A future gift of life insurance
Amin Noorani, a former AKU administrator, has made the University the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. To understand why he has done so, we must consider Amin and his wife's, Naila's, background and priorities.
Amin grew up in an upper middle-class neighborhood in Karachi. His parents had received little formal education, and Amin's school was middling at best. Many of his friends attended far better schools and went on to college in the U.S. — something quite unthinkable for Amin, given his family's straitened circumstances. Fortunately, he was quite a fine student and earned his B-Com from one of the better colleges in Karachi, the Government College of Commerce and Economics.
On graduating, Amin became an intern at A.F. Ferguson & Co., the finest accounting firm in Karachi. (The firm is affiliated with Price Waterhouse.) Following his internship, he joined AKU as an outpatient supervisor; while he quite enjoyed being at the University, his father's illness compelled him to join the family business for a time. Once his father recovered, Amin joined one of the Ismaili institutions, the Tariqah and Religious Education Board. Soon after doing so, he passed his final Chartered Accountant (CA) examinations.
In 1990, Amin and Naila moved to Chicago. The indefatigable Amin drove a taxi by day and studied for his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examinations by night. Fortunately, he soon obtained a position in Los Angeles in his field; soon after moving to the city, he passed his CPA examinations. On receiving his accreditation, Amin joined the accounting firm Joseph Herbert & Co. He later became the CFO of a number of fine companies, including Lucky Brand Dungarees (of Liz Claiborne) and XOXO (of Perry Ellis).
Never shying away from a challenge, in 1999 Amin and Naila joined his brother in Toronto. Amin soon earned his CA and CPA accreditations in Canada. In 2007, he created his own accounting firm, ABN Professional Corporation; ABN has now grown to over 100 corporate clients. Amin attributes his success to “grinding [at the work], minding [the clients and quality of the work], and finding [new clients]." By dint of hard work, tenacity, and a highly philosophical, holistic view of life, Amin has come a very long way from the indifferent education of his childhood — a journey as admirable as it is inspirational.
“I have always led a balanced life," observes Amin, “in work and all else. All of my wishes have been fulfilled." Indeed. Naila has been a teacher for over 35 years. Their older daughter, Noureen, is with the pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk; she and her husband, Navaz, a functional medicine physician, have a daughter, Miraal — and a baby girl on the way! Their younger daughter, Nida — who recently earned an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School — has joined the San Francisco office of the renowned consultancy McKinsey & Company.
The whole of their life, Amin and Naila have been involved in volunteer work — with Ismaili Scouts and Ismaili Volunteers, as Ismaili Jamatkhana Mukhi/Mukhiani, as a member of the Aga Khan Council, and so on. One of Amin's passions is raising funds for nonprofit organizations; he has been involved in many fundraising campaigns, such as the World Partnership Walk, the Aga Khan Golden Jubilee Campaign, the Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Campaign, the Jamati Services Fund, and Focus Humanitarian Assistance. To date, Amin has raised an astounding $50 million.
Amin recently became involved with the Great Cycle Challenge of the SickKids Hospital Foundation in Toronto. In spite of having had two major spine surgeries following a horrific car accident — and being in pain much of the time — he rode 1,000 kilometers in the month of August, 2020, raising over $26,000 to aid children battling cancer.
Knowing how greatly Pakistan needs high-quality early childhood education, some years ago Amin, Naila, and two friends founded a Montessori School in Karachi. They have supported the school ever since, with both their own gifts and those they have solicited from others.
Why has this remarkable couple made AKU the beneficiary of their life insurance policy? “We believe very strongly that the best investment in life is in charity. Investing in charity is a win-win: the donor and the charity benefit; you and future generations benefit. No other investment comes close to the return one receives investing in charity." And why AKU? “We have a very special spot in our hearts for the University: we saw firsthand how worthy its work is. We have been involved with Ismaili institutions for much of our lives; all work 100 percent for their cause. Also, we left Pakistan in our early 20s: it is very important to us to contribute to, to aid, the country of our birth."
And why this vehicle, why a life insurance policy? “I have always believed that any decision we make that involves others must be a win-win. We most certainly have a responsibility to our children — but we also have a responsibility to the greater community. Naila and I have, therefore, decided to distribute whatever wealth we have at the end of our lives to all deserving parties.
“One of our assets is our life insurance policy. We will donate the policy to AKU on a 'last-to-die' event. If one of us passes away, the other will be secure: the deceased person's policy will be given to the surviving spouse. On the death of the surviving spouse, the benefit will be transferred to AKU. Because the policy is fully tax deductible, the capital gain on the assets transferred to our children will be reduced by the tax credit our estate will receive from the gift of life insurance. This way everyone — the surviving spouse, our children, and AKU — will benefit: a win-win!
“What," asks Amin simply, “is the most important thing is life? Happiness. And how does one attain true happiness? I truly believe the only way to obtain lasting happiness is to better the lives of others. Doing so is a win-win: the recipient receives the benefit of your giving — and you receive real happiness."
A note on endowed funds
An endowed fund is invested in AKU’s general endowment, which is the investment portfolio of the University. The endowment — and so each of the endowed funds within it — pays out approximately five percent of its value each year, supporting everything the University does — teaching, research, financial aid, and on and on. Quite simply, the payout from the endowment is the lifeblood of AKU: the University could not function without it. The endowment — and the endowed funds within it — will exist as long as AKU exists.
An endowed fund, then, is like a “miniature endowment:” it, too, exists forever, and it, too, pays out five percent or so of its value each year. A donor can name an endowed fund after himself or herself, a family member, or anyone else he or she might wish to honour and memorialise. What is more, an endowed fund grows over time, with the endowment as a whole, thus increasing the good it does.