Search

Your career

As a CGMA designation holder, your broad business knowledge qualifies you to work in a wide variety of roles inside and outside the finance function. Read our case studies to discover the diverse roles and business sectors in which CIMA members can be found.

Management accounting and finance roles

International Finance Director for LinkedIn

Strategic business development for Sri Lankan business conglomerate

Manohari Abeyesekera: on track to break the glass ceiling

Manohari Abeyesekera FCMA's strategic approach has seen her rise swiftly up the career ladder. 

Sri Lankan FCMA Manohari Abeyesekera, manager for strategic business development at Hayleys Group (one of the country’s leading business conglomerates), is quick to acknowledge how key the professional qualification has been in her career.

‘CIMA has moulded me to look at a strategic, forward looking approach, rather than becoming a traditional number crunching stereotype that an accountant is associated with,’ she states. ‘The case study questions have led me to think from different perspectives rather than merely focusing on numbers.’

Her accession to fellowship has also been helpful. ‘Being a fellow has given me recognition and higher social standing.’

Diverse talent
Manohari’s wide ranging skills are shown by the fact she originally planned to study biology at the University of Colombo. ‘Unfortunately, there was political unrest, and the university was closed,’ she explains. ‘During this time, I heard about CIMA from a school friend who was working at HSBC Colombo.’

She found the qualification to her liking very quickly. ‘From day one, I liked the diversity of subjects covered – business mathematics, law, strategic financial management – which gives you an overall understanding on how business operates in a complex environment.’

‘I completed CIMA in two years, and was the Sri Lankan prize winner at the CIMA finals for strategic financial management,’ she says proudly.

Career success
Manohari qualified as an ACMA in 2000, joining Hayleys in 2001 as an accountant in the management audit and systems review department. After six months she moved to the group’s think tank division, from where her career really took off.

‘In 2005 I was promoted to become manager of corporate finance, where I was responsible for the preparation of the group’s annual report, interim financials, and management commentary and reviews,’ she recalls. ‘Our annual report was recognised as the best annual report in South Asia by the South Asian Federation of Accountants.’

In 2007, Hayleys decided to create a separate strategic business development division to focus on a balanced investment portfolio for the group’s M&A activities. Manohari’s CIMA skills made her an ideal candidate.

‘I was handpicked to take up the current role of manager – strategic business development, where I was involved in successful completion of acquisitions amounting to USD70m,’ she relates.

Reaching the top
According to the World Bank’s 1997 world development indicators, women work two thirds of the world's working hours, produce half of the world's food, and yet earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than 1% of the world's property. Yet Manohari's rapid rise means she is on track to break the 'glass ceiling', and is optimistic that more women can do so in the future.

She believes that the right education is the key starting point, as it is ‘a great leveller of different society strata. Commitment to work with passion, patience and good time management are other essential factors,’ she notes. ‘Honesty and integrity are hallmarks of a good career. Luck also matters: being at the right place at the right time.

‘Striking the right balance between family and work (double burden syndrome, as outlined by McKinsey), would lead to women being in charge of decision making roles.

‘Women can bring in an emotionally softer aspect to decision making in boardrooms, which is now required even for marketing products, managing human resources, taking a lead role in corporate social responsibility projects, etc.’

She cites corporate videos, which used to focus solely on product features. ‘However, there is now more attention on how to appeal to the emotions of the consumer.’

Manohari says she has been particularly inspired by Chanda Kochhar, the first woman to run ICICI (India’s largest private bank), who was ranked in Forbes’ top 100 most powerful women in 2009 and 2010. Married with two children, she has successfully found a balance between business and family.

Global reach
Manohari says she is ‘excited’ by the CIMA and AICPA joint venture to create the global chartered management accountant qualification (CGMA). She feels the credential can help ‘diversify my horizons into newer career avenues’ and will assist employers to ‘attract top talent.’

‘In the global village, an international qualification is now an essential,’ she concludes.

CEO for social media agency

Business hits the digital age

David Biggs ACMA, CGMA, CFO of social media agency Mint Digital, is among a growing number of CIMA members working in the rapidly growing world of digital media. 

‘I wanted to work in an area of finance which I really enjoyed. Working in the social media industry is brilliant – it has to be one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It’s constantly changing, dynamic, and I don’t get told off for using Facebook at work!’

