CIMA MCS Feb 2018: Nortan

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The February 2018 CIMA MCS case study exam is fast approaching and I can feel it as I am sitting the exam myself! If you are taking he exam next month and you haven’t read the pre-seen materials then you can find the official document released by CIMA here.

With this in mind, I thought I would share my thoughts on the pre-seen before sharing the preview videos on the Industry Analysis and Pre-Seen Analysis.

Nortan: What do we know?

Well, first of all there are two aspects consider.

  • Nortan is major global oil company with a strong history.
  • The Nortan FOSSC is a shared services function that was setup in 2002 at the Nortan head office – your role is Finance Manager at the FOSSC.

Why am I mentioning this?

Well, the bulk of the pre-seen materials talk about the FOSSC, the history, the management team, this issues and press articles about the FOSSC.

So it’s clear the case study itself revolves around the FOSSC – what are the strengths and weaknesses at the Nortan FOSSC? What is it’s mission statement?

However, we must also consider Nortan as an oil company and how their operations will impact the FOSSC? Will Nortan be making an acquisition – how will this impact the accounting that will be required at the FOSSC?

So don’t neglect the oil industry and remember to see the bigger the picture with Nortan – our immediate focus should be on the FOSSC and it’s mission but the day to day operations of Nortan and strategic decisions made will have an impact on the demands at the FOSSC.

Nortan: The FOSSC

Shared Services Centre’s are common place in this day and age with large multinational companies. It makes financial sense to centralise the accounting operations in one location as opposed to having local finance offices in every country.

  • The pre-seen tells us that the setup saves Nortan 35% on their accounting costs (see snippet from the interview).

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While it makes sense financially to setup a Shared Services Centre there are potential problems and risks that the Nortan FOSSC could face.

Staffing would appear to be a potential problem given the fact the FOSSC employs over 3000 people and a reliant on a motivated workforce to meet the strict deadlines.

  • How do Nortan keep their staff motivated?
  • Does the HR department have the resources to vet all of the incoming applications in order to filter the right candidates?

There is also mention of redundancies in one of the companies that Nortan have acquired. The below snippet was taken from a press article in the CIMA pre-seen materials. It appears that Nortan are acting responsibility as they state they will make every effort to assist the affected staff to find new posts.

However, the theme of redundancies and staff turnover (which is a particularly hot topic in Shared Service Centres) could well appear in one of the exam variants.

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Nortan: Industry Analysis

I find the Industry Analysis is very helpful in this case study as it gives you a clear insight into the oil industry itself. Which is something missing from the pre-seen materials where the focus is on the FOSSC and no real details on how the industry operates and how to relate it to Nortan.

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the February 2018 MCS here.

Nortan: Pre-Seen Analysis

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the February 2018 MCS here.

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CIMA OCS Feb 2018: King Crystal

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The CIMA February 2018 OCS exam is based around a scenario called King Crystal.

Here are some thoughts from me on what to look out for when analysing the pre-seen materials for King Crystal – hopefully it will set you on your way to a first time pass next month!

CIMA OCS: King Crystal Pre-Seen Analysis

Firstly, you can download the official pre-seen materials for King Crystal from CIMA here.

Once you have analysed the materials I would suggest using the Astranti video series to add more depth to your notes and get you thinking about what could come up on exam day.

The below video is over 1 hour long and is a great starting point.

Having used these materials when I passed the OCS a couple of years ago (and currently using them for the MCS exam next month) – I’ve have found that the pre-seen materials contains lots and lots of hints, tips and suggestions on what will come up on exam day.

Don’t neglect any page!! Not even the introduction!!

Every single page of the pre-seen contains an insight to how the company operates, strengths, weaknesses and you need to ensure you have covered this detail and understand how to tie it back to the Operational Level syllabus.

CIMA OCS: King Crystal

I’ve taken a screenshot of the analysis made just on the first page of the pre-seen and you can see the amount of notes and points made by the tutor.

And this continues throughout the King Crystal pre-seen, the level of detail you can take from the pre-seen is huge so your immediate attention in the first few weeks should be focused on this.

Another nice touch, when watching the Astranti video, is the fact the tutor mentions that King Crystal could well in fact be based on the real life company Dartington.

