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Member in Practice opportunities in a post-COVID world

Being a Chartered Management Accountant places us in a particularly strong position to work alongside businesses, tackling the variety issues that undoubtedly lie ahead and helping to navigate our clients through the pitfalls and challenges.

As we emerge from one of the most challenging and turbulent periods in modern times, with lockdowns and restrictions over the last 16 months, many of us are facing issues that we could never have envisaged even in the early stages of 2020.  The impact of COVID-19 will undoubtedly be felt for some years to come in enterprises of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy.  Being a Chartered Management Accountant places us in a particularly strong position to work alongside businesses, tackling the variety issues that undoubtedly lie ahead and helping to navigate our clients through the pitfalls and challenges.  Our unique CIMA training and management accounting experience allows us to play a pivotal role in advising and guiding owners and managers in the weeks and months ahead.

While we devote so much of our time to working with other businesses, we might sometimes lose sight of the fact that as members in practice we are also business people.  I am reminded of that famous quote ‘in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity’ and perhaps it is timely that we reflect on how we might capitalise on potential opportunities that this last period has presented to accountants in practice.  Recent events, while very challenging, could potentially have a transformative impact on our professional lives.  Three areas in particular are worth considering – enhancing our offering to clients, use of technology to develop new commercial opportunities and a renewed focus on our own training and development as Chartered Management Accountants.

Many companies may not have appreciated or even considered the value of up-to-date management accounting information, having more streamlined reporting or simply having a qualified management accountant to deal with issues outside of the traditional areas of annual reporting and compliance. With far greater cash constraints, less predictable revenues and general uncertainty as to what Irish businesses face, it has never been more important for organisations of all sizes and stages of development to avail of the services of a CIMA accountant.

There are a number of specific areas where members in practice can play a key role from an advisory perspective over the coming period.  With numerous COVID-related support schemes available, it can be confusing and time consuming for businesses (especially SMEs) to decipher what assistance may be available to them.  Having up to date management accounts has never been more critical when determining ongoing eligibility for support schemes such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) or assisting with loan applications for restart financing.  While the debt warehousing facility offered by the Revenue Commissioners has provided a lifeline to many businesses in Ireland, they of course face the challenge of ultimately having to repay these PAYE and VAT amounts, again requiring careful financial planning and analysis in terms of cash flow and viability.  The skills of a Chartered Management Accountant have never been more invaluable to Irish businesses and as either an existing member in practice or a member contemplating a move to practice, it is worth considering how we can enhance our client offering to accommodate the changes in the current economic climate.

It is not just clients that face challenges of course.  Whether you are a sole practitioner or run a full-service practice, you will no doubt be experiencing a period of unprecedented change and having to adapt to new methods of doing business.  Remote working is clearly quite topical at present, as companies and individuals assess how best to tackle life in a post-COVID world.  For some, it will be a return to the traditional nine to five office routine but for a lot of people, this recent period marks a notable shift in how we will all approach our daily workload in the future.

There will always be times when face-to-face contact is preferable but as accountants, COVID-19 has probably demonstrated to most of us just how productive we can be, even if we are not always in front of a client or physically present in the office.

The majority of members have used cloud technology and online accounting software for some years now, enabling more efficient interaction with clients. As CIMA members in practice, the present climate is an opportune time to consider how we can further embrace these technologies to develop our own businesses and deliver increased client satisfaction.  With widespread acceptance that remote working is now a realistic option, this has certainly been an eye opener for so many companies and business owners.

This realisation also extends beyond the employer/employee relationship and companies are now far more accepting of the fact that many services can be delivered remotely and often in a far more effective way.  In terms of the broader finance function, remote technologies have for example opened up the possibility of accountants considering projects and clients that would not have been feasible in the past for geographical reasons.

As self-employed accountants, we more often than not struggle to find time for ongoing training and development.  It is unfortunately something that can fall to the bottom of our to-do list.  From a professional development point of view, highly accessible online training offerings now present a myriad of learning opportunities that did not exist previously.  It is now quite feasible to participate in an online CPD session over lunch without the need to leave the office, eliminating hours of travel which in turn leads to more time dealing with clients.

For any members that have not been participating in CPD activities recently, it is well worth exploring the online sessions offered by CIMA: CIMA Ireland past events, CIMA past webinars and CGMA store. Most of these are free of charge, with many sessions even available for download after the live events have taken place, should you not be able to attend at the designated time.  This is certainly a huge step forward for busy members in practice, allowing everyone to remain up to date with the latest developments in finance and other relevant areas.

COVID-19 has been a turning point for most of us.  I would encourage all members to put some time aside and consider how recent events might enable a positive change in how you can run your businesses, deliver greater value to your clients, while also creating more time for to focus on areas you might have neglected in the past.

CCAB-I panel vacancies

Are you working directly in the area of taxation, company law or insolvency or, do you have significant experience in these areas?  If you do and you are willing to give a little of your time to contribute to one of the CCAB-I technical panels, we would be delighted to hear from you.

The Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies – Ireland (CCAB-I) is the umbrella group representing the main accountancy bodies in Ireland, including CIMA. It prepares representations and lobbies government departments on behalf of its member bodies on a regular basis, covering all the key technical areas impacting the accounting profession.  As the CIMA qualification continues to grow in Ireland, having up to date and informed technical input from our members ensures CIMA continues to remain at the forefront of developments in the accountancy profession.

The panel roles are not overly burdensome in terms of time or commitment and are a great opportunity to make a positive and meaningful contribution to the latest hot topics impacting accountants in Ireland.  Please contact cima.ireland@aicpa-cima.com for further details.

 

About Eric Rochford: 

Eric Rochford qualified as a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in 2006, and subsequently became a CIMA Fellow in 2017.  He has over twenty years’ experience in finance and senior management/director roles with a variety of businesses, from multinationals to startups, across a diverse range of industries including food, medical devices, construction, manufacturing and financial services.  As a CIMA member in practice, Eric has a particular focus on the SME sector and early stage businesses.

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