Those enthusiastic words from energetic young CFO David Biggs ACMA, CGMA show he has certainly found his niche in social media agency Mint Digital, which specialises in creating digital start-ups. The key to his success has been the combination of a passion for creativity and his strategic CIMA business skills.

‘CIMA has provided me with discipline in reporting,’ he notes. ‘In such a flexible, creative space, you need some kind of discipline to what you are doing, helping with KPI reporting, financial planning, budgeting and forecasting. It helps me provide the board with feedback they need consistently to structure that creative process.’

The key skill is being able to communicate key finance concepts to non-finance personnel. ‘With the board, I need to explain our cash position regularly and they need to understand that position,’ David explains.

‘There is no point sending in a 20 page spreadsheet on different financial forecasts. They need me to show that to them clearly and concisely, so we can make decisions very quickly; for example ‘what is that key concept that would want to make people share what they are doing?’’

The model has clearly proved successful. ‘Mint is a profitable business,’ he states proudly. ‘We have no debt and are fully funded from our own growth and success.’

On the ball
Studying CIMA has been key to David’s ability to provide such valuable information. ‘CIMA was the most strategic focused of the accounting qualifications,’ he says. ‘I really wanted to add value to the bottom line of the business and CIMA seemed perfect. The syllabus is really diverse; it gave me skills in every area I wanted to get a board position.

‘It has helped make my career interesting – it allows me to constantly challenge myself. Strategically it has helped me more than anything else, primarily with risk management. It has helped me sit on the board and gain respect.’

David broke into digital media through another of his passions, football. ‘I searched the internet for financial roles in football, and found one at Picklive, a Mint Digital spin off fantasy football company.’

The industry is certainly thriving. ‘Every day there is a new social media start up or new start up and the only barrier to entry is a computer and the internet,’ he enthuses. ‘I could come into work tomorrow, have my own idea, talk to a few guys and start my own business in a day.

‘The prospects for the industry are great. Google – not traditionally a social media company –are going to make USD10 billion from last year. They traditionally made that from search, but are a new entrant to the social media market. People are saying Facebook may be slightly overvalued, but they made USD1 billion in profits last year.

‘You don’t have the ridiculous valuations you may have had in the dotcom years – valuations are not being made on users or turnover, people are actually thinking of profits. A lot of social media companies actually have some kind of physical product involved. Actually building physical products connected to the internet is going to be huge in 2012.’

Mint is at the forefront of such ingenuity, as shown by a fascinating recent project from its graduate scheme, Mint Foundry.

‘They have created a smelly robot called Olly who connects directly to your computer and releases a smell from a social media stimulus – a Facebook like or tweet can release a smell from Olly the Robot,’ David smiles. ‘I may get a tweet from my wife and at the same time as reading the tweet I will be able to smell her perfume.’

The robot’s inventor, Benjamin Redford, has won the Ideal Home Show's 2012 ideal home inventor award. The sweet smell of success indeed.

Global career growth
What advice does David have for those looking to break into the industry? ‘The key to success in this kind of field is being flexible,’ he says. ‘For CIMA members looking for roles within digital companies, I would recommend having an updated LinkedIn status. Get yourself involved in one of the many actual physical social networking events, particularly around the east London technology scene.

Given the instantly global nature of social media, it is no surprise David is also enthusiastic about the CGMA. ‘I was in New York last week catching up with our tax adviser, a CPA. We have been working together for a number of years, but he was not that aware of my accountancy board and I was not that aware of his.

‘Now that we know we share the same high standard, that has helped our communication and enhanced our mutual respect.’

Find out more at mintdigital.com or by contacting David on Twitter at @davidrbiggs.

Volunteer accountant with a charity for the deaf in Cambodia

Hearing the call: deaf charity work in Cambodia

CIMA student Stuart Westcott details how he helped Cambodian ear health care charity and clinic All Ears.

Award winning social enterprise Accounting for International Development (AfID) offers accountants the opportunity to make a genuine difference as overseas volunteers, while at the same time gaining invaluable hands on experience in the international development sector.

Volunteers take assignments ranging from two to 12 weeks to help build financial management capacity and long term sustainability of small community based organisations like street kid centres, health clinics and rural schools.

In January 2011, AfID found CIMA student Stuart Westcott (right of picture) a one month placement as a volunteer accountant in Cambodia with deaf support organisation All Ears.