So get yourself familiar with the UK company Dartington – It’s a great way to understand the scenario and industry that King Crystal operate in.

As well as the pre-seen analysis, Astranti also cover Strategic Analysis, Industry Analysis and the Top 10 Issues for King Crystal.

You can find the full set of videos on the February King Crystal OCS here.

For those interested in the complete Astranti OCS course you can find it here.

Finally, I wrote a general article of the February CIMA case studies for all levels with some advice and tips on the approach to take – you can find it here.

Good Luck and please feel free to share your own advice in the comments section below.

 

Blockchain; the future of finance?

Blockchain. Bitcoin.

Two words that I seem to keep across in recent weeks and months. Every day Bitcoin, the crypto-currency that keeps breaking records, appears on the news and mainstream media. Closely followed by the technology that allows it to thrive – Blockchain.

But what does it all mean and how can it impact the finance function and more specifically, CIMA?

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface myself but thought it would be worth writing a blog post to see what kind of discussion it would generate.

Bitcoin and Blockchain: A brief introduction

Blockchain has been around since 2009 when the technology was developed in order to facilitate the crypto currency Bitcoin. It was designed to provide an anonymous and secure digital way to transfer payments between two parties without needing a third party to verify the transaction.

A blockchain is a digital database for recording transactions, all parties involved in the transaction can see the database and each transaction is recorded as a block in the chain. All transactions are encrypted and it’s alleged to be tamper proof.

The technology has proved highly successful with large multi national corporations now looking at how they can use Blockchain to drive efficiency through the business, save costs and increase the bottom line.

Here is a simple example:

Say I want to send $1000 to a friend in the USA.

Traditionally I would go to my bank and submit a payment request to my friend, but in doing so I would incur charges by bank for the transaction as well having to wait two, three, four days plus for the money arrive.

Blockchain, in this instance, eliminates the “middle-man” i.e. the bank. I would send the $1000 using Blockchain technology to my friend in the USA who would receive the money instantly, no fees for me and both sides of the transaction.

Not only does Blockchain streamline the process it’s also more transparent and can be easily audited by any third party.

But how exactly does Blockchain work?

I came across this explanation in under 100 words by Richard Bradley from Deloitte.

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Bitcoin: The crypto-currency

You’ve probably seen the crazy price charts of Bitcoin recently or heard about the dramatic rises the crypto currency has been making. I don’t want to go into much detail, so this video from weusecoins dot com sums it all up quite nicely.

Personally, I know very little about Bitcoin as an investment opportunity and how secure it is long-term but that’s not the point of this blog post. The idea was to raise awareness of the technology Blockchain and how modern businesses are using it or exploring the possibilities.

Blockchain and Accounting

There was a brilliant article in the October edition of the CIMA FM magazine – you can read it online here. It as an interview with the management at Airbus and how they are looking at Blockchain technology to improve their external transactions and interactions with other parties.

A 2016 report written by Deloitte starts with the introductory sentence:

“Blockchain technology has the potential to upend entire industries”

It’s a quite a statement but the possibilities and potential are endless, you can read the report entitled Blockchain: A game-changer in Accounting here.

Auditing & Compliance

Blockchain technology could make the audit process of a company much more efficient and less costly. The auditor wouldn’t need to spend hours and hours reconciling transactions, they could rely on the companies “blockchain” ledger and spend more time analysing risks to the business.

Supplier Payments

Meanwhile, the automation of processes within the finance function could be developed. The obvious one would be supplier payments being made directly to the supplier once the vendor invoice is booked, goods received and it reaches payment date the supplier would receive the funds instantly.

And the transactional data involved is highly secure and visible to all parties concerned. Furthermore, it will increase efficiency and save the associated costs and times involved with a third party banks.

But what does this mean for CIMA?

This leads me to my final question – what does blockchain technology mean for me while studying CIMA? 

Of course I can only speculate at this stage but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the subject of Blockchain or Cypto-Currency to come up during one of the CIMA case studies in the coming months or years.

And if it doesn’t come up directly in the form of a scenario then there is definitely room for students to consider this real life trend and technology when considering risks in the case study.

  • Are your competitors considering Blockchain technology to gain competitive advantage?
  • What risks are associated with potentially implementing Blockchain and is it worth negating them?
  • Project Management – how to run a project on implementing Blockchain?
  • HR Issues – how do you educate your staff on the benefits of the technology without the fear of them losing their job?

