Purusottam Sen ACMA, CGMA is professor of finance and control at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. A proud second-generation CIMA member, he is associated with the CIMA centre at the Institute.
In this fascinating interview, he describes how the CIMA professional qualification has been vital to his varied and highly successful career.
I spent 17 years working in various aspects of management accounting, financial systems design and implementation, MIS, and project evaluation. This experience spanned a British transnational, a global consulting company, a large power utility and a large Indian diversified company. During this time I spent more than ten years teaching at one of the top business schools at weekends.
In 1999 I realised I liked academia better and switched to it full time! This has taken me to several business schools in India, Armenia, Dubai and Singapore. While in Armenia, I served for five years as associate dean and professor of finance at the American University of Armenia’s school of business and management.
The difference is really in the emphasis that CIMA provides: it is the largest and most influential professional body of management accountants worldwide, with a clear focus on business requirements. This orientation clearly differentiates it from other international accounting bodies.
I have spent many years as a management accountant in industry as well as consulting, and have found the training and professional development provided by CIMA relevant, timely and more than adequate for my extensive needs. This solid background puts management accountants at an advantage in business and consulting.
I feel that particularly in the areas of strategic management, management planning and control, and other areas of management accounting, a CIMA qualification has few equals.
How CIMA has helped me professionally
The CIMA qualification provided me with a quantum leap in terms of professional acceptability and prospects – not just locally, but with global organisations as well. In business organisations, there are no prizes for guessing which qualification is the most highly rated for management accounting.
As far as I am concerned, the CIMA qualification helps at three levels:
- access to and acceptability at global organisations
- confidence of possessing the right set of professional skills in carrying out professional requirements
- access to high quality post-qualification professional development opportunities.
I can cite an example from my own professional experience: when I was working as the group management accountant for a large British transnational, I found my professional qualifications highly valued and a powerful lever to make myself heard and respected.
Major challenges in passing CIMA
Well, for me it’s been a while since I sat for the examinations! During my time, there were two stages for the examination: a foundation stage, with two sections, and a professional stage, with three parts.
While I do see several important and welcome changes that have taken place in the examination structure, what has not changed is the need for sincere hard work, along with plenty of practice using the experience of those people who know the subjects to the level of knowledge expected. Access to professional support is a big plus for many.
The CIMA professional examinations do reflect a high degree of professional knowledge and proficiency, and one must plan one’s studies well to reach the goal of successful qualification.
The qualification’s relevance
Recent research conducted by the University of Bath’s business school succinctly provides the reasons why CIMA is the preferred qualification for businesses – and not just in the UK environment.
The research suggests three areas where CIMA clearly is ahead of other professional institutes focused on accounting: the CIMA syllabus teaches more management accounting, financial strategy and business strategy.
If one feels that this level of study is ‘overkill’ for an average professional, nothing could be more wrong: there is a level of skills that is necessary to stay ahead of the pack, and CIMA provides just that.
There are bound to be some aspects of the curriculum that may not be used often by some, but it is necessary to learn them, as one really does not know when the business environment the professional is in will require those skills.