How did you get involved in voluntary work?
I studied psychology at university. I’ve always been interested in people, but I had no plan about the work I’d do in the future. Then I got speaking to AfID about what they do and it sounded like a really good area to get involved in.

AfID organised four weeks for me in Cambodia this year – a great place with great people! I was working with a charity organisation called All Ears. They were diagnosing and treating people with deafness and ear disease. They provide lots of hearing aids and tests and they do a lot of good work identifying hearing impairment in infants.

What did you achieve with the charity?
Every day was different. The main thing that I was doing was trying to equip All Ears to do some of the things that had been done by volunteers – for example bookkeeping on a computer so that the director could get the information he needed. [They needed easy access to] annual accounts – information that lots of the donors are interested in.

I definitely felt a sense of achievement. A lot of what I did was really figuring out where the organisation was and what had been done before.

How did studying CIMA help?
My CIMA training was useful. I did some work with unrestricted funding and there wasn’t really a system in place to track how that money was spent – so that involved some activity based costing, some allocation of overheads and that kind of thing. 

That was definitely something that I’d studied and had never done in practice, which made it an opportunity. 

Would you recommend volunteering? 
Yes I would. It’s been an excellent thing to do. It makes you think in new ways and makes you feel more confident. It showed me what I know and have maybe taken for granted in my experience and studies.

Want to know more about volunteering with AfID?
Accounting for International Development supports over 90 grassroots charities in 20 countries across Africa, Asia and South America and is looking for accountants to coach and mentor staff. AfID works with a range of non profit organisations. 

Work includes conducting financial health assessments, coaching, developing the accounting skills of local staff and assisting with the preparation and analysis of financial plans and budgets.  

Volunteer accountant supporting a women's rights charity project in Nepal

Excelling for women’s rights: volunteer accountancy in Nepal

Aurelia Diedisheim ACMA spent four months working for a charity in Nepal. 

Airbus procurement financial controller Aurelia Diedisheim (far right) didn’t take to CIMA straight away. ‘I was hired by Airbus and it was part of the graduate scheme to do the CIMA qualification,’ she says. ‘I was a bit dubious at the beginning because I thought it was redundant, after the [business] studies I had done in France.’

However, benefits became clear as she progressed. ‘I was seeing the relationship with what I was doing at work, and realised it was much more in depth than what I had done before.

‘In France you really have only clerks or a financial controller. When you do business studies you only do the controlling side. Now I realise you can’t really control if you don’t know what was entered. I see being a management accountant as a complete qualification.’

Volunteering for duty
Aurelia’s desire to undertake charity work, combined with a passionate interest in Nepal, led her to an advert on the CIMA website for Accounting for International Development (AfID), who were looking for a qualified accountant to send overseas. She applied successfully for a sabbatical and her dream was suddenly a reality.

‘You tell AfID where and when you want to go and they are really good at finding charities,’ she explains. ‘They had three in Nepal they were in contact with.’

She picked an organisation called the Interdependent Surkeht Society (ISS), ‘a network based organisation: villages who group together. The work they do is driven by the needs of the villages. They support groups who are not empowered.’

Making a difference
Aurelia felt particular affinity with ISS’ main project: helping to promote awareness and education related to pregnancy amongst women and their husbands. ‘Overwork leads to serious health problems: women there never stop,’ she says. ‘They give birth and then one week after they are back working in the field, carrying heavy loads. If something happened to them they had no support.’

The project aims to teach why women must be able to rest when pregnant and after giving birth, and provide surgery and financial support for those worst affected by overwork. Happily, its efforts are bearing fruit.

‘You can really see the difference,’ Aurelia smiles. ‘People were really happy to see us. Importantly, men were beginning to understand what had happened to the women and the mentality was beginning to change.’

Using CIMA skills
The complicated nature of ISS’ financial transactions made Aurelia’s CIMA skills invaluable in helping the organisation. ‘ISS has to report to four or five different donors,’ she explains. ‘The problem was their accounting was simply entering [numbers] manually in a ledger.

‘The accountant, who’s really qualified, was spending his time adding up the ledger, and had no time to explain anything.’ Consequently, donors were simply receiving a list of numbers, without any analysis.

Her masterplan was to create an electronic financial system, but there were unexpected difficulties. ‘I realised they had never used Excel properly. The first month we spent learning how to do formulas, pivot tables and so on. Then we developed a financial system.’