These are the types of questions that pop into my mind at this stage.

Futures Contracts

Finally, it was pointed out to me on Twitter last week that the fact it’s now possible to buy/sell “futures” contracts on the cypto-currency Bitcoin as of today (Monday 11th December)!

Future contracts is a subject that comes up in the CIMA P3 exam so I would recommend keeping up-to-date with the latest news on the Bitcoin Futures that you will no doubt keep seeing in the news for the next few weeks.

Here is the latest news from the UK Guardian news website on the Bitcoin future contracts. 

CIMA Case Study Tips: February 2018

CIMA Feb 2018 Case Study

The CIMA case studies represent a significant milestone in the professional qualification and require the appropriate planning, hard work and dedication.

With this in mind, and the fact I am sitting the MCS exam myself in February 2018, I’ve decide to release CIMA case study tips article earlier and add more depth to it.

CIMA Case Study Approach

Before we go into the various resources from CIMA and Astranti I believe it’s worth starting with the approach required with the case study. As it’s very different to the approach required to pass the CIMA objective tests.

Know Your Role

Remember you are playing the role of accountant/manager/director of an imaginary company created by CIMA. So you should answer your questions from that point of view. But don’t waffle on in your emails to the boss about how your weekend was! Keep it relevant and to the point but use the structure and format as if you were responding to your boss’s request to evaluate pricing decisions.

Business Acumen

CIMA are encouraging us as students to show our business acumen in the case study exam, so when showing your technical knowledge don’t keep it to factual and dry – you’ll need to apply to the pre-seen and new information – make observations and recommendations on how the business can use it to their advantage, like you would be expected to the real world.

Cover All Bases

Make sure you submit a balanced exam paper, cover all bases that CIMA are looking for. Remember, there are 4 areas that CIMA are looking for us to cover in the case study exam – as I mentioned you need to showcase your business, people and leadership skills alongside the technical skills we have already picked up from the objective tests.

  1. Technical Skills
  2. Business Skills
  3. People Skills
  4. Leadership Skills

Know the Pre-Seen

There is no excuse for not understanding the pre-seen materials inside out, there are 6 weeks or so between the pre-seen materials being released and the exam itself. Don’t remember it word by word (as of course the pre-seen is available on exam day itself), but we need to link all of the information to give a us a clear picture of the company, industry and the strengths and weaknesses we face,

Industry Knowledge

Knowing the industry your case study is operating will give you some valuable information on real life trends and news. Showing this on exam day is a great to score marks and give some context to your answers.

Technical Knowledge v Hands On Case Study Revision

Having watched the Astranti keys to passing the Case Study video earlier this week, I noted not to go overboard in studying the E2/P2/F2 syllabus I’ve already covered. I had initially planned to spend most of time in next week or two studying the technical content but I plan to scale that down a bit – and go back to syllabus content in conjunction with the pre-seen materials and mock exams.

Exam Technique

There are a few elements to this.

Firstly, you’ll need to plan your answer efficiently, identifying the question requirements and planning the content of your answer before fully committing to writing out the full answer.

Then you’ll need to make sure you don’t overrun with time, if there are 4 sections to the exam then you should spend 45 minutes on each section, no more.

Then break it down even further. Split the 45 minutes into sub sections, or allocation 10 mins for reading and planning, 25 minutes for completing full answer and 10 minutes for reviewing to ensure you have covered the points you planned.

CIMA Connect Resources

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If you don’t visit the official CIMA connect site when preparing for your exams then you are missing out on a host of resources.

All of the below mentioned resources are linked to the CIMA connect site where you will require your login. And they are specially for the MCS exam and it’s an exam I will be sitting in February (you can find similar resources for OCS and SCS on CIMA connect).

How to analyse the pre-seen material – article by David Harris

MCS Exam question walk-through – article by CIMA

Student webinar: facts and techniques on how to pass the CIMA MCS

CIMA MCS Feb 2018 What’s App group – a thread created on by a student on the CIMA connect site.

Astranti Case Study Course

In my opinion, the Astranti case study courses are unrivalled when it comes to the CIMA case studies as my first hand experience with the OCS exam a couple of years ago.

