Angelo Patrick, FCMA, CGMA (Group Director, Capital Maharaja Organisation) and his son Sohan, ACMA, CGMA (Deputy General Manager, MAS Fabrics) both began their careers with the CIMA Professional Qualification. Here they elaborate on their reasons for choosing CIMA, how the syllabus has evolved over the years to reflect business needs, the changing nature of the finance function and how CIMA enables professionals to stay relevant.
How did each of you begin your CGMA journey? Why CIMA over other accounting qualifications?
Angelo: CIMA was an obvious choice for me, when I started studying for the qualification in 1969. It was a time of limited choices for higher education for school leavers. Furthermore, business courses were unavailable at local Universities. My interests lay with commerce and given the above context, it was the accountancy courses which fulfilled my purpose.
Back then, CIMA was known as Institute of Cost and Works Accountants (ICWA). The term ‘work’ referred to manufacturing, which provided a certain dynamism to the studies, along with its subjects – Statistics, Industrial Management, Quantitative Techniques, Cost Accounting and Management Accounting.
Sohan: I was involved in competitive sports and studied in the Commerce stream. Compared to the scenario my father spoke about previously, by the time I left school, students had a greater scope of educational choices i.e. several accounting professional qualifications and foreign qualifications.
CIMA offered a flexibility, where I could study at my own pace and this even allowed me to continue competitive sporting. When I began the qualification in 2005, CIMA was a highly popular choice.
Looking back, what were the core components of the CIMA syllabus when you began studying? How did it prepare you for the business world at the time?
Angelo: Basic components were Cost Accounting, Management Accounting, Industrial Management along with Statistics, quantitative techniques and Commercial Law. Even for that time, it was a work-oriented qualification which is where cost accounting and management accounting fitted in well.
How different is the CIMA syllabus now? How do you think it has evolved over the years?
Sohan: The fundamental change has been that the syllabus has become case study based. I feel this is a good move as qualifications globally have transitioned to case-study based syllabi. Case studies are a good way of bridging the gap between technical knowledge and its application to a real business scenario. This responds effectively to the market need of professionals who can competently apply the theory and principles learned in their day-to-day business decisions/tasks.
What are the skills that an accountant should have in today’s world?
Sohan: I prefer to use the term finance professional, rather than accountant. Finance professionals are required to be business partners, adding value to the business. Simultaneously, the business needs to see finance professionals as who will formulate and execute strategy. Individuals who pursue a career in finance are needed to work at the heart of the organisation, across operations. For example, in my current job I play a versatile role – in terms of HR, logistics, legal in addition to finance.
Angelo: Nowadays, accounting is left to technical people. CIMA graduates are business leaders, not merely accountants – this is how it has evolved. IT has also taken over some of the technical functions, no longer requiring an accountant for these tasks. CIMA syllabus has the edge in this aspect, as it has a holistic approach, thereby introducing you to strategic business management.
What’s your advice to young students who are contemplating a career as management accountants?
Sohan: Invest the first years (at least 3 years) in a job that exposes you to fundamentals and basics. I spent 3 years in an audit firm, which allowed me to hone my fundamentals in finance and accounting, the benefits of which are felt now. There’s a clear difference between an individual who has invested the first couple of years in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the profession, compared to someone who has not.
Angelo: It is the fundamentals that pave the way for business management. There is no management sans understanding, or involvement in the core functions. Students who are beginning their careers should know all the functions of an organisation, particularly understanding the customer, internal business processes and influencers of the business environment, and its risks.
What is the most interesting part of each of your jobs?
Angelo: Being the driving force of a business.
Sohan: The opportunity to lead and manage, not just finance but other disciplines as well.
What are your thoughts on the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation and its benefits?
Angelo: The CGMA designation adds to the CIMA qualification but CIMA is also a brand with its own identity.
Sohan: As a globally recognised qualification, CIMA gives a lot of mobility to qualified professionals while CGMA is an additional designation for the holder.
CIMA and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) combined their strengths to form the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association). What are your thoughts on the Association?
Angelo: It advances the reputation of management accountants. CIMA retains value, striving to expand global acceptability.
Sohan: In my view, it is the current generation of CIMA students who will benefit from the Association, as it will create greater awareness of their opportunities with CIMA.