Finally, they had reports organised properly by project and donor, allowing time for the accountant to analyse the data. ‘It will free time to do analysis, budgets, and apply for more funding,’ she says. Furthermore, these skills will be passed on: ‘The accountant is also a teacher, so he could use what we did in his teaching.’

A day in the life
Living in Nepal was, Aurelia remembers with a rueful smile, ‘really different. We were waking up at half past six and working ten until four or five o’clock. Between half past six and 10 o’clock, as a woman, you do all the house chores, the shopping, the cooking…’

Yet the strong community feel was demonstrated by her evenings. ‘Once you’ve finished work you go to the market or go and have tea at someone’s, so the evening is really sociable,’ she says. ‘I was lucky enough to go when the cricket world cup was on; that was very important!’

Personal development
Aurelia encourages others to become involved in voluntary work, feeling her time with ISS was of benefit to herself as well as those she helped. ‘My expertise is actually in a very small area in my company, but with CIMA we get that overall knowledge,’ she notes. ‘With ISS it was more that overall knowledge of the company that I had to have.

‘For example, I had to understand how a ledger was working, which I’ve never done in my work. It was the first time I felt I was important in finance.’

AfID logoWant to know more about volunteering with AfID?
Accounting for International Development partners with over 80 grassroots charities in 20 countries across Africa, Asia and South America and is looking for accountants to coach and mentor staff. AfID works with a range of non profit organisations.

Work includes conducting financial health assessments, coaching, developing the accounting skills of local staff and assisting with the preparation and analysis of financial plans and budgets.  

Financial Contoller for product development at Ford UK

Financial controller

Paul McNiven, Controller – Product Development, Ford, UK

For the past four years, Paul McNiven has had the heady responsibility of controlling the costs of Ford's new European models as they progress from concept to manufacture. He says his career history is a good example of how CIMA-qualified finance professionals can drive a wide variety of functions.

'The company likes to move its staff around as much as possible, to give them a good understanding of how the business fits together. I've worked in marketing and sales, manufacturing, treasury and profit analysis.'

An intrinsic part of Ford's engine is the CIMA qualification - the company's finance professionals have been encouraged to opt for the CIMA syllabus since 1988.

Although Paul now has many years of business experience under his belt, he believes his CIMA qualification was an ideal foundation for his career.

'I never wanted to be the popular stereotype of an accountant. I wanted to be part of the action rather than part of the reaction in business and that's what the CIMA qualification has enabled me to do.'

Alternative roles

Head of Programme Management for the 2012 Olympics

Going for gold: Jeremy Chapman on his work for the Olympics

‘As soon as London got the Olympics I was straight on to the recruitment website, I really wanted to be part of it,’ smiles Jeremy Chapman ACMA, CGMA. He got his wish, joining the Olympic Delivery Authority in 2006 as principal finance and commercial manager for four years, and then gaining promotion to be head of programme management – transport in 2010.

His excitement is palpable. ‘Seeing the Olympic park grow up out of the window here, the venues are amazingly designed and have been built perfectly. It’s a great Olympic park, a great stage for the event.’

Choosing CIMA
Jeremy started as a management trainee at The Post Office Counters Ltd, on a nine month management trainee course, involving training, skills exercising and work placements. He was struck by how people with professional qualifications really moved their career on.

‘While I had a degree I really wanted to do something that was professional and gave you respect and influence in the workplace,’ he recalls. ‘My work was leading me into budgeting and business planning and I wanted something that would reinforce the workplace experience I was getting.

‘I looked around and decided that management accountancy was most suitable for what I wanted to do.’

Transport of delight
Jeremy’s area of the ODA, transport, is one of the biggest challenges, given how busy the city’s transport links are even on a normal day.

‘At the very start, when London won the Games, we set out with the objective of moving lots and lots of people around London. We needed to cater for existing users of the transport systems (commuters and normal tourists), but also all spectators, the games family and the media on top of that. It really needed quite a complex strategy about how to enhance the transport in London,’ he explains. 'The ODA have been working closely with key transport operators such as Transport for London, Network Rail, train operating companies, the Highways' Agency, and others to help deliver this strategy for Games Time.'

‘You’re talking about shifting an additional 1,000,000 spectators round the London transport system a day; you’re talking about 50000 games families and athletes, moving those around safely and getting everyone to their venues on time.

