Numair, 14, sets record as island’s youngest accountant
In March, 14-year-old Numair Khan passed his final exam and qualified as a chartered certified accountant.
He is the second youngest person in the world to achieve the designation. The record holder was also 14, but two months younger than Numair was when he completed the 17 gruelling exams.
Both Numair and his father Muhammad, an accountant and partner at Deloitte, believe it’s a goal that’s within the reach of every student in Bermuda.
“Most people tend to underestimate themselves,” the teenager said. “They limit themselves to 50 per cent or 60 per cent but to be honest, if you push yourself it’s not as hard as it seems. You realise you can do a lot more than you think you can. I think everybody can do it; everybody has the potential.”
The Khans moved to the island from Pakistan when Numair was two years old. Both he and his now 16-year-old sister Unaysah, attended Clara Muhammad School. According to Mr Khan, as Muslims he and his wife Samina were impressed that it was an Islamic school with “great loving, committed teachers, a small group and very focused”.
In addition to their school work Numair and his sister were given lessons at home. As a result, he was able to complete elementary school a year early.
The Khans considered Warwick Academy and Saltus as next steps and also began investigating home schooling as an option for Numair and his sister.
“We were already doing quite a few things on a supplementary basis,” Mr Khan said. “He finished his elementary school one year early. We looked around for middle school options but as in P6 he was doing almost Grade 8 or so in maths. We said, ‘Why don’t we try home schooling and see how it goes for a couple of months? If we have to, we can always enrol him in school.’”
What the Khans also decided was to hone in on Numair and Unaysah’s career interests rather than have them study the range of subjects traditionally offered in schools. Other than maths and English their only focus is the 600-page Qur’an, which Numair has memorised in Arabic.
An avid tennis player, he has also earned a red/black belt in Taekwondo. In 2017 he came second in the America’s Cup Endeavour Blokart Regatta and was on the winning team in the CodeBlue WSBC debate programme in 2019.
Said Mr Khan: “We had a career brainstorming session with them: what do you want to achieve in life? They did research on various careers. Once they picked up accountancy as their probable target goal, they researched again for various options and backtracked to see what was required on each pathway. To be an ACCA qualified accountant, there is no minimum requirement or education.
“In the ACCA pathway there are 17 exams. It’s a long journey – finance, accounting, economics and taxation and many other things. I encouraged them to prepare and attempt the first exam: ‘If you find it interesting you can move forward. Let’s see how you feel about it for yourself, if this is something you want to do.’”
Numair and Unaysah sat their first exam at the Bermuda College where people were surprised to see candidates who were so young.
“In the beginning, the first few exams are on demand. Numair was 11 years old, my daughter was 13 years old and the next student was 28 years old,” Mr Khan said.
“They appeared in the same exam and they both passed. That gave them confidence to study for the next exam right away.”
That they were so young helped with their attitude towards what some might consider a monumental task, Numair said.
“When you’re young you don’t tend to over think. When you’re that young you’re just like OK, my parents are telling me this and so far everything that they’ve told me has helped me or been beneficial for me so I’m going to do it. And I think that was the right choice.”
Also helpful was that his parents had always insisted that time should not be wasted at home.
“My wife is a doctor, I’m an accountant, we’re professionals,” Mr Khan said. “We know the value of time and are really focused. We want to give them the best. So we try to really see what they can do and we push and encourage them.
“There should be a purpose to everything. That’s what our religion [tells us] – we are a purposeful creation.”
From prayers at dawn until bedtime, every hour is “structured” with exercise, games, work and study.
“There are targets,” Mr Khan said. “And then we give them [rewards]. Paddle boarding, decorating fairy houses in the yard, constructing bunny hutches with [me], python coding, creative time, etc are just a few of the things they have come up to do during their ‘breaks or free time’ of the day. There shouldn’t be any hour of the day [where they are saying] I don’t know what I’m doing. There should be a purpose of everything.”
Once they decided to move forward with the ACCA programme, Numair and Unaysah, who still has three papers to complete, were limited in how fast they could progress.
“You can do exams in Bermuda but they do not conduct them on a regular basis,” said Mr Khan. “Exams are supposed to be every quarter. Bermuda College, the arrangement they have, they are doing it only on a half-yearly basis.”
On one occasion the family travelled to New York to “make up the time” but sat most of the exams here, which added an “extra three to six months” to the process.
Through a partnership between ACCA and Oxford Brookes University, successful students become eligible for a bachelor’s degree in accounting and administration from the British school.
For Numair to receive his, he has to write a thesis and submit it before the November deadline.
“I would like to thank God for all achievements in my life,” he said. “Then, my mom and my dad who gave me all the motivation, love and support each step of the way. My older sister Unaysah, who's been my study partner, my best friend and my emotional support and then my younger siblings Hasan and Ayra, who are my other best pals.
“Also I would like to thank my elementary schoolteacher [who] was also the principal of the school, Zakiyyah Shakir. [She] instilled in us high values and setting higher standards and goals.”
Actuarial science is his end goal. The teenager is hopeful he will qualify as an actuary in four years’ time. At the moment he is studying calculus to get up to speed.
“There are 12 exams. I think the idea is before he turns 16 he’ll have done half of them,” Mr Khan said.
His seven-year-old and nine-year-old are also home-schooled and are studying maths at the college level. He insists that his children do not have any special talents but are simply disciplined in their work.
“In the beginning I was not sure that they would have the mental aptitude to understand corporate law and taxation and financial management and performance management and management accounting and financial reporting – all these complicated things,” he said.
“What you need is proper guidance, a very strong commitment, some perseverance and hard work. I think if you have that discipline in life, if you work hard towards things, you can certainly do it. Everybody can do it. You just have to bring about your circumstances accordingly and you have to really be persistent on your course. Any child [can do what ours have done] if any parent really gave full time and really gave their best.”