Shahbaz Mirza CA on changing the CA's mindset to cope with the race to digital
Dynamic, credible and ethical. These are the words Shahbaz Mirza CA uses to describe the ICAS qualification, but they could equally be applied to Mirza himself.
Shahbaz Mirza heads up Digital Transformation at Campbell Dallas, one of Scotland’s leading CA firms and part of the CogitalGroup. It’s a job title for our fast-changing times and one that may not sound familiar.
As Shahbaz explains: “It’s difficult to define the role because it is constantly evolving and changing over time, and because technology is constantly evolving and changing how the business operates. I would say that the role is bringing in key stakeholders in the firm to drive change initiatives that are going to improve the business model, the technology model, and the people model for the firm as a whole.”
Shahbaz believes accountancy is fast approaching its own “Uber moment” when the profession will have to face up to significant disruption as a result of technology. The challenge is how a traditionally “bricks and mortar” business can go digital.
This will require investment, he stresses: “Clients’ expectations are rapidly changing… they’re now expecting on-demand professional services, which hasn’t really happened in the past. So there’s an investment required in IT infrastructure but then also, once your IT is good, your client service also needs to be good, and your people need to be upskilled to cope with the change.”
This means that “digital transformation” is about more than apps – it’s about the people too. As Shahbaz puts it: “If you look at the traditional accountant, they’re very siloed… we’re ensuring that our people learn collaboratively, and through teamwork and problem-solving. That’s not something an accountant typically does. I think if we can focus on people and put people on top of the amazing technology which is coming out, we can crack the code.”
Faith and spirituality is something which is not often spoken about within the natural fabric of society… never mind in the workplace!
Shahbaz grew up in Kilmarnock, south of Glasgow, and had initially thought of pursuing a career in medicine, before seeing the appeal of a career with the CA qualification. At PwC he soon realised that technology is driving and shaping all sectors and moved from audit into management consulting and tech advisory.
On leaving PwC he gained international experience, first in New York and then in Dubai and Bahrain, helping the very traditional Middle Eastern financial sector to adapt to the technology of today.
On returning to the UK, he worked as an independent consultant before finding Campbell Dallas as the ideal match. He says: “I was looking for an entrepreneurial role in a high-growth firm with a drive for innovation and change, and where I would be empowered to lead that change.”
“Putting the heart back into finance” is also central to what motivates Shahbaz. For example, he is passionate about religious education and used his skills to co-found an award-winning educational organisation and app, Ramadan Legacy. The app now has nearly half a million users and has been featured in media from the BBC to Forbes magazine.
As Shahbaz puts it: “Faith and spirituality is something which is not often spoken about within the natural fabric of society… never mind in the workplace! I saw there was a need for user-friendly tools to help young professionals and adults keep their faith strong in a fast-paced world.”
He’s also been very happy to get involved with the #ProudtobeaCA campaign at ICAS and you can see his video online.
Shahbaz says: “Just because you’re a CA doesn’t mean you have to fit into a stereotype… when you go to ICAS events you appreciate how many different types of CAs there are, and what they do, and what they’ve achieved, and that’s really inspiring.”