School sports star now shining in business

School sports star now shining in business

After the glory of a glittering sporting career at QE and the trials of a period when he had to take over the family business during his father’s terminal illness, Asif Ahmed has gone on to build up a thriving firm of accountants. He is now so well-regarded for his entrepreneurial expertise that he advises the Government on start-ups.

Asif (OE 1997–2004) co-founded London and Essex-based Richmond Gatehouse LLP in 2012. Five short years later, it provides professional services to a raft of industries – property, construction, healthcare and leisure – including a number of household names. Asif himself specialises in advising early-stage technology businesses, a sector in which the practice has developed a strong foothold.

“The firm has really been built with our bare hands and we have grown from one room with one employee to three offices with a strong team of professionals. We’ve even been fortunate enough to provide work experience to some QE boys.”

Drawing on his experience as both entrepreneur and professional advisor, Asif enjoys helping companies that will influence “how the next generation work and play. It is exciting to be able to shape their growth in some small way.”

Earlier this month, Asif returned to QE to share his reflections on his career and life with current pupils.

Many of his memories of the School centre around sport. Asif was the only member of his year to have triple full colours. He played cricket for the First XI and for Middlesex CCC, rugby for the First XV and for Hertfordshire RFU, and he was in the Eton Fives First Pair.

“As a distinctly average academic student (relative to my peers!), sport helped me find my place to build all my core skills and confidence. I must credit Mr [David] Maughan and Mr [Tim] Bennett for being mentors and providing a superb infrastructure of discipline, with a focus on encouragement.”

He remembers long Saturday-morning drives to rugby matches in the minibuses, which were dubbed Q or M after their registration plates. “Our First XV commanded a lot of respect amongst our competitor schools: at the time I started playing for the First XV, I think we had four or five international players!” Another sporting memory is “going for cross-country runs in Barnet’s very own Bermuda triangle – the ‘elephant dip’.”

While Asif’s first-form tutor, Victoria Maule, started at QE on the same day he did (she is now the Assistant Head of English), Headmaster Eamonn Harris was coming towards the end of his 15 years at the helm.

“As one of the last year groups to enter the School under Mr Harris’s tenure, I remember there being a particularly strong focus on discipline, from the shine on your shoes to the quiff on your head. You used to think twice about how you were going to walk through the corridor, to ensure you looked the part. It is amazing, however, that to this day there isn’t a Sunday night when I won’t polish my shoes.

“I remember learning that, by mid-morning, kids will queue at a hole in the wall (the tuck shop) for absurd lengths of time to buy what can only be described as a pizza on half a baguette. I also learned that putting literally anything on chips in the Refectory could constitute lunch.

“I was a School Lieutenant, which I thought was great, until my brother went on to be School Captain.” Omair Ahmed (OE 2001–2008) was School Captain in 2007; he attended this term’s Old Elizabethans Association dinner as one of the group of ten-year leavers.

After A-levels, Asif went on to read Management Studies at Nottingham University. He secured a second-year summer internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers and a conditional offer to join the Big Four firm after graduation.

“I joined their mergers & acquisitions team in London and later worked in Jersey, Channel Islands, for a brief stint, before my father’s terminal illness forced me to unexpectedly resign and join his small accountancy practice.”

He completed his ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ chartered accountancy qualification) and began stabilising the business. (It was closed on his father’s passing.)

“This provided the foundation to go on and establish Richmond Gatehouse LLP with my co-founder, Mubasher Ali, whom I met through a mutual acquaintance. We resonated over our like-mindedness, ultimately deciding to join forces and name the firm after the area we were sat in when we made the decision.

“Because of this experience, I was asked to serve on the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills’ Entrepreneurs’ Forum and, latterly, also on the Office of Tax Simplification’s Consultative Committee within the Treasury, advising on taxation matters affecting start-ups. It is particularly gratifying to see matters you have provided input on make their way to legislation.”

Married to Najah, a doctor within the NHS, Asif is a devoted family man, with a five-year-old daughter and baby son, aged two. He pays tribute both to his wife, for her “unwavering support during the particularly uncertain early years of my career”, and to the tenacity his mother evinced from his early childhood in providing both practical and emotional support to him and his brother in all their academic and extra-curricular interests.  “She was unfalteringly supportive, providing us with the confidence to pursue all of our ambitions and ultimately become the individuals we are today. As a parent, this is a lesson I hope to take forward with my children, as it is clear to me that a good school can only build on the foundations being set for you at home.”