When I needed to advance my finance career into business leadership, I chose CIMA as the way forward
When it comes to career advancement for accounting professionals, there are numerous well-versed but perhaps slightly tired suggestions: become CPA-qualified, improve your networking skills, develop leadership qualities and so on. There is, however, among some of the most successful accounting and finance professionals in the region, a qualification more revered than any other career advancement strategy.
That professional qualification is CIMA (The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). Those who have proudly completed a CIMA professional qualification talk of career leaps into senior management or on a trajectory as a management accountant they didn't deem previously possible.
One of these professionals is Melanie Menezes, a Finance leader with over 15 years of experience at global organizations and pharmaceuticals in the Middle East, Africa, Turkey. In 2021, despite having worked her way up to the level of Director of Finance, Pricing and Tender at a leading pharmaceutical organisation, she felt it was time to invest in professional qualification.
Melanie says she felt she was doing well in her career, health and family life but was starting to feel a desire to broaden her horizon . “I was looking for an aspect of self-development - more than just simply studying to pass an exam,” she says.
Initially, she debated between the CIMA Global C-Suite Business and Finance programme or another at the London School of Economics. To help make her mind up, she attended a taster session for the CIMA and found it enlightening that CIMA qualifications focus on the strategy surrounding the entire business model and not just accountancy. She was also impressed by the ability to tap into a thriving network of other experienced professionals that would be studying CIMA giving access to networking and peer support.
Founded in 1919, The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is the world’s leading and largest professional body of management accountants. As part of The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), the unified voice of The American Institute of CPAs & CIMA and its members and students operate in 192 countries and territories, working at the heart of business – in industry, commerce, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations. CIMA works closely with employers and sponsors leading-edge research, constantly updating its professional qualification and professional experience requirements to ensure it remains the employer’s choice when recruiting financially-trained business leaders.
The CIMA Global C-Suite Business and Finance programme is designed to complement existing career experience and help finance executives stay at the cutting edge of their profession. Upon successful completion of this exam and membership application, professionals qualify for direct entry to CIMA membership and are awarded the prestigious Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) and designation.
Those who qualify via CIMA have successful track records in helping businesses all over the world manage their finances. As management accountants, they are distinct from traditional accountants through their comprehensive knowledge of how their organisation operates. They have first-class leadership skills and, with a clear understanding of their company’s business model, strategic context and competitive position, they play a vital role to spot risks, trends and they help to make strategic decisions – from improving internal efficiencies to tackling market expansion.
It’s this all-rounded approach that appealed to Melanie’s goal of self-development and career advancement.
“What I liked about CIMA is you don't look at business strategy from just the advantageous aspect. The case study sections forced me to start thinking from different perspectives, taking in the pros and cons, at every level of an organisation,” she says. “I became solution-oriented and it made me think how could I bring the case study business to be sustainable and successful?”
Talking of her personal growth from the course, Melanie adds, “I think the CIMA qualification made me step out of my comfort zone and think out of the box. which led me to a better understanding of professional leadership.”
Talking with Melanie, there is a sense of confidence about her understanding of business and her future career steps. Asked if she would recommend CIMA to other professionals wanting to advance their career and her advice is unequivocal.
“I think if you're a person who is ambitious and, not just in finance but in any aspect of the business function of the organisation, CIMA could be the way forward,” she says. “If you want to be a commercial professionaland evolve from an accountancy background into a finance business partner, this could be your course and if you want to be a better business partner, CIMA is the qualification.”