Farouk Ebrahim - I am a visionary leader and I like to show the people that I work with the end game I have in mind

Managing Partner Regional Audit at KPMG

FAROUK EBRAHIM's successful professional career has been based on placing emphasis on personal growth and taking advantage of the opportunities that have presented themselves along his journey. He says that life gives you challenges to which you have to find solutions. "Not sure how it happens but I have found that I constantly reinvent myself and evolve to meet the present circumstances. I have the strength to take on something new and make it work."

Ebrahim says that he draws inspiration from his family whose happiness is crucial to him. He grew up in Stanger, KwaZulu-Natal, which, at the time, only boasted of one chartered accountant.

His started his articles in 1995 with Desai Jadwat Incorporated. After completing his articles, he applied for a job at Albaraka Bank, where he became principle officer in the internal audit department. This position was followed by a short period of time as an internal auditor at Hosken Consolidated Investment Limited.

One particular day when he was reading the newspaper, he came across an advertisement for a position to work in London. He got the job and relocated in August 2001 with the "intention of staying there forever". For him and his wife, as well as their extended families who encouraged their relocation, this international opportunity was sensational.

There, among other service delivery responsibilities, Ebrahim was responsible for auditing some of the most established banks and financial institutions worldwide. The company he worked for in London was Ernst & Young (EY). Working in London was great, however, the family really missed South Africa. The distance was made more poignant after his father passed away and the family decided to return to Durban. But due to a last minute change in a job offer, Ebrahim found himself working for EY in Johannesburg, while his wife and children lived in Durban. This situation, he said, was a challenging period in his life as he missed his family and often drove through the night to spend time with them.

Consequently, his wife and children moved to Johannesburg with the understanding that they would, at some point, return to Durban.

While at EY, Ebrahim was given the audit responsibility for one of the firm's biggest clients, Investec. "I was able to draw from my London experience and also applied project management as one of my key strengths." His ability to drive the auditing process and successfully manage other senior managers and partners saw him making Partner in 2006.

From financial services, he also obtained experience in pharmaceuticals, oil and gas as well as retail and consumer products for a range of major clients.

"From a career perspective, EY was a good experience for me and I was happy working there. However, my wife and children really wanted to go back to Durban. If your family is not happy, you can't be happy," said Ebrahim. He consequently approached KPMG with the intention of relocating to Durban. "I really liked the culture and believed I would fit nicely into the KPMG world." He joined KPMG in 2007.

At KPMG in KZN, Ebrahim headed the Management Consulting division from September 2007 to March 2017. The Management Consulting division has assisted and led to the growth of many clients in the province. Ebrahim also noted the team was less than 10 in 2007, and few years later over 30. "What was interesting about this was when you add the staff of the three main competitors it was less than 30, so KPMG Management Consulting was the biggest and probably the best in KZN."

His career was to take another turn when the audit division asked him to do a strategy session for them. "My passion has always been in audit and, as such, I asked if I could go back to work there. From June 2016, I was allocated 25 percent of my time in Audit. The move into Audit was not easy as legislation had changed I had to go update myself on the many new requirements."

On 1st of November 2016, Ebrahim was appointed Managing Partner Regional Audit while still maintaining the Head of Management Consulting. However by the 1st of March 2017, Ebrahim was able to hand over the Management Consulting responsibilities and focus only on Audit. Ebrahim's professional journey has afforded him the opportunity to see himself as someone who is replaceable, which is essential for sustainability and has also allowed him to change focus with ease.

"Everything that I know I make sure that my team knows and it is documented. I am a visionary leader and I like to show the people that I work with the end game I have in mind. I enjoy developing people's growth through mentoring and make time for this process on a daily basis. I start my day early to get administrative work out of the way. Although I can be a democratic leader, I am flexible and respond to what a situation demands. I try to cover all my bases depending on the time, place and circumstance. At times I have had to be assertive, while in other situations collaborative and inclusive."

In reflecting on his career, Ebrahim concluded, "I don't have a fear of doing things and feel that I have not stopped growing and I always look for growth opportunities. I have learnt that you have to push yourself. My goal now is to ensure that the KPMG Audit Division is the best in KZN."

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