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CIMA to vote on collaboration to become the world’s largest professional accounting body

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Myriam Madden, the outgoing president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), says the institute’s busy international programme continues to elevate the importance of management accounting. Madden, whose tenure is coming to an end, notes that CIMA is increasing the value of the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation, and finding new ways to serve the interests of its members. This involves the next stage of a joint venture proposal to join forces with the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), a move which will establish the world’s largest professional accounting body. Further collaboration between CIMA and AICPA is set to build on the partnership which jointly launched the CGMA designation in 2012.

Madden, who is based in the UK, says the proposed union is designed to significantly advance the global management accounting profession. It will also provide a range of benefits to members, and make sure the profession remains vibrant and relevant in the years to come. A key goal is to future-proof the management accounting profession to meet the needs of members and the global business community.

Students appreciate the flexibility, as it allows them to plan, study, and make an assessment even though they are busy
Myriam Madden, the outgoing president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

But Madden stresses that, as CIMA is a membership body, it will be left up to its members to decide if the institute should integrate with AICPA. “Although the CIMA constitution doesn’t require it for us to make a decision, we believe it is absolutely right that our members, through their voting rights, should decide which direction we should take,” says Madden.  Voting ends on 16 June.

If the collaboration proposal is approved by members, the new Association will represent about 600,000 members and students. CIMA is currently the world’s largest professional body of management accountants, with 227,000 members and students in 176 countries. “For almost 100 years, CIMA has been willing to adapt and take the necessary steps to meet the changing needs of global business and our students, and to enable the professional development of our members,’’ says Madden. “We have members working in all sectors, in businesses of all sizes.” Madden notes that CIMA has members working in SMEs as well as in multinationals, notably HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, and the CFO of Shell, Simon Henry.

Madden, who is CIMA’s 82nd president, and the second female president since the institute was founded in 1919, says that meeting CIMA members in person was a highlight of her year in office. She also enjoyed watching how the institute’s move from paper-based assessments offered at fixed times, to on-demand, computer-based assessments, benefitted students and employers. “Students appreciate the flexibility, as it allows them to plan, study, and make an assessment even though they are busy,” she notes. Madden adds that employers welcome the flexible assessment system, as it means they are less likely to have several employees in finance roles taking time off to sit the exams at the same time.

During her recent visit to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai, Madden said employers in the China and the Asia-Pacific region need global gold-standard CIMA management accountants to work at a strategic level. As a global financial centre, Madden stresses management accounting skills are critical to the core competiveness of Hong Kong. Such skills will also help management accounting professionals to develop their careers. “Even though there is talk about an economic slowdown in China, businesses in the Asia-Pacific region are growing and expanding outside of their borders at a rapid pace. They need the right people with the right skills to drive sustainable business performance,’’ notes Madden.

Madden is also quick to recommend the CGMA designation as the ideal qualification for young and ambitious Hongkongers looking for a versatile career. She says management accountants play an important role in the public sector, the private sector, and in non-government organisations. “For those with an interest in business leadership, management accounting gives practitioners a broad view across the entire business spectrum,’’ says Madden. 

Madden has worked in the private sector as well as the public sector, and cites herself as a good example of a management accountant who has moved between both. She completed her CGMA after studying for a business degree, and has held senior finance roles at Hewlett Packard, HBOS, the Scottish Arts Council, the UK’s National Health Service, and Historic Scotland.

A financial qualification is a good starting point in the journey to become a management accountant, but individuals also need to have an interest in the corporate world and the way business works, Madden notes. “We all know that money makes the world go around, but management accountants need to communicate to senior managers what drives cost, what drives value, and what drives risk,’’ she says. “The role of the management accountant has extended, and continues to extend by helping business leaders to join the dots, factor in value drivers, and turn risks into opportunities.’’ The CGMA designation, which is equivalent to a taught masters degree, also reinforces the need for strong ethical values, she notes.

With businesses now operating in a volatile global landscape, there is a greater focus on management and strategy. So management accountants are needed to help businesses navigate through an array of complex issues. Unlike a financial accountant, management accountants are not limited to internal financial data and performance analysis. They look at the overall performance of an organization, taking into account finance, productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

For example, Madden says CGMA training equips finance professionals with the tools to provide multidisciplinary advice to CEOs and CFOs to help guide their decision making. In a CIMA survey of 300 C-suite executives from organisations in 16 countries, 72 per cent of respondents said they had at least one strategic initiative fail in the last three years because there were delays in making decisions.  Meanwhile, 42 per cent reported they had lost the advantage because they had been slower to make decisions than their competitors.

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