Standing up for the CMA

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IMGCAP(1)]In a recent op-ed (“The skills for success,” May Accounting Today), the Chartered Global Management Accountant – the newly created designation from American Institute of CPAs and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants – was marketed as the path to “skills for success” by Ash Noah, vice president of CGMA external relations with the AICPA. The IMA agrees with Mr. Noah in one regard – the AICPA has discovered in the last few years what the IMA has known for nearly a century: While public accounting focuses on value preservation and retrospective reporting, its relevance is best complemented by management accounting with its focus on value creation and unique prospective competencies required for success. However, we disagree with the assertion, implied or otherwise, that the CGMA is the path to success.

Following decades of leadership by the Certified Management Accountant credential, the CGMA was created to capitalize on the rapidly expanding field of management accounting in the face of a deflating public accounting field. In fact, while the accounting profession is projected to double by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the AICPA reports the number of people sitting for the CPA Exam has stagnated or declined for nearly five years. Former AICPA Chair Tommye Barie hinted at this monumental shift, noting, “CPAs risk losing relevance in the marketplace” and the profession “must cast a wide net to address ever-deeper business needs.”

Mr. Noah indicates that more than 150,000 professionals currently hold the CGMA designation. However, a significant proportion of these professionals were grandfathered in as CGMAs without having certified their competency with an examination in these “skills for success.” And an insignificant number of all reported CGMAs in the U.S. holding a CPA have passed credentialing exams in management accounting, as most were grandfathered in. So far as we know, the AICPA has still not publicly reported the results of the first class of CPAs who took the one-part CGMA exam over a year ago.

From the day the AICPA and CIMA announced their grandfathering practice, the IMA expressed grave concerns that this only serves to exacerbate the talent gap challenge with a diluted pool of CGMA “holders” who never actually certified their competency in management accounting by passing an exam.

At the IMA, through decades of dedication to quality and alumni engagement, we provide the most prestigious management accounting certification in the world: the CMA. For more than 40 years, we have been building a professional certification program that truly reflects the management accounting profession. The standard for earning the CMA has never wavered; the bar is high. We attribute this continuous high standard and respected reputation to the integrity of the CMA exam. An exam has integrity only if it’s both “relevant and reliable”: It leads to consistent outcomes. When professionals pass an exam — and earn a certification — that has integrity, they have more confidence in their day-to-day work, and employers identify them as experts in the field. It’s credibility in its simplest form.

The IMA is committed to remain true to its not-for-profit mission of responsibly serving individuals, the profession and the public interest by ensuring the skills of management accountants are verified and fully aligned with the needs of today’s businesses and by planning for tomorrow’s decisions by teaching and shaping these “skills for success.” The IMA prides itself on providing a certification – the CMA – that is always backed by a rigorous test for the credential. Employers can be assured that every CMA they hire passed this rigorous exam, with an educational requirement, experience requirement and commitment to continuous learning through CPE.

With the future of the management accounting profession at stake, the IMA intends to speak out more directly on these matters and to aggressively promote the world’s leading credential in management accounting: the CMA. The CMA is second to none as defined by integrity, reputation, trust, relevance and rigor. While others may grow through grandfathering and mergers, the CMA will prevail where it most matters: in the minds and hearts of those in the market trying to build a credible talent pool that can deal with business challenges and serve the global public interest.

(An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the CGMA; holders are Chartered Global Management Accountants, not Chartered Global Management Advisors.)

Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, is president and CEO of the Institute of Management Accountants.

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