With a career path that speaks consistency, dedication and staying power, Jason Kazilimani is the epitome of success. He has steadily risen through the ranks to the position of senior partner and chief executive officer of auditing and consulting firm KPMG.
Personal discipline in all areas of life has helped him remain focused, set goals and later achieve those goals in life. An avid reader like his father before him, he absorbed knowledge through the books he read. A discipline he has kept to this day.
We met over lunch at Dulce by Jessie. The restaurant is tucked away in a corner of the Kabulonga suburbs. The ambience is very at home. The multi-cuisine restaurant and bar offers a wide selection of grilled meats and fresh salads and accompaniments. You wouldn’t tell from the taste of the food, but the proprietor and head chef of the restaurant, Jessie Chipindo, is a self-taught chef who has only been in the business for about four years.
In keeping with his principle of healthy eating Jason ordered a Greek salad and tonic water. “A healthy body is as important as a healthy mind. Eating well and exercising regularly is important”
He confessed that he really isn’t a foodie but does enjoy a well cooked meal; one of his favourites being Pepe soup from Nigeria and the British favourite roast beef and potatoes. Zambian vegetables are also a welcome accompaniment to traditional cuisine. We continue our talk over our meal.
His first encounter with KPMG was in 1994 during a routine auditing exercise while he was working with Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines. Obviously impressed with his work, they saw great potential in him and asked him to join their firm. A formal successful interview followed and his career with KPMG started. For more than twenty three years Mr. Kazilimani has worked for KPMG in various offices and capacities, the first one being in the Kitwe office. Some of the highlights of his career are being seconded to the Southampton office in the United Kingdom, making partner in September 2004 and a four-year stint at the KPMG Nigeria office as a partner in the financial Services group.
While he admits it was a learning curve he fortunately didn’t make any glaringly obvious mistakes in his early career. Had he done so perhaps he wouldn’t have gotten this far! “ As a professional you learn all the time. You should not be afraid of making mistakes because that’s the only way you’ll learn. Show me a person who has never made a mistake in their life then that person is dead!”
Lagos on the other hand was more colourful. Despite being a third world country their financial services systems are world class. Lagos proved to be a very vibrant and more advanced market than Zambia. “The people are very assertive and I had to be on top of my game.”
The face of accounting has evolved over the years. “The accountant of nowadays is encouraged to become much more of a team player, encouraged not stay in the background by just providing figures and financial reports but to come to the driving seat and drive the business.” An emerging trend is that accountants serving as chief financial officers are graduating to chief executive officers of companies.
The auditing profession is undergoing a lot of change. It’s coming under a lot of scrutiny which is a good thing because it helps to improve standards. Every once in a while a scandal will break that will make people ask where the accountant or the auditor was. Loopholes in the area of gifts and entertainment leading to inducements will be sealed up by adhering to new standards being set by the International Ethics Standards Board of Accountants. The new standards will be mandatory for all accountants and auditors. Any gift that breaches the auditor’s independence or has material value relative to his or her net worth should be declined.
Generally speaking auditors’ reports are taken more seriously in the private sector. Board of directors would typically do everything they can to make sure that whatever issues have been highlighted are corrected and that people are held accountable and sanctions are actually taken. Conversely, in the public sector there is more work that has to be done. Considering that the staff are very dedicated and do a thorough job to produce reports more action has to be taken to ensure that cases of unretired imprest and misappropriated funds don’t reoccur. The pride of his work is that an auditor always works in the public interest.
He bemoans the lack of patience often portrayed by the younger generation. The get rich quick mentality is a recipe for disaster. Cooking the books and cutting deals usually ends with a bitter taste in the mouth. “I would like them to be a bit more focused.” They have different values and not many would stay with the same organisation for twenty years. The value of hard work is something not to be taken lightly. “It’s good to have aspirations but they should be realistic. “Follow the right channels and be ethical in everything that you do. Keep away from crime and bad relationships.” Associating with the right people increases your chances of being successful. Having good grades at school doesn’t necessary lead to success if ones attitude is bad. Being prayerful and generally grounded also helps people to succeed. Make short term and medium term goals to avoid falling by the wayside.”
The best advice he’s ever received is to save and invest. He has not only invested in assets but in education-his own as well as that of other family members. He would congratulate his younger self for choosing the accounting profession. He believes that he didn’t make any mistake in the career path he chose as it has been fulfilling and rewarding.
The initial decision to pursue a career in law appealed to him and seemed appropriate considering his love of reading and his ability to soak up knowledge like a sponge. The idea however was shelved after a long chat with the managing director of Zambia Railways in Kabwe at that time, Mr. Emmanuel Hachipuka. Hachipuka was one of the first Zambian certified accountants. That informal meeting swung it for Jason.His notion that accounting was just about keeping the books was dispelled. ”A chartered accountant is not just a bookkeeper.” He or she as the case may be, needs to have a hand in the area of management, know his or her way around the economy and be well vested in legal issues. The Accountancy Training College in Chingola gladly accepted his application to study with them after he aced the aptitude tests. His studies were supported by a full scholarship from Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM). One of the requirements of the scholarship was that when school was in recess the break would be spent working at various ZCCM divisions such as Nkana Power Division, which is now known as Copperbelt Energy Corporation.
As president of the Finance and Audit Committee of the Zambian Institute of Chartered Accountants, ZICA, he oversees all things pertaining to the accountancy profession in Zambia. Also active in his spiritual life he served as chairperson of the Lusaka diocese of the Anglican Church. Teaching is something that comes naturally to him and he has taken some lectures at the University of Lusaka and also various continuous professional developments under the auspices of ZICA. He also likes to write. Writing a book, visiting Egypt, India and South America and local Zambian destinations are on his bucket list.