IMA celebrates 100th year

The Institute of Management Accountants is celebrating its 100th anniversary this week during its annual conference and expo in San Diego, California.

IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson reviewed the organization’s history during the kickoff event Sunday, describing how it evolved out of the National Association of Cost Accountants, founded in Buffalo, New York in 1919. In 1957, the name changed to the National Association of Accountants, and in 1991 to the Institute of Management Accountants. Many longtime members were in attendance, including one who has been with the group for 50 years. Thomson has been leading the IMA since 2008. “It’s been a year in which IMA has flourished, and we’re so excited about that on our 100-year anniversary,” he told the attendees. “We’re a high-performing organization with robust revenue growth, which really means we have ample resources to reinvest in new products and services for your career development.”

He described how the IMA has continued to grow over the past year as more candidates apply for the Certified Management Accountant program. In fiscal year 2019, the IMA had more than 100,000 CMA exam registrations. “Our new total number of CMA candidates, which is a key indicator, is over 82,000, representing year over year growth of 32 percent,” said Thomson. “This community collectively is absolutely amazing. This year we have more than 10,000 CMAs awarded and that represents year over year growth of 70 percent.”

Institute of Management Accountants president and CEO Jeff Thomson speaking at the IMA's Annual Conference & Expo in San Diego during the IMA's 100th anniversary

Since the inception of the CMA program in 1972, the IMA has awarded more than 70,000 CMAs, and to date, it counts over 138,000 professional students and academics as members. “We expect to surpass over 140,000 by fiscal year end, and our annual membership growth rate stands at about 20 percent, far exceeding expectations,” said Thomson. “But what really matters is growth in influence and respect around the world and the fact that we have a community that we cherish and hold dear. That’s what it’s really about. It’s all about members’ contributions to the profession and contributions to society.”

The IMA has been evolving to embrace new technology, recently updating its Management Accounting Competency Framework to include more technology and business skills.

“This framework was enhanced this year with emerging competencies such as technology and analytics as well as strategic planning and performance,” said Thomson. “Moreover, in expanding the main focus on critical skills, professional ethics and values in a digital age were added. It’s significant to be launching this enhanced framework the same year as our 100-year anniversary as it underscores the importance of IMA’s commitment to advancing relevant competencies for management accountants that will carry us well into the next 100 years.”

The organization recently updated the CMA exam to reflect the knowledge, tasks and skills seen as most important to management accountants in an analysis of their jobs. The changes will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The IMA has been steadily growing its presence globally. “To give you a quick tour around the world, in China,the team has expanded educational offerings to over 100 online courses and reach-out programs as part of our complete bilingual programs and user experience, which in China is a true competitive differentiator that brings great value to our Chinese professional students and academics,” said Thomson.

The IMA has also been working to expand the CMA program in the Middle East, India and other parts of the world, while continuing to grow in the U.S. “In the Middle East, we’ve seen CMA enrollment increase with the help of review providers and partners throughout the region,” said Thomson. “Today IMA webinars, conferences, workshops and other live events are truly global and offered in each of our regions. There is so much more to come. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling all around the world, including the U.S, which, by the way, remains a key growth market. Even though we’ve been in this market for 100 years, the U.S. is one of our most important markets, a market that gives us credibility and respect. I’ve spent my time traveling around the U.S., China, Europe, the Middle East and more, engaging with members, partners, corporations [and] government entities to try and advance our great profession of management accounting globally.”

Today the IMA has eight regional offices around the globe, and Thomson stressed the need to continue to preserve the organization’s values of diversity and inclusion . “Diversity and inclusion are an essential part of who we are as we grow globally, part of what I like to call our golden thread of our mission, core values and strategic goals,” he said. “How we achieve success is as important as the outcome itself. I want to emphasize that’s what makes the IMA so special. We are absolutely focused on great business outcomes that impact careers, organizations and the public interest, but the way we get to those outcomes, our core values, who we are, what we represent, the diversity and inclusive commitment to ourselves and our organization, quite frankly, is as important. This is a wonderful community of members, volunteers and staff working with courage, care and conviction of purpose. Together we truly enrich careers, organizations and society. But as we continue to celebrate the growth, please, let’s never ever forget what got us there — the core values of a diverse and inclusive mindset and an unwavering and relentless focus on those who count the most in our world: you, our members and the members of this profession. Our work is not done, and our potential to serve is boundless.”

The IMA annually rotates its chairperson, and this year outgoing chair Ginger White passed the chairmanship to Christian Cuzick. White recently became COO at the American Accounting Association. Cuzick is CFO of Johnson & Johnson Vision, which provides vision treatment and care products.

“As I reflect on the last 15 years that I’ve spent at Johnson & Johnson, and on my finance career there, it’s been the IMA and the CMA that’s had an impact both on my development and on who I am as a finance professional,” said Cuzick. “So it’s of great importance and my honor to be coming in as chair at a very special time in this organization, at the 100th year. As I look ahead, in thinking about how I can bring this organization forward into the next 100 years, one of my key areas of focus will be on developing relationships with corporations that can benefit from the CMA through sponsorships of the program. We’re talking about a time when employees really need upskilling and employers need to invest through the CMA in the best resources available for employee development. Having CMAs on the staff adds value in so many ways and gives employers a real tool for building high-performing teams.”

He noted that Paul Juras, a professor of management accounting and operational performance at Babson College, who is currently chair of the ICMA Board of Regents, which oversees the CMA, will be the IMA’s chair-elect in a few weeks. “I know he is as committed as I am to serving this organization,” said Cuzick.

White also talked about her experiences as chair over the past year: “My year as chair has been filled with meeting new people, traveling to new places and generating new ideas,” she said. “Three priorities have shaped my work: supporting students and young professionals, women, and chapter council communities. Today, IMA has a network of more than 300 student and professional chapters.”

She has been visiting new chapters as they open around the world, while encouraging more women leaders to get involved in the accounting profession. “This past year, I was lucky enough to travel to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Mumbai, Bangalore and Jordan,” she said. “I am happy to say there is great enthusiasm for the CMA program and management accounting all over the world. It was a great honor to hold Women’s Accounting Leadership Series events in Jordan and India. The tremendous progress women have made in those regions is so inspiring to me. There is so much talent among women in those regions, and to be part of nurturing it was an unforgettable experience.”

Students were also a big part of White’s year as chair of the IMA, she added, and she has been spearheading efforts to raise money for scholarships. “Last year at this event, I announced the Century Students Scholarship Fund,” she said. “The fund ensures we will keep students engaged in IMA, giving back when they need it in the form of financial assistance. This fund is critical to our mission and our future. To date, we have raised over $70,000. I was also lucky enough to meet a crop of young professionals who represent the face of our future at our full board meeting in San Antonio as well as students at the Student Leadership Experience at the winter board meeting in Orlando. At both events, I met diverse, enthusiastic and intelligent young people who remind me of why I joined IMA in the first place. They represent the best our profession has to offer, and they are ready and willing to step up to leadership roles as they enter and grow in their careers.”

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