‘The Olympics and Paralympics are just huge events; the ultimate project to deliver. It’s something everyone talks about. There’s huge amounts of complexity to work through, there’s not a lot of time, there’s no way you can move the deadline ... that’s what makes it such an exciting challenge.’

He is confident the detailed planning will bear fruit. ‘There’s a big programme of different projects that are encapsulated within the transport programme of works,’ he says. ‘Setting that out at the very beginning, making sure it was fit for purpose, that it was going to achieve the objective of getting London moving during the games, getting everyone to the events on time, was a really bold first step in getting that down.’

Winning through
Such challenges have really given him the chance to show off his CIMA skills. ‘Doing CIMA really helped me get the confidence and understanding to influence decisions; not just be part of the gathering of information for decisions, but also helping to influence and make judgements.

‘If you do that on a consistent basis and people become more and more respectful of your opinion, they come and seek you out, they ask you questions, and it’s a virtuous circle that helps you get on and gain experience.’

Finally then, how does he feel the UK will do at the Games? ‘That’s a very difficult question!’ he smiles. ‘Let’s hope we do even better than Beijing [where they won 19 gold medals and 47 in total]. I know the team will do their all, and there’s usually an effect of hosting the Olympics where the host athletes really rise to the occasion, and outperform their normal standards.’ He is confident: ‘I think we’ll do as well, if not better than Beijing.’

Consultancy and venture capitalism

Fast track to the top: Emma Blake on breaking the glass ceiling

Emma Blake ACMA, CGMA has had a highly successful start to her career, resulting in her being named in leading trade publication Accountancy Age’s top 35 accountants under the age of 35. 

Emma Blake’s career path has certainly been varied, encompassing everything from global aerospace and defence to an online store for women in business. Her versatility, helped by her CIMA qualification, has been critical to her success in breaking the glass ceiling.

‘CIMA has been the backbone, the foundation to my career,’ she states. ‘It has been the baseline of knowledge to draw upon in every situation from tactical financial discussions through to strategic planning.

‘It has given me that extra confidence women in business often need to push themselves forward for challenging roles. CIMA has been a great leveller for me. It evens the playing field by stating that you have already achieved a strong level of competence. 

‘What I love about CIMA is that it gives you that qualification level and skill set that you know will always be valuable and that you can never ‘fall’ below. For a women in business it is extremely valuable – it allows you to compete in the job market straight away, even if you been out for a few years raising a family.’  

Reaching the top
Emma started her career as a graduate at global aerospace and defence giant BAE Systems, and leapt on the fast track to success. ‘I was selected for a finance leadership programme, won a CIMA young business manager of the year award, and worked my way up to leading my own finance function,’ she recalls.

She subsequently moved on to Deloitte to lead their CFO advisory practice, delivering large scale finance transformation programmes across industries as diverse as oil and gas, telecoms, media and banking. Her ability to adapt was proven successfully.

‘Moving from an operational finance role into a consulting role was a big change but I loved every minute of it,’ she smiles. ‘Clients always respond really well if you have ‘real life’ finance experience supporting your advisory skills – it helps build instant credibility and meant I could roll up my sleeves to fix problems and genuinely empathise with the challenges they faced.’

Mentoring new talent
Her CIMA skills have also proven invaluable in her role as a mentor to SMEs. ‘CIMA gives you the skills to contribute to strategic business discussions down to tactical decision making on cashflow – and allows you to deliver real change and impact quickly, which is exactly what SME owners are looking for,’ she states.

‘Mentoring SMEs is fascinating: you see change happen almost overnight and decisions getting made by the owners in a heartbeat. It’s dynamic, rewarding and very different from the hierarchical structures of larger organisations.’

CPD is critical to success in this field, she believes. ‘As a mentor and as a consultant, one of the best things you can bring into any business team is examples of best practice and thought leadership that people can turn into practical steps and genuinely take action on.’

A new start
Emma’s latest project is providing venture capital funding to a new start up called Pinstripe & Pearls, an online store which delivers office wear for women in business.

‘It’s unique because we are working with a number of retailers to deliver the whole corporate look in one place,’ she enthuses. ‘Most women in business have the pressure to look the part but zero time to spend looking for their perfect corporate outfit, so this is a practical solution.