The full OCS, MCS and SCS courses cover everything you need to pass the February CIMA case study.

I have enrolled on the MCS course for February and will be posting blog updates during the course to share my feedback with other students.

CIMA SCS Course

  • Study Text 1: how to approach the case study
  • Study Text 2: syllabus content from the previous objective tests
  • Pre-Seen Analysis: video analysis of the pre-seen from astranti tutor
  • Strategic Analysis: strategy based on the case study scenario
  • Top 10 Issues: the most likely issues to be tested on exam day
  • Industry Analysis: the case
  • Masterclass 1: live session with CIMA tutor on how to pass the case study.
  • Masterclass 2: another live session focusing on CIMA syllabus revision.
  • 3 Mock Exams: based on the actual case study (with marking and feedback).
  • Personal Advice and Guidance – via private forums and progress reviews.
  • Ethics Pack – a favourite CIMA topic that should never be overlooked.

OCS Course – February 2018

MCS Course – February 2018

SCS Course – February 2018

Other CIMA Tuition Providers

I like to promote and mention other CIMA learning providers outside of the big guns of BPP and Kaplan and there are two or three that I have been spoken to and used their materials to some extent and would also recommend to check out;

VIVA Financial Tuition – they have sent me a few articles on previous case study exams that were published on the site. You can read an example of their financial analysis on SCS exam AutoAuto here.

Practice Tests Academy – I use them for their mock exams for the objective tests but they have also started to release resources for the CIMA case studies and definitely worth checking out.

Important Dates – February 2018 Case Studies

Below is the schedule of important dates to remember – don’t forget you still have plenty of time to get prepared before the pre-seen materials are released!

CIMA Case Studies

CIMA Materials – 40% OFF BLACK FRIDAY!

Astranti CIMA

Astranti are having a mega BLACK FRIDAY sale starting today and are offering students 40% OFF all of their materials for the operational, management and strategic level – including all of the OCS, MCS and SCS case study materials.

It caught my eye as I plan to sit the MCS exam in February 2018 and will be using the Astrani MCS materials for my studies.

Remember, for those facing the prospect of a CIMA case study exam, the February sitting is potentially the best to sit a case study a you get around 60 days in between the pre-seen materials being and the exam itself. I wrote a brief article on it here.

Astranti Case Study Courses

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I will be using the Astranti materials for the next MCS sitting and have already started preparing a study plan on what I need to cover and when.

A reminder that the pre-seen materials are released before Christmas for the February exams (OCS pre seen is released on 8th December and MCS, SCS both released on 15th December).

So it’s a great opportunity to get plenty of study in before the exam comes around in mid to late February.

To claim the 40% discount add the discount code BLACKFRIDAY40 at the checkout – offer is applicable from Friday 24th November to Monday 27th November 2018.

Astranti Objective Test Materials

I used the Astranti P2 masterclass to good effect when passing my P2 exam earlier this month, while there are plenty of other resources that will help you with your next CIMA objective test.

Whether you are taking an operational, management or strategic level paper, Astranti are offering a full 40% OFF of all CIMA resources for the next couple of days.

Who says Black Friday is just limited to discounted flat screen TV’s and electronics?

Passing the CIMA P2 Exam First Time!

EditI managed to pass the CIMA P2 Advanced Management Accounting first time this week and must say I am over the moon with finally getting it out of the way!!

I scored a scaled score of 101 out of 150, bearing in mind you need 100 to pass I just edged over line!! Nevertheless, a pass is a pass and I can move on to the MCS now.

I started studying the P2 materials almost 12 months ago, but after taking a break from studying due to other commitments I finally picked up the P2 books a couple of months ago and managed to pass it first time.

Here are my lessons learnt and materials used for the exam.

CIMA P2 Materials

I signed up for the CIMA Study Prime course at the beginning of the year and found the content was a great mixture of interactive and “plain text” content. I did all of my initial studying in the early part of the year with this course and would recommend it to other CIMA students too – I actually wrote a blog article on this earlier this year here.

But when I picked up the pen again after 6 months away from the books, I was in two minds whether to go through the CIMA Study Prime course materials again. I felt it would be a duplication of work, so instead I looked towards the Astranti P2 masterclass video to refresh my knowledge of the syllabus.

