Anthony Barry has been a CIMA member for four years. In his words, the CIMA qualification has opened the doors for him to do exactly what he wants to do in his professional life. Take a look at Anthony's Q&A.
Why did you choose CIMA as your professional qualification?
The biggest driver in my decision to pursue the CIMA qualification was the commercial and strategic edge. I had the opportunity as a teen to spend a couple of summers in a medium sized accounting practice in Limerick, which is where I cut my teeth. While assisting in the preparation of accounts gave me a good grounding at that point, I found myself more interested in the running of the practice itself rather than ensuring that the balance sheet balanced! I was looking at how the staff utilised their time, the rates they were being charged out at and wondering could we do better – from that point it was clear what direction I wanted to go.
How did you balance study with working full time?
The key for me was routine. I studied on Monday, Wednesday evenings during exam periods (Fridays as well in the build up to Strategic exams) and trained with my rugby team on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At weekends, I would study before games on Saturdays and then again most of Sunday. Of course, things popped up and work got busy, but I was lucky enough to work for a company that afforded me some study leave, and I used some annual leave if I felt I needed more time.
What skills have you gained through studying CIMA and how have they contributed to your role?
While I had always thought my people skills were strong, gaining more of an understanding of how to influence stakeholders in a variety of ways and how to communicate effectively has been invaluable. The knowledge in the bank means I can deliver messages with confidence, even if it isn’t always what people want to hear. I have also found the guidance that CIMA offer in terms of coaching and mentoring to be quite beneficial.
What does your current role involve?
I am currently working as a Finance Business Partner for a global Consulting firm. I manage the budgeting and forecasting process as well as acting as a Business Partner for the Managing Director. The Company has acquired several medium sized firms and part of my remit is to ensure that key performance indicators are reliable, scalable and drive the right behaviours across the Group.
How has CIMA membership and the CGMA designation contributed to your professional career?
The CGMA designation brings a lot of credibility to what I do. I spend most of my time working with non-financial stakeholders who rely on my skillset and knowledge to enable strategic decision making. While the quality of what I produce and how I communicate it tends to be more important in terms of how I am perceived, being known as the ‘CIMA guy’ in the office certainly helps.
How do you see CPD as being of value to you in keeping your qualification relevant to the constantly changing business environment?
The way I see it, if I do not keep my CPD up to date I run the risk of being surpassed by new graduates in a short space of time. The new syllabus has such a focus on digitalisation and change that resting on what I have learnt in the past may mean my skills aren’t what are needed as my role changes, never mind progression. Thankfully, I like to learn and other than keeping my ear to the ground in the corporate world and at work, CIMA provide really strong off-the-shelf packages that make it easy to put a structure around my approach.
How do you think technology is transforming your job and the market?
While traditional reporting cycles still exist, improvements in technology and the removal of data processing limitations mean that forecasting is becoming more ‘real-time’. This is key in my role and in our industry as change can be rapid, and the ability to be proactive and dynamic can be the difference in staying ahead of the curve.
Has your current role been affected by digitalisation?
Yes, I think digitalisation has affected the jobs of most people I know in one way or another. For me, the biggest impact has been the Company’s decision to move to a cloud-based accounting system, from the traditional ‘on-premise’ platform. For my day-to-day, this means not just moving from one system to another, but also integrating the financial system with the web-based CRM system – quite the task, however, the benefit of being able to make decisions linking both financial and non-financial data together is certainly worth the effort.
What are your perceptions about the CIMA 2019 Syllabus focusing on reinventing Finance in a Digital World?
Having only recently read the white paper on the CIMA website, I can honestly say that it feels like a necessity. I have seen in my own roles how much things have changed since I started out and the rate of change is exponential. For CIMA professionals to remain relevant and ahead of the curve, a change in the way students are educated is paramount.
What advice would give to anyone thinking of studying the CIMA qualification?
Be aware of what it is you want to achieve in your career. If you have an interest in more than ‘just the numbers’ and want to impact and embed yourself into the running of a business, CIMA is probably for you.
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