‘The store retails business wear and accessories – everything a businesswoman needs – but also has a growing community aspect to it, supporting women in business with style, career and general ‘survival tips’!

‘Pinstripe & Pearls is about shopping by who you are, not the specific commodity you want to buy – a very different approach to traditional retailing. It’s a world built completely around our customers – women in business – whatever their needs might be.’

Global growth
Wherever Emma’s successful career continues to take her, she is sure that CIMA will play a significant role. ‘Being able to get underneath the numbers and challenge your organisations financials will always be an important skill and will help you succeed in a variety of senior roles,’ she emphasises. ‘Just take a look at how many CEOs in the FTSE 100 are CIMA qualified.'

She also espouses the virtues of the new CGMA designation. ‘It’s a fantastic opportunity for all CIMA members. It creates a global language and reflects the reality of how we do business today – globally.’

Professor of finance and control at the Indian Institute of Management

Purusottam Sen: Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

Purusottam Sen, professor in finance and control at the Indian Institute of Management, CalcuttaPurusottam 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.

Why CIMA?

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.

Sir Alec Reed, founder of recruitment agency Reed and charity Reed Foundation

Dancing to his own tune: Sir Alec Reed's career and charity success

Recently knighted FCMA Sir Alec Reed CBE, the founder of Reed Specialist Recruitment Ltd and the Reed Foundation, has long extolled the virtues of blending business and benevolence, declaring ‘without charity, what's the point of business?’ 

When and why did you start Reed?
I set Reed up in 1960. I was working for Gillette and signing invoices to employment agencies. My main motivation – almost to the point of a sickness – was to work for myself so that I could put my own ideas into being. It wasn't motivated by financial gain, really. I was earning GBP900 a year, which was a good salary. All I wanted was to be self employed on that GBP900 a year. The rest of it was a big surprise to me!

Why did you decide to study CIMA?
I started by studying to be a chartered secretary. When I left school at 16, I became an office boy, and spent the first two years addressing envelopes. I was studying at night. I found the exams very difficult and although I eventually became a chartered secretary, I failed all the exams at least once.

Then, when I was working for Gillette as an accountant, I realised that there were other qualifications that were more relevant to accounting. I realised that CIMA was more marketable. I found that much more straightforward because I had been an accountant for four years at Gillette, so the theoretical stuff was much easier.

What are the advantages of a qualification like CIMA in a recession?
I think CIMA has got tremendous opportunities ahead of it, because [it] concentrates on management accounting. While computers spurt out hundreds and thousands of figures and you get quantity, they don't spurt out quality. I think management accountants should become navigators of companies, really. They should be proactive, forcing opinions to the chief executives – ‘have you thought of doing this and that?’

How did you get involved in charity work?
About ten years after we started Reed, the company had become big enough to be made public. I was based in Bond Street and at about that time the Observer newspaper ran a series of articles about people who were having difficult lives.

They invited potential volunteers to contact charity organisations, and because I was in Bond Street, I went to work with a drug addiction charity in a ghastly basement in Covent Garden. Then people began to find out that I was an employment agent and they were all after me to help them get jobs. A lot of them weren't job ready, though, so we started an employment agency for drug addicts.

We found that our best support came from small and medium sized companies, where the manager really owned the company and could make the decision – ‘yes, I can give this guy a chance.’ The big companies were more bureaucratic and weren't able to do that so readily.

I always wanted to be active in charities. After we sold Medicare, I decided to park the money in the charity. The reason that Reed Foundation owns 18% of Reed is because it bought the shares with this money. That's how the philanthropy journey started. Now we've started two or three charities. The biggest one is the Big Give, where we manage to multiply people's donations.

Do you think corporate social responsibility plays a big role in business?
No – and I'm not sure it should. Companies represent a host of shareholders. I think giving should be a personal thing, really – you should give your own money away, not somebody else’s.

The biggest incentive for companies is public response – when the consumer responds to [the knowledge that companies were charitable]. If consumers demanded that of suppliers, it would soon happen. Often, I think giving should come from the ‘fat cats’. I coined a phrase: ‘financial obesity is ugly; give handsomely.’

I read that in America, ostentatious wealth is not respected. It is in England. I think we admire the wrong things in this country. If everybody admired giving more than spending, I think you'd get a lot of people giving. Currently, you’re admired more if you have got a helicopter...

