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As organisations across all industry sectors seek ways to adapt to an uncertain and increasingly complex business environment, William Chen, chairman of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Hong Kong Branch Committee, believes the multifaceted role of the management accounting profession will continue to grow in importance.
"The impact of globalisation, the need for innovation and an overload of data require management accountants to look beyond the numbers to help their companies make critical decisions," says Chen, who believes the internationally recognised CIMA qualification and training equip individuals with the knowledge and technical skills sought out by employers, now more than ever.
"It is important to remember that CIMA's goal is to train and prepare future business leaders, not just accountants," explains Chen, who says one of his priorities as chairman is to focus on the emphasis the Chartered Global Management Accountant ( CGMA ) designation places on bridging the gap between business, strategy and finance. In other words, how can management accountants connect the dots to provide decision-relevant information to senior management?
CIMA aims to train business-focused accountants who analyse, advise and influence corporate strategy
While a number of leading Hong Kong conglomerates and global enterprises with headquarters in the city already embedded the CGMA qualification into their management trainee programmes, Chen would like to see more companies embracing the initiative.
"We are currently in discussions with an International hotel group that has an expanding global presence," Chen says. The Master’s Gateway entry route, which allows holders of a recognised MBA/Master of Accountancy to secure a fast-track route to the CGMA designation, is another area he will continue to promote.
He will also promote the flexible entry and study pathways CIMA offers, which allow non-finance professionals to add a financial dimension to their business knowledge.
“CIMA aims to train business-focused accountants who analyse, advise and influence corporate strategy,” says Chen. "The process is designed to equip well-rounded business management and finance professionals with the tools that employers are looking for," he adds, explaining that sought after management accounting skills include the ability to analyse business models, provide detailed information extracted from data analytics, and indentify risk and opportunities to improve efficiency.
William Chen, chairman of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Hong Kong Branch Committee
A good example, says Chen, is the value of human capital and related intangible assets. Research shows that today intangible assets account for 84 per cent of the S&P 500 market value, whereas four decades ago it was 83 per cent of tangible assets that accounted for S&P 500 market value. At the same time, according to a CIMA report, 86 per cent of firms struggle to obtain useful insights from their data. "Management accountants can expect to be called on more frequently to apply their analytical skills to provide insights based on data to senior management," says Chen.
For those who aspire to work in the world of business and management, Chen says the CGMA designation is a stepping stone into a wide range of career options. CGMAs have the skills and knowledge to work in different business sectors where they are involved in making strategic decisions which drive organisations forward. Many professionals rise through the ranks into senior roles, either remaining in the finance function or taking on various management roles.
Citing himself as a good example, currently CFO and general manager (HK) of the Hui Lau Shan chain of dessert shops, Chen has over 20 years experience in financial management with local and global businesses in food and beverage, fast moving commercial goods (FMCG) and retail, with responsibilities covering Greater China and the Asia Pacific region.
"My CIMA designation has certainly been an asset in my career development, and importantly, it has been a designation employers have recognised that enables me to tale on a senior management role,'' Chen says. Management accountants are increasingly being recognised for their expanded organisational role at a time when businesses of all types, at all levels, need to be at their competitive best.
Chen points out how management accounting has a significant strategic role in China's 13th Five Year Plan. Furthermore, former US President Barrack Obama used the language of management accounting on several occasions in key addresses to explain the need to understand cost structures, to optimise capacities and to address efficiencies.
With the best interests of its members and the global business community at the forefront, Chen says CIMA has entered a new and exciting era. CIMA and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), officially joined forces in January this year to create a new association designed to widen the geographic reach of management accounting, further emphasising the importance of the profession for businesses worldwide. It represents 650,000 members and students in public and management accounting and advocates for the public interest and business sustainability on current and emerging issues. With broad reach, the Association advances the reputation, employability and quality of CPAs, CGMAs and accounting and finance professionals globally.
As for CIMA, it currently has more than 227,000 members and students in 179 countries. "Our members and students will have even more access to the latest research and learning tools," says Chen who adds students will certainly benefit from increased recognition of the qualification is receiving.