Sunday, 2 August 2009

Is CIMA for me? or CFA, ACCA

This is the 7th time I have been asked - Should I study for CIMA qualification or CFA or ACCA or the list goes on and on... I planned to save some time and direct people to read my blog. For the benefit of students who are used to reading academic books, I have tried to keep the style as dry as possible; comes to me easily as well.

So here it is.

CIMA is a management accountancy course offered by Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK. The course is intended to teach techniques required to advise management on direction and strategy for the company as well as providing support to the run the operations. The focus of the course is not so much on the technical or regulatory aspect of accounting. The full syllabus of the course is available on CIMA website (www.cimaglobal.com). CIMA has four level s of examination (and if the syllabus has changed again, it means I have become more experienced and a little old)

The course starts at foundation (certificate) level which is intended for students with no business background. If you are a business / finance / economics graduate, there is a probability that you might be exempted from the certificate level. This level covers basics of accountancy, business statistics, economics etc.

The second level is the Managerial level which equips CIMA students with knowledge to advise management and take decision (if you become a manager) on day to day operation of your business. The level covers 6 subjects – ranging from financial accounting, management accounting, operations management, organisational management, human resources management, marketing etc. What I like about the course is that it teaches general business frameworks and decisions models and reinforces that with case studies and exams till the cows come home.

The third level is the Strategic level which takes a broader view of the organisation as would be seen by senior leadership team and the board of directors. It teaches what controls are required to run the company, corporate governance, financial strategy (corporate gearing etc.), business strategy (e.g. positioning strategy vs. emerging strategy) etc.

The last level is the TOPCIMA. You are basically given a case of a random company few weeks before the exams to prepare. On the exam day you are given additional information about the company and what is required of you. You will generally be asked to advise the board of directors about the issues facing the company, possible solutions of the issues and recommendations. You will have to give comprehensive recommendation that includes time frame, financing, impact to workforce, possible impact to reputation etc. You will also have to include ethical dilemma facing the company.
If you intend to work for a company in a commercial capacity and your goal is to reach a senior management role, in my view this is a great course.

How is it different from CFA or ACCA?
CFA is a great course (and difficult) that specialises you in Finance. You will learn ways to invest money, join investment banking and earn a lot of money. If you are looking to progress into a more general management or CFO role, the course may not add sustained value (unless you grow in the investment banking type industries). It doesn’t teach you how to support organisational decision making or management of the P&L or reporting etc.

ACCA is a fantastic course that takes you into details of Financial Accountancy, GAAP, Taxation, Audit etc. It is similar to CIMA in the course content except that ACCA focuses extensively on regulatory accountancy, GAAP etc. but less on managerial accounting that support strategic decisions. If your career choice is to become an accountant or financial controller for a company this is a great course. ACCA can lead you to CFO’s role through a different route than CIMA. ACCA is not for you if you don’t like reconciling numbers, learning about IFRS & FAS, auditing, GAAP etc.

Whatever course you choose, qualifications help initially in your career. Regarding progression, once you reach middle management - your performance, your image, your exposure and your approach to others will decide whether you progress or not. It does not matter whether you are CIMA, CFA or ACCA at that stage.

I hope this is helpful in deciding what to study. All the best!

PS & Disclaimer: Not authorised by any organisation and please read with caution. Content may be unintentionally biased I ended up with a CIMA qualification.

1 comment:

ramesh said...
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