Simon, congratulations on becoming CIMA Vice President, that’s a pretty prestigious position, can you share with us what the role entails?
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) represents about 115,000 management accountants worldwide and is part of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA, often referred to as the Association) which, combined with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants represents about 700,000 accountants. The Vice President role is one of the four honorary officer roles, tasked with running the CIMA Council (effectively the Board of CIMA). Committing to become VP is equivalently a four-year commitment, as the VP is generally then voted in as Deputy President, then President and then past president. In addition, the President is then either the Chair or Co-Chair of the overall Association Board. So, it is a big commitment, but it is one I am honoured to accept and delighted to make as a way of giving something back to the profession. The role, along with the other honorary officer positions, entails overseeing the governance of the organization, providing strategic input and helping manage the Board meetings.
And what do you see as the key priorities/areas of focus?
Accounting as a profession has some huge challenges and opportunities ahead – specifically the impact of automation technology, improving corporate trust and ESG reporting. The Association is very much leading the profession on all of these and for me the main priority is for us is to continue with these and amplify that work. We have a very talented board of directors and leadership team, and it is vital that we maximize the value of both in moving these critically important agendas forward.
Growing uncertainty due to economic downturn, inflation, and increased prices for many of our staples - wheat and energy - due to the war in the Ukraine are challenges many businesses are facing. What are some of the key things accountants and finance professionals can do to help companies navigate these?
Management accounting, in particular, is key to enabling companies to respond to these macro-economic challenges. The best management accounting teams build models of their business, incorporating the right internal and external data in order to predict outcomes and, critically, to model different scenarios, giving business leaders the insight they need to take decisions despite the uncertainty. The CGMA qualification, while providing a solid grounding in financial accounting, is focused on providing accountants with these skills – it is very forward-looking in that regard.
Are there any other challenges that finance teams will need to consider over the next year to 18 months?
Providing reliable information in the backdrop of market uncertainty is certainly the biggest challenge that finance teams face, but I think there are two others that are very much front and centre today. The first is digital transformation – many finance teams still haven’t adopted the latest technologies and removed manual processes – there are huge advantages to this, but transformation programmes are never easy, particularly when there are so many pressures on finance teams today. The second, is the impact of ESG reporting. Governments and regulators will increasingly require companies to improve their external ESG reporting, and investors will demand business model changes to achieve carbon neutrality. A big part of this challenge will fall onto finance, who will be responsible for the monitoring and reporting. The ISSB, is already making fast progress on creating a consistent set of standards for companies to adopt for climate reporting, so that will also impact over the next 18 months.
How does your experience as Metapraxis CEO lend itself to your work with CIMA and the Association?
Metapraxis exists to transform the way businesses use data to drive performance. In many ways we have very similar goals to CIMA, we approach it through technology, CIMA through learning. The two combined form a very powerful capability. At Metapraxis we have deep understanding of finance, technology and a strong finance based network, partly thanks to the Financial Focus executive dinners we have been running for many years. This experience certainly helps me bring some different angles and ideas to the Association and CIMA board discussions.
CIMA has members across the world, what’s driven you to become involved and where would you like to see the profession in 5 or 10 years?
I took the CIMA qualification in my first job at Xchanging Plc (now Computer Sciences Corp) about 15 years ago and I have always been grateful for the enormously valuable grounding that the qualification gave me in finance and business. A large part of my motivation to help CIMA today is to give something back to the organization and profession so others get that same opportunity. The profession can be central to the world’s response to the climate crisis, and I believe that with the Association’s leadership, in 5-10 years’ time it will not only be supporting management decisions, underpinning improved trust in corporates, but also bringing consistency in measurement to ESG progress around the world and as Drucker famously once said “what gets measured gets managed.”
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