Jay Chander: What I love about being a CA in Australia
Originally intending to become a dentist, three-decade ICAS member Jay Chander CA instead took off on an international accounting and business career.
By the time he was 18, Jay Chander had lived and studied in India, Singapore and England. He originally targeted dentistry at university, but that ended quickly. Then he found his career calling and, several years later, his new hometown - Sydney.
Having now been a full member of ICAS for over three decades (and his relationships with ICAS President Jim Pettigrew and Chief Executive Anton Colella are even longer!), Jay has enjoyed a career that has spanned the globe.
Currently a partner at Kaden Boriss Sydney, leading the risk advisory, internal audit and business consultancy practice, his career has included executive positions within leading multinational organisations.
Jay’s work has influenced methodologies and principles within major government bodies and private organisations. His book ‘The Auditing Roadmap: A Simple Guide to the Auditing Process’ is used by the Audit Office of NSW, is a recommended text for Chartered Accountant students and is prescribed reading for the Master of Professional Accounting at Australian National University.
Few CAs can claim such a level of expertise and influence. But Jay says the Australian work environment makes it possible for motivated and ambitious CAs to shoot for the stars.
What happened to your dentistry career?
I had studied high school in Chennai then accepted a scholarship to do my A-levels in Bristol. I went on from there to study Dentistry and lasted three weeks! During my first visit to a dental hospital it all got too much for me. As a familiarisation exercise, we had to examine the mouths of patients for whom dental hygiene was obviously not a priority. I was violently ill and realised it was not for me.
How did you leap from dentistry to accounting?
I was offered a place at the University of Stirling to do some strange subjects like Accountancy, Economics, Business Law and Computing. As unfamiliar as that was to me at the time, it seemed infinitely preferable to dentistry, and then I saw what Stirling had to offer - it had the most stunning campus in all of Europe. There was a castle on campus surrounded by beautiful hills. I thought that's it, I'm doing this degree!
Jay and his wife, Linda
And you made a good friend on campus?
This was when I first met a young Anton Colella (Chief Executive of ICAS). On one occasion as we were walking across a bridge to the campus Anton introduced himself. We hit it off and got on really well and have known each other since then. That is another major advantage of being a member of ICAS. It is a forum where you develop relationships and strengthen them over the years by remaining in touch. It was a pleasure to meet up again with Anton and Jim in Sydney last year. The last time I met up with Jim was in 1984.
Where did your career begin?
In 1980 I joined Ernst & Young in Dundee, but back then it was called Arthur Young McLelland and Moores. Once again, as destiny would have it, this is when I first met Jim Pettigrew. We both started on the same day. After my university degree I asked experts about the best accounting qualification.
I was told to get a Chartered Accountancy qualification. Then I asked which was the best institute. I was told the Scottish Institute was the oldest and reputed to be the best. So I did my studies in Edinburgh and worked in Dundee. I enrolled in 1980 and qualified in 1984.
Where did your career take you?
I came to Sydney in 1986 with Ernst & Young. I travelled a great deal for work, all over Asia, America, the UK and around Australia. It was a roving, troubleshooting, business consulting role. But I was based in Sydney.
Where is home, now?
Because I have lived in different parts of the world - in Sri Lanka, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Scotland, England and Australia - I feel I have a home wherever I go. I can walk the streets and be a local. But my real home is Sydney with my wife Linda, who’s from Scotland, and our twins, Ronan and Caitlin.
Why did you choose to stay in Australia?
I found it was a very unique place. It is a real blend of all the countries I have lived in and experienced. It has a very multicultural environment. And I love the openness and the weather. I love everything about it.
Is the local business market unique?
Everything has globalised these days, but what I have found in Australia is that we can lose the ‘bean counter’ mantle. Often people only see accountants as bean counters. To me that is just so short sighted. At ICAS we're not groomed to be clones - we are groomed to be individuals.
In Australia more than anywhere else you can become a trusted partner within a business. You have the option to work across a company and to add value in all aspects of the business. There is a variety of areas where a CA will find opportunities in Australia, and ICAS members are very strongly valued. The brand is well respected in Australia.
What opportunities does the Australian market offer to young CAs?
Young CAs can have a great lifestyle as well as wonderful professional challenges. I don't want people to think this is a holiday destination. Generally I have found that in Australia we work longer hours and we work harder. The culture is to work hard and to play hard. Australia presents a variety of industries and businesses within which there are several challenging roles. So it is a challenging and rewarding environment for an ambitious, young CA.