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IMA Positions Itself to Compete with AICPA

By Michael Cohn
July 5, 2012

The Institute of Management Accountants has recently allied with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, but according to IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson, it is not doing so to counter the alliance between the American Institute for CPAs and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

The AICPA-CIMA joint venture provides a Chartered Global Management Accountant credential, which competes with the IMA’s own Certified Management Accountant credential.

Last month, the IMA and the ACCA said they were setting up their own strategic partnership (see ACCA and IMA Set up Partnership). Plans for the IMA-ACCA partnership include research collaborations, CFO roundtables, joint chapter events, and the exploration of opportunities to increase awareness and adoption of their organizations’ respective certifications.

Jeff Thomson

Thomson told me Tuesday that he sees his organization as competing with the AICPA now that the AICPA and CIMA have launched the CGMA joint venture. “Prior to the launch of this joint venture, we didn’t consider ourselves as competitive with the AICPA,” he said. “In fact, they invited us into some very prestigious forums, like the Blue-Ribbon Panel on Private Company Reporting, the Pathways Education Commission, and in the past we have joined with them on things like COSO. However, without our knowledge they announced their intentions to form this joint venture last March announcing a credential in management accounting that clearly makes us competitive.”

However, Thomson contends that his group’s own partnership with the ACCA is a separate matter.

“We don’t view this as a ‘me too,’” he said. “Much like ACCA, part of our explicit strategy is to form significant partnerships. In fact we have dozens. I think between ACCA and IMA, we have hundreds of partnerships around the world. This one is a significant value to the profession and to employers by leveraging our complementary assets. That’s kind of a long-winded way of saying that we’re not jumping to the conclusion that we need to merge and one of us goes away, whereas the AICPA and CIMA have almost publicly announced that the end game here is a merger. And coming from a competitive markets background, you never ever allude to a possibility of a joint venture becoming an acquisition. These two organizations have done that. I’m not saying they’ve done the wrong thing. I’m just saying they’ve made it very clear that this is all about size, that you need to have size in this profession in order to be influential. They have basically said the way that we can best serve the profession is by integrating and becoming larger, and we’ve taken a much different approach. And, by the way, having worked at AT&T, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes that works in terms of mergers and acquisitions, and sometimes it creates a slow-moving behemoth that can’t serve the needs of the profession.”

The AICPA has denied in the past that it plans to merge with CIMA (see IMA Ready to Compete with AICPA for Management Accountants). Thomson admitted that his main basis for believing they will eventually merge is a statement that CIMA chief executive Charles Tilley made to Accounting Today in January, in which he wrote, “This is a new joint venture between the AICPA and CIMA, and a merger isn’t part of the current plan. Both organizations intend to work together to take advantage of each other’s respective strengths. When the success of the JV is established, other options, including a merger, could be considered in the future.” (see CIMA May Consider Merger with AICPA).

Thomson also noted that the CGMA joint venture’s formal name is the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, and the AICPA holds a controlling interest in it. In a public speech in February, Thomson added, AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon had said that CIMA offices would soon bear the designation of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, or AICPA for short.

However, the AICPA continues to deny there are plans for a merger or acquisition. “The answer is still the same; there are currently no plans to merge,” said AICPA spokesman Gil Nielsen. “As for the name and the controlling interest held by the AICPA, that’s old news and was disclosed when the JV was first announced more than a year ago.”

But Thomson is not reassured. “We are planning as though these two organizations will vote for a merger in the next two to four years, and that the CIMA organization and credential as we know it will go away,” he said.


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