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How CIMA skills help in a tough economic climate
David Spier, ACMA, CGMA, is project coordinator at Ulster Bank in Dublin working on updating the bank’s finance reporting systems. Insight asked him why he chose to study CIMA.
‘CIMA was the qualification that provided the best fit for my skills. It provided fresh focus and new ideas for engaging colleagues in solving complex financial issues. I managed to qualify in just under two years - all first attempts, with two placings.
What was it like being involved with the banking industry during the crisis?‘In a nutshell... hectic! It was (and still is) a very difficult time in the sector. The banking industry was seen as a safe haven, but during the crisis that view was turned on its head.
‘There is new long-term focus on stability in the whole banking sector, which is a positive move for all involved – companies and staff. The uncertainty and not knowing what would happen over the next week was very daunting. An old joke at the time said: ‘What do you call a banker who irons five shirts on a Sunday night?’'Optimistic!’
Too many dog walkersSome of the crisis was foreseen but the world wasn’t prepared for the scale of the crisis. The obvious culprit was the sub-prime mortgage market, but people had access to easy credit, and ended up buying things they couldn’t afford.
David explains: ‘If someone can afford a dog, but doesn’t have the time to walk it, my view is ‘don’t buy the dog’. If you see more 'dog walker' adverts than ‘for sale’ adverts in the back of the local newspaper, something is wrong!’
Overcoming the problems using CIMA skills‘The fallout from the crisis is still happening. The scapegoats portrayed by the media are usually the greedy bankers, or society’s elite. Branch staff take the brunt of the abuse, which is unfair and ignorant.
‘I see a variety of ways to overcome the problems, both on a personal and corporate level. Nobody wants to own up to working for a bank these days. A lot of people say they are an accountant instead of saying ‘I work for a bank’. Pride needs to be established back to the sector, which I think the CIMA acronym of TOPIC / OPTIC helps.
‘Technical competence is a necessity in the world of finance today. Providing accurate, reliable, and transparent information is part and parcel of my job, and this can only be a positive move to get through the crisis.
‘A CIMA member should always behave in a professional manner and be objective. We all know what a lack of professional behaviour achieved. A CIMA member needs to maintain integrity in pursuing their career path. Integrity is your reputation, so is controlled solely by yourself!’ he says.
David’s current role is in the finance transformation project (FiRST programme) at Ulster Bank where he is responsible for the budgeting and forecasting process.
‘Hyperion Planning is a database solution developed by Oracle, which seeks to eliminate the problems of large spreadsheet-intensive processes with budgeting and forecasting.
‘Hyperion can also model data, which is a huge piece of functionality. Data modelling has been pointed out as an end state for the transformation project. This suits my skill-set, as this means I can apply problem solving skills to many aspects of the process.
Value for the future‘The sector has contracted and efficiencies and savings need to be found. The focus of the project is not to make people's tasks redundant, but to add value to the process, which ultimately helps the business in the long term.
‘In the pre-crisis days, all these legacy processes were extremely complex, and because the end result was a positive outlook, it never warranted further investment into streamlining and standardising.
‘The new Chartered Global Management Accountant qualification is a great step for ACMA members as the qualification now becomes truly global. It is the only qualification recognised on more continents than its equivalents and its reputation will be enhanced.’
The rock and roll lifestyleDavid has been a drummer since he was 13 and has played in bands since then. ‘But we never got the elusive big break,’ he laments, ‘though I did make it into the Irish charts when the band I was in peaked at number 24.
‘I currently jam with a few like minded guys every week or two, and have the annual event of a gig in Dublin city centre. It’s basically a classic rock outfit, with a few covers thrown in to keep the crowd happy. It’s definitely a fun hobby to have.’