said to me just always remember to debit the giver and credit the receiver.  Not bad huh!!

I graduated in 1980 and then began my working life in early 1981 at PriceWaterhouse. Then within two years I joined Coopers and Lybrand. They were two separate entities then.

How has your experience been with the journey in this profession?

The first few years were boring as I was doing basic bookkeeping work and this can become very mundane and uninteresting.

Then once I ventured into my own business in 1984 after obtaining my Certificate of Public Practice (I was the first female and youngest person to achieve this) it became more interesting.  Membership to the Institute of Accountants is necessary if you want to work in or operate as an Accounting and Business advisory firm. Such firms also provide tax advice and do tax related advisory  work as well.

Other more specialised services are business structural advise, business planning, budgeting and financial planning are also an integral party of our business just like any other Accounting firm.

Here again my exposure to my family’s business proved to be extremely beneficial and put the spark into the boring business of bookkeeping.

I now focus mainly on large scale business consultancy, and am happy to say that I am the most highly-qualified member of the profession locally (having obtained my PhD in 1999), and thus am highly sought after for my special skills and abilities.

What would your advice be to prospective accountants?

The Accounting Profession is a very wide occupation and has evolved a lot to now becoming a business advisory service which includes accounting as opposed to the traditional services of bookkeeping and tax returns. Today an Accountant is necessarily a partner in a clients business and serves as a sounding board and advisor working alongside the business owners and management to support the growth of the business

Therefore to be an Accountant today one must always have a sharp and constant  learning focus.

How many years have you been in this accounting profession?

Too many years; 31 years this year.  At this stage I have already evolved out of the basic accounting and auditing to becoming a high level advisor and facilitator of business re-structures, re-engineering, advisor to new set ups.

Then of course I have my own investment portfolios.

What does it take to be successful in this career/field?

A very sharp focus and total commitment to delivering excellent service to the many and varied clients.

In Fiji especially one has to be an across the board business and corporate advisor to remain relevant and useful to the people who are your customers.

Indeed it should be a personal philosophy in life to keep teaching yourself otherwise you become outdated. There are too many outdated; and I call them people with expired shelf lives around.

What are challenges you have faced in your career?

– Being a woman

– Being an “Indo-Fijian “Woman and

– Being a “Muslim” woman

So, sexism, racism and religious chauvinism have all been part of my whole business and professional career.

Right from the start of my career and until today I have had to deal with and indeed fight these three forms of discrimination hurled against me.

These three forms of relegation are still very much alive in our Country and I am sad to say this.

In my earlier years of business this was occupying me a lot and wasted a lot of my time dealing with the most unnecessary situations that were created because of this.

But being the fighter and positive person that I am and having developed a very strong wall around me to ward this off,  I manage   quite easily now.

Not only that I also talk to many women and men now and in telling them my story am hoping to assist them to become strong and change attitudes as well.

Another principle in my life is facing the challenges head on as I have a strong conviction in “what does not kill you makes you stronger”. There are always bad people out there, but if you don’t pay attention to them they mean nothing.

Women or men with a strong  sense of conviction and resolve in fairly based principles of conduct and values whether professional  or personal situations,  will and I say this with absolutely no doubt in my mind will come out on top and do well and live better lives.

One should not compromise on their values. If you do this you sell yourself short and are undermining your own performance

The negative reports about you recently – what do you think is behind this?

I think the three discriminatory dimensions are at play here. You see, unfortunately it is very difficult for people in Fiji see other people succeed.

Success is always treated with suspicion. I have in business for 31 years, I have been incredibly successful for that entire time and have gone from strength to strength.

There have been and always will be people who will attack me and try to ruin my success, but these are only a small number and therefore miniscule.

They don’t matter and as I said there are always “bad” and “ugly” people around and the idea is to give them no importance at all.

My mother and father preached honesty above all else, so if I am honest in my dealings I have nothing to fear. That is why I am fearless.

All these people who talk do so because they are afraid. I am an Indo-Fijian, Muslim woman, a proud Fijian, a prominent figure (and indeed I have been for more than 2 decades now), so of course these sorts of people will want to talk about me.

I make them uncomfortable because based on who I am, and based on their own sexism, racism and religious chauvinism, I should not be who I am, I should not be public. I welcome their fear and challenge them to out-do me and work the hours I do.

I always preach to my staff to work hard and focus on the facts so you become honest and steadfast and win therefore.

What are you going to do about it?

That information is now with my lawyers so I cannot discuss that here.

As for the little bits and pieces on Facebook and on he the waste time blogs – I would like to ask these people to get jobs and get off the internet.

Be productive members of our nation, be true patriots and true Fijians and do some work for our country. Stop being keyboard warriors. No one cares. You’re really just talking to yourself.

We are always looking for promising and successful business stories to tell our readers. If you know someone who has something interesting to tell readers through HARD TALK, do send an email to:

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