• Training to be a management accountant

Accountancy dull? Don’t believe a word of it...

This feature is sponsored by CIMA

Handling the deadline-day transfers of footballers, watching the latest movies ahead of release, travelling the world as part of your job; these aren’t roles that fit into the traditional stereotype of a dry and fusty accountant.

But accountancy is shaking off its image problem – thanks in no small part to the dynamic field of management accountancy – with a wide range of opportunities far removed from simply balancing the books.

Management accountants have responsibilities that extend far beyond finance – they’re involved with guiding company policy and strategy, leading boardroom decisions and working on a global scale.

“It’s a myth that accountancy is dull,” says Jeremy Chapman, who worked as a commercial manager for the Olympic Delivery Authority ahead of this summer’s Games. “The new breed of management accountant needs to have a wide variety of skills and the flexibility to adapt.

“There is certainly nothing dull about being close to the money and the power.”

Getting started

A common path to progression in a management accountancy career is by gaining a qualification from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). It’s a route that’s open to anyone from school leavers to university graduates.

Sian Jones, a management accountant for The Global Travel Group, started studying for her CIMA qualification straight after her A-levels. “I wanted to be able to continue working while I was studying so I didn’t have mountains of student debt to pay off when I was finished,” she says. “This way I have been able to study and save money.”

Sarah Young, assistant to group accountant at Deep Sea Leisure, agrees, and has begun an interesting career at a time when she might otherwise still be at university.

“Studying the certificate level straight from school allowed me to progress quickly and pass all of my exams by the age of 21,” says Sarah.

“I now work in a fantastic environment among 10-foot sharks, otters and tropical fish! I love the variety of work: I work across all nine of our UK sites, looking for ways to improve the systems and working practices.”

Vicky Ridley (pictured) didn’t take A-levels at all, studying instead for a qualification with the Association of Accounting Technicians before progressing to the CIMA Professional qualification. It’s enabled her to take on a position as interim financial controller at All Saints. “I still have to pinch myself,” she says.

Future aspirations
Others complete their university studies before starting on the path to management accountancy. Anthony Meakin gained a law degree at the University of Manchester, and then went on to study with CIMA. He now works as a finance analyst at British Airways.

“I looked to my future aspirations and where and how I wanted my career to develop,” he says. “Finance appealed to me as it focuses on my key interests; working with numbers and people, being challenged on a daily basis, and having an influence and contribution that makes a valid difference.

“I love the challenge that my role provides, along with the level of responsibility that I have been given at this early stage of my career. It is extremely rewarding to know that I am making a valid and direct contribution to BA’s future business strategy.

“I am also fortunate to have fantastic travel opportunities, both for duty and leisure.”

It’s clear that, when working as a management accountant, there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ job: the roles and responsibilities are many and varied.

“I think the main thing that is unusual about my role is how commercial it is,” says Sereena Malkani, an assistant financial analyst at Sky. “It is finance, but a lot of what I do still relates to Sky as a company and the TV advertising market.”

Richard Kinney works as a commercial planning manager at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. “As with many organisations it is vital that employees are knowledgeable about the product,” he says. “Of course in our case the product is film, so it is expected that we are up to date with upcoming new releases.

“Each Friday we are expected to attend a screening of our latest release in our very own in house cinema. While this is a great perk, it is also very much an important part of the job. Plus, it’s always nice to see the films before they come out so you can brag to friends!”

An accountant bragging to friends about their work? That definitely doesn’t fit the stereotype. But then the whole perception of accountancy as a grey profession no longer rings true, as Siemens finance officer Charlotte Holmes explains.

“Some people think that accounting is a boring job for dull people,” she says. “In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth.

"The role of the management accountant is very fast-paced, dealing with matters across the whole of the business. Helping a business to grow and develop is exciting and liberating.”

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