What are your thoughts on your knighthood [a prestigious UK honour awarded for public service]?
Funnily enough, it's growing on me … that you can, in this country, start life as an office boy at 16 and end up a knight. I think one of the ways of becoming mobile across the classes is to be an entrepreneur. I'm one of the very few lucky ones that did manage to break out of the class that I was born into.

Director of Film Planning for Paramount Pictures International

Movie making: Richard Eadie on life at Paramount

CIMA can truly lead to exciting and unexpected financial roles, as Richard Eadie of Paramount proves. 

As director of film planning for Paramount Pictures International, Richard Eadie is in a financial role with extraordinary perks. ‘I was in Red Square looking out with the Kremlin as a background, Linkin Park playing and I’m within a few feet of Michael Bay and the cast and crew (of 'Transformers 3') and I thought: ‘Happy days – it’s not a bad week in the finance career!’’

His work in the film industry, first with Lionsgate and now with Paramount Pictures International, enjoys a touch more glamour than most financial roles but also unique challenges. ‘I look after the costs of business, the money we spend across 50-odd territories in both marketing – telling people that the film is coming out – and in operations, physically getting the film out to the public. 

‘It’s an interesting and exciting industry to work in. I get quite a lot of privileges of going to things like film premieres and liaising with some very clever and creative people. It has its challenges and can be very time pressured at times, but overall it’s a very enjoyable experience.’

Career ladder
Richard’s finance career began with Danone UK, the world’s largest dairy producer. ‘I started off as a business planning analyst for them covering sales and marketing supply chain, really cutting my teeth in what it was to be finance person, supporting the areas of the business.’

A stint with Apple Europe broadened his horizons, giving him experience working in multiple markets. ‘It was quite an interesting role and gave me a bit more breadth in terms of international experience and working with many territories. I supported the sales team there in a time when Apple was in extreme growth, so it was a quite a fast paced role.’

After looking at various qualifications, it was CIMA’s relevance to changing business landscapes that helped him choose his path. ‘CIMA was the most commercial qualification to take and it also seemed to be adapting most with the changing face of industry, both for FMCG where I’ve worked and also with the technology and media side.

‘It was always a qualification looking to innovate and change and grow with the demands of business today.' 

Trained for success
As the effects of a continuing financial crisis echo, Richard feels his CIMA skills have been crucial to his success. ‘Businesses are naturally becoming nervous about investing lots of money in product launches, film launches. So the skills I’ve learnt with CIMA for understanding risk, measuring and negating risk have been really useful in my role here at Paramount.'

In an industry as fast moving as film, he also finds his CPD has been a great asset. ‘The film industry is constantly evolving … people are still trying to work out the best medium for people seeing films and downloading entertainment. 

‘CPD is essential because of the changing demand on your skill set, so continuously improving and growing in that respect is very important, I think.’

Spoilt for choice
Richard also believes CIMA opens up options for you outside of finance. ‘CIMA is a great qualification to give you a broad understanding of business, not just of financial acumen.

‘It sets you up for not just a financial career, but also a career moving outside of finance, transitioning into the commercial realm and into procurement and stuff like that. So it gives you a really solid fundamental business base.’

Stand-up comedian

An accountant walks into a club: Tom Goodliffe

Insight's Will Bond talks to Tom Goodliffe ACMA, a comedian who’s been doing regular stand-up since 2007 and is challenging the myth that accountants don’t have a sense of humour.

Tom won the 2009 ‘Beat the Frog’ new act competition at the legendary Frog & Bucket comedy club in Manchester and in 2011 had his first solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe – Tom Goodliffe: The Goodliffe. A self-proclaimed nerd, his comedy is fun and good natured with a bit of accounting humour thrown in for good measure.

Salary calculator

Compare your own salary to the averages of CIMA members and students and find out what you're worth; use our salary calculator.

Try the Calculator

AICPA | CIMA Competency and learning website

The professional learning and development website for CGMA designation holders empowers you to take control of your career development to discover and learn new skills when, where and how you want.

Visit the site

Career events

Search for the latest CIMA career events in your region.

Find out more

Online training

Log-in using your MY CIMA details for online career management training with Harvard ManageMentor.

Find out more

Find your next job

Check out our global jobs portal CIMA MY JOBS; gain career advice, browse for recruiters, search for a job and upload your CV.

Visit MY JOBS