Once I had refreshed my knowledge I turned towards the mock exams and used the Kaplan CIMA P2 Exam Practice Kit and the online Practice Tests Academy P2 mock exam question bank of over 500 questions.

Build-up to Exam Day

I gave myself three weeks to concentrate on taking mock exams, doing practice questions and mock exams in real conditions using the practice tests academy materials. I had time to revise the weaker areas of the syllabus based on the mock exam results.

However, I still found myself coming up short of a passing grade of 70% which did lead me to panic somewhat in the final few days.

But I continued revising the materials and practising my weak areas like the demand/pricing equation and standard deviation (which in fact is a doodle when I compare it to the pricing equations and linear programming!).

I stayed calm on exam day as I know I tend to work better under the pressure of a real exam and to be honest I just wanted to get it out of the way to see where I was – also I felt I couldn’t really do any more work than I had already done.

To summarise, here are my lessons learnt:

Use the final days before exam to keep revising

I was even revising the night before. I’m sure the extra theory I read on Transfer Pricing the night before helped me a great deal in the exam the following day.

 

Don’t neglect the theory

It might seem like a wise idea to skim read the wordy part of the syllabus – especially with P2 and F2 – and jump to the questions and calculations but you need to make sure you have covered all bases.

i.e. Calculating an acceptable transfer in the question is all well and good but can you also explain the difference between a Two Part Tariff and Dual Pricing?

Mock Exams – don’t get too disheartened with poor results

I found that the questions I faced in the mock exams felt tougher than the exam itself, maybe this is down to a combination of things. One of them being I tend to perform better under stress of an exam.

But don’t get down with your mock exam results or question practice. Best to iron out your mistakes before exam day and approach the exam with confidence.

Have an exam strategy

You will be pushed for time in the exam. Be smart – answer the easier short style questions first. Build confidence and move on.

This is nicely explained in the video below.

 

The CIMA Objective Tests are tough, there is no hiding place as I learnt when tackling my first one with F2 which I failed twice before passing – however, since then I have managed to pass E2 and now P2 first time – so it is possible.

Just keep going!

CIMA SCS November 2017: Steelcast

CIMA Nov 2017 SCS

The final set of pre seen materials for the November 2017 case studies were released last week – it’s the final step for some students – and the case study is based on a company called Steelcast.

You can find the official pre-seen materials from CIMA here.

Here are facts about Steelcast and further down you can find some preview videos on the pre-seen analysis by Astranti.

Steelcast: Who are they?

  • The company was founded in 1896 and was incorporated as Steelcast 1910.
  • They produce luxury watches and are regarded as one of the worlds leading luxury brands.
  • Steelcast was listed on the Hiland stock exchange in 1982.
  • They do not sell direct to the customer but through retailers.
  • Their mission statement was created in 1930 and reads;

“We make watches for leaders, who wear them with pride.”

Steelcast: Pre-Seen Analysis

Analysing the pre-seen materials should be your first port of call when starting your SCS exam preparation. The below video should get you started on thinking in detail about how to interpret the pre-seen.

You can find the full set of videos on the November 2017 SCS here.

Steelcast: Top 10 Issues

Once you’ve gone through the pre-seen in detail you should have a rough idea of what topics you could face on exam day, if not the below video is recommended viewing! The tutor goes through, based on the pre-seen, what could come up on exam day.

You can find the full set of videos on the November 2017 SCS here.

Astranti SCS Course with Pass Guarantee

Finally, the full SCS course for the Steelcase case study contains all of the mentioned videos alongside masterclasses, mock exams, ethics pack, advice and guidance from the tutor – what’s more it comes with a pass guarantee.

You can find full details on the SCS course with pass guarantee here.

SCS Course Contents:

  • SCS study text (part 1 and 2)
  • Pre-seen analysis (video and text)
  • Strategic analysis (video and text)
  • Top 10 issues (video and text)
  • Industry analysis (video and text)
  • 2 x online master classes – each class is a full day revision (recorded and live)
  • 3 x online mock exams – answered with detailed tutor feedback
  • Ethics pack
  • Personal advice and guidance

*you will require login to CIMA connect to access pre-seen materials and the image above is a screenshot taken from the CIMA pre-seen materials.