Ebrahim Sidat

CEO, Ernst & Young / Ford Rhodes-Sidat Hyder

By Wali Zahid 12.05.2011

About Ebrahim

Ebrahim Sidat is a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) having qualified in 1969. He has recently retired as the Country Managing Partner and Chief Executive of Ernst & Young Ford Rhodes Sidat Hyder (Ernst & Young). the position he held for over 40 years since inception of the Firm.

Sidat was elected twice as President of ICAP (1989-90 and 1990-91) and served as a member of the Institute's National Council from 1975 to 1993.

He was elected as the President of the South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) for the 1994 term.

He chaired the Task Force and coordinated with SECP for developing the first Code of Corporate Governance (CCG) in Pakistan in 2002 and again Chaired another Task Force in 2012 of the Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance (PICG) resulting in the Revised CCG 2012 which is currently in force.

He continues to serve, for over a decade, as a member of the Sharia’h Board of the State Bank of Pakistan. He was asked to present his views on Islamic banking by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (Shariah Appellate Bench), which rendered its historical judgement on the prohibition of Riba.

Your one-sentence description of yourself?

Objectives-oriented. Aggressive pursuer. Hard task-master. Take time in decision making.

Your first leadership opportunity? When? What was it?

When I finished my chartered accountancy at age 21, left the Fergusons offer (the biggest CA body in country) and started my own firm.

Were you ready for it? (H, M, L, no)

Yes. High.

What was your readiness factor? (luck, will, skill, network)

Driven by ambition with clarity on what I wanted to do in life. Plus, I already had recognition for my skillset as a CA while in Fergusons training.

How did you perform then? On a 1-5 scale?

Between 3-5. It was a robust start. Some multinational clients joined us in the first year. We had envisioned a firm which would have boardroom recognition, and not just another firm.

Your all-time most significant leadership opportunity so far (if different from this)?

I carried on in the same role with a variety of challenges over this 40-year period. Running a perpetually-growing organisation with 6.5-day work week, speaking at industry conferences, teaching at ICAP and practice was a tall order. I had no work-life balance.

Your ideal, future leadership opportunity?

It will remain the same. In the ’90s, a cabinet minister called me to become the chairman of SECP, which I declined.

Is it likely to happen in your remaining work years?

InshaAllah. I have been able to set up an institution, which will go beyond my lifetime.

Today in your current role: Where are you on Wali’s Will-Skill Matrix (high, medium, low)?

High will. High skill.

What drives you? (one-word driver)

Professional recognition.

Candidly speaking, have you been happy about growth numbers in the past decade?


In an uncertain and ambiguous world, how can you make sure that your plans are achievable?

By changing your management goals. By steering it through ebbs and flows.

How easy or difficult is it to manage the Gen Y/Millennials (people born after 1982)?

We have all three generations at work at EY here – boomers, Gen X, Gen Y. We have 12 per cent of female population in our work. On the upside, the Gen Y is bright, full of ambition and highly IT literate. On the downside, their work ethics and values have eroded. They want to achieve too much in too little time. Want to leave early and cannot put hours in work. The challenge is: you need to start from the scratch in order to have shared values.

Your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? In your industry? In your organisation?

I want to have a good recall: a man of commitment with highest level of ethics, who set up this institution to be perpetuated.

What would you want to see in your leader (i.e. your leader to do)?

A role model. Someone who practices EY values both at work and in life.

Your learning: where do you turn to for learning – both daily routine, and time-off for courses?

I am an avid reader and a self-learner. Also attend EY conferences. Some online learning.

Are there sufficient opportunities for C-level learning here in Pakistan or in the region?

Doubt it!

Learning and development of your team – what opportunities are available here? Your rating of these programmes? (1-5 scale)

We send our staff to EY global and regional training and developmental courses. There are mandatory CPD opportunities and ICAP requirements. Secondments in the region are our biggest development learning opportunity.

What would you want different about these programmes?

We want to send more people to these overseas programmes, but budgetary constraints and foreign exchange are a real obstacle.

What are three core competencies or skill areas you would want your team to develop for this year? Next three years?

For my 7/8 direct-report practice management group: Man (people) management skills. Consistency/compliance skills between regulators and EY practices. Able to bind organisation together.

What is your biggest time eater at work?

Man management because of regulatory framework. A lot of mediation!

Information overload: What is your coping mechanism?

I always have been an avid reader. I use discretion and am selective in what I read. Sometimes, may feel fatigued by overload. (Our library has every issue of Business Recorder archived!)

Do you have a stop-to-do list?

I avoid unnecessary travel (delegate it). I detest dinners and attending parties.

How can we give up control (and do more empowering)?

I am a great delegator. Things only come to me for a second opinion. Or, at times, I am involved where a client insists on my presence (to charm them?).

What kind of personal or social networks do you use to enhance your presence and the chances for success?

I am member of several industry bodies and past president of ICAP.

Faith? Is faith an inspiration for you?

Very huge. Very primary.

Ever thought that how could the Prophet (saw)’s personality be a guiding factor for you in doing business, making decisions, empowering others? If yes, in what ways?

The Prophet (saw) respected everyone. He was an honest man, did not lie and kept promises at all costs. He had humility and consideration for others. I use these values at work and in personal life. I use multisource 360 degree feedback on how we are living these values.

CEO derailment? Have you seen colleagues derailing/going down? What was the cause?


Any other cause of CEO derailment in our part of the world?

Greed. Ego.

Your messages to new generation of leaders: What leads to success?

Hard work. Honesty. Dedication to your goals.

Your messages to new generation of leaders: Can you create your own luck? How?

Your destiny is already carved. Your job is to believe in God, make the effort and leave the rest to Allah.