The Institute of Management Accountants is starting the IMA Leadership Academy to help accounting and finance professionals enhance their leadership skills.

The academy will offer IMA members resources such as  a mentoring program; a monthly webinar series covering topics such as coaching, team building, conflict resolution and talent management; and a leadership recognition system.

“IMA has had an emphasis on filling the talent gap in companies for many years,” IMA president and CEO Jeffrey C. Thomson said in an interview Friday. “This is just one additional element. When you talk to CFOs and CEOs around the world, they say that there is a talent gap in accounting, especially in managerial accounting, in those more forward-looking activities that require a lot of judgment, analytics, planning, budgeting, forecasting, risk management, etc. Part of the talent gap first gets addressed with our gold standard certification, the CMA [Certified Management Accountant], but also with the softer skills. When you’re a management accountant, you’re a trusted business advisor to the CEO, to the CFO, to the audit committee, to the board, and you’ve got to have those softer skills of influence.”

The IMA Leadership Academy has been under development for a couple of years. Formally launched Thursday, it includes courseware, free webinars, a recognition program for engagement in the academy, and a mentoring process.

The CMA is celebrating its 40th anniversary and facing new competition from the Chartered Global Management Accountant credential recently unveiled by the American Institute of CPAs and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. “We recognize we’re in a competitive environment, and we intend to be fierce competitors,” Thomson acknowledged. He disagrees with the lack of an assessment exam for the CGMA.

“We will continue to stand up and be counted,” he added. “Our CMA program continues to grow around the world in every market that we’re in. For us it’s not about a numbers game, it’s about our mission: highly qualified, credible advisors to businesses.”