IMA looks ahead to a time of transition

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The Institute of Management Accountants wants to educate its members about the changing skills expected of corporate finance leaders with a new Competency Framework and a series of chair people ready to take the lead as the organization marks its centennial.

At its annual conference and expo in Indianapolis, the IMA unveiled an exposure draft of its enhanced Management Accounting Competency Framework on Sunday (see IMA releases Management Accounting Competency Framework). IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson explained the organization’s plans at a press conference Monday, alongside a group of IMA chairs past, present and future.

“Oftentimes we get super-focused on the growth, and we’re very proud of the growth because we think we’re important contributors to the profession, but at the end of the day our purpose is a societal one,” said Thomson. “That’s to advance the profession of accounting.”

He sees the Competency Framework as a way to protect, enhance and grow the relevance and influence of the accounting profession. He referred to an earlier presentation that morning by Kelly Richmond Pope, a documentary filmmaker and chief content officer at Helois Digital Learning, who presented clips from her documentary “All the Queen’s Horses,” about a $53 million fraud case.

“Make no mistake about it,” said Thomson. “We have a significant and prominent societal purpose. We talk about eroding trust from investors, and from others in the general public, and we absolutely have an obligation, a duty and accountability, to protect, restore and preserve trust and ethics.”

He sees the Competency Framework as a way to educate management accountants about areas such as robotic process automation, blockchain and cognitive computing. “At the end of the day, our role as a global organization is to make sure that we’re prepared for the future, and that we maintain, increase and grow our relevance and influence,” said Thomson.

Alex Eng, who is the current chair of the board for 2017-2018, pointed to recent milestones for the IMA, which will be celebrating its 100th year during next year’s conference in San Diego. The organization evolved from the National Association of Cost Accountants, which was founded in 1919. It now has more than 100,000 members in 140 countries and 300 professional and student chapters.

“We celebrated a lot of milestones this year with respect to membership, with respect to our influence not only with the core management accounting leadership and the thought leadership we’ve exhibited over the last almost 100 years,” said Eng. “Geographically there’s been a lot of focus upon newer markets and rapidly growing markets. In the BRIC countries we are certainly a big presence. As Jeff alluded to, our updated Competency Framework is really an indication of the continual evolution of the role of the accountant. While the traditional approach of other organizations and associations may concentrate on the technical side of accounting, and others may focus specifically on internal controls, I believe the Competency Framework really ties into place what every business leader needs: things like business acumen and operations, professional ethics and values, the integrity and cultures that really have made Western-based business models extremely successful over the last millennium and a half. Those are continually evolving as we adapt to new technology and to becoming closer cultures as they continue to globalize and do business with one another.”

Christian Cuzick, who is chair-elect for fiscal year 2018-2019, sees the need for new skills in the profession for Certified Management Accountants. “With the changing technology, it’s very different and it’s changing quickly,” he said. “With the international expansion and recognition of the CMA, I’ve seen it firsthand, how you can apply it outside the U.S., and how it has effectively taken hold and grown. Last, it’s around leadership and volunteerism. There are just great opportunities as we think about the profession with an organization such as the IMA, to get involved, learning life lessons and what it takes to lead people. You can only learn that through experience and you can get that experience through the IMA.”

Marc Palker, who chaired the IMA in the previous fiscal year, noted that he has been a member for 43 years. “I’ve seen the organization through all kinds of different changes,” he said. “To put it in a succinct kind of statement, IMA has really evolved from an organization that provides quality education to accounting and finance professionals to a thought leader. It’s out in front in thought leadership in the area of management accounting, and now we’re really getting heavily into the technology area, so we’re out front as opposed to being in the middle or the back of the pack, just delivering education to our members. We’re really leading the organization, industry and profession with state of the art research and thought leadership.”

Ginger White is the incoming chair of the IMA, who will take over from Eng on July 1 before Cuzick takes over from her next year. She reflected on how she started with the organization as a student. “My first conference was in San Diego in 2002, where next year we’ll be celebrating our 100 years,” she said. “IMA has been a big portion of my leadership world. Joining as a student, I was the Lincoln Trail Regional Council student rep, which allowed me to go to the conference for free. We are such a giving organization. We are constantly giving scholarships to help the profession. We’ll continue more of that with the Century Student Scholarship Fund, which was created by one of my mentors at Cummins.”

White works at the global power company Cummins Inc. as corporate purchasing finance director. At the IMA, she hopes to help other women advance in the accounting world. “I want to focus on women and the profession,” she said. “We all share very common challenges.”

She pointed to the extra time needed for caretaking and other responsibilities and the importance of breaking down barriers so women can have a seat at the table. At Cummins, the vice president of purchasing ensured the purchasing leadership team was equally made up of men and women. For White, it was helpful to not be the only female at the leadership table.

“Lastly technical relevance is a critical thing for all of us that I care deeply about,” said White. “As the profession changes, how do we skill up our members and make sure they’re relevant into the future and they have lifelong careers in the profession? No matter where we sit in the world, I think we’re all in the same boat. We just want to drive value to our businesses and make them as profitable as possible for shareholders and ethically as well. I’m looking forward to leading this amazing organization. It’s meant a lot to me.”

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Certified Management Accountants Accounting education Jeff Thomson IMA