The Benefits of Studying CIMA

Why is CIMA becoming more and more relevant in industry today?

Well, it’s a subject I have been giving lots of thought to recently as I embark on the strategic level. I say embark, the reality is I have yet to open a P3 text book but the plan is start after I’ve finished writing this blog post.

In my mind I believe there are three main reason why I believe CIMA is the standout qualification for those finance professionals who want to work in industry.

  1. The role of the traditional accountant is dying.
  2. A trend towards “Business Partnering” is emerging within the finance department.
  3. You need more than one string to your bow.

The Traditional Accountant v The Modern Day Finance Professional

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I actually began working as an 18 year-old trainee accountant in a small family run business and when I think of the traditional accountant, I think of my time there. Everything was handwritten in paper ledgers and a calculator was the closest thing I got to anything resembling technology.

The traditional accountant is a role that is purely focused on producing the set of monthly accounts or annual statutory accounts. There is no real analysis of insight provided to the management of the business, but they focus on ensuring the accounts reflect a true and fair picture of the organisation’s financials.

There is no nothing wrong with that of course.

Every business, large or small, needs to have accurate accounting records and financial statements but is it really a full time job these days given the advances in technology? Especially in large multinational companies.

Gone are the days of the accountant pouring over hoards and hoards of invoices, receipts and paperwork in the finance department.

Everything is electronic and streamlined, ERP systems have allowed for a huge amount of data to be collected, and processed through various ledgers and sub ledgers.

What’s more the reporting systems that are “bolted-on” to the ERP systems can provide a host of reports to management at the click of the button. There is no need for the accountant to spend their time to preparing a monthly reporting pack for the business to review if powerful, on demand reports are available.

The Modern Day Accountant

The modern day accountant, in my opinion, needs to be more attuned to the business they are working in and need to expand their horizons outside of the finance department.

They need to build relationships with multiple stakeholders (project managers, IT specialists, finance directors, logistics etc.).

Of course, the foundation of their knowledge and experience needs to lie within accounting. The modern day accountant will still need to understand the accruals concept and how the changes to IFRS 16 will impact the accounting practices but that’s only half of the job these days.

And that’s one of the reasons why I have found CIMA so interesting and practical for my job today.

It’s given me more of an insight into project management and managing stakeholder relationships. I’ve begun to think about Risk Management and the types of risks organisation’s face and how the finance department can add value to the “The Value Chain”.

All of these areas, which are covered in the CIMA P and E pillars of the syllabus are just as relevant in the finance department as the accounting itself.

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Business Partnering – the future of the finance department

As I touched upon earlier, the modern day finance professional needs to be closer to the operations of the business in order to evolve their role of day to day number crunching and accounting.

How are we expected to understand the risks and opportunities within the organisation If we are not talking with colleagues in sales, logistics and credit control?

The modern day accountant can help contribute towards alleviating some of the pressure on the operations by providing analysis and insight on the critical areas like cost control on functional costs, for example.

I wonder now, if you walked into the finance department of a large manufacturing company if the finance staff could tell you the range of products they make, which ones are profitable and which ones are loss leaders?

What are the biggest challenges the sales staff face – are they frustrated by receiving monthly reports from finance one week after the period had closed?

Are they reports the finance team send actually relevant to end user?

All of these questions can be answered if finance are working alongside the business and not as a back office function.

It’s something I have to remind myself now and again, that I need to build closer relationships with other departments and keep updated with the latest company news, products and the real output of the company – otherwise I am in danger of becoming obsolete myself.

The Finance Business Partner (FBP) is a role that is becoming increasingly common these days as large successful companies have realized that the finance department really needs to be seen a partner with the day to day operations.

The Finance Business Partner will take a key interest what challenges the “shopfloor” is facing and translate the financial results into easy to digest data so everyone can understand what they mean and how they help contribute towards a more profitable bottom line.

What’s more, this kind of role illustrates how the modern day finance professional needs to operate and what skills they need. I’d say that over 50% of the skills required in this role are soft skills that are based around communication, presentations skills and negotiation.

Here is a brilliant quote that was taken from the CGMA document called “The Changing Shape of the Finance Function”

“The expectations of the finance role has changed. Finance is embedding itself across the business”

It was a quote from an interview with an Indian bank worker and really sums up how finance in industry has evolved from the traditional role of the finance function to the modern day needs of a business.

CIMA: Exam Tips

More than one string to your bow

This can be applied to any profession really but this is becoming more and more relevant in the world of finance where globalization and technology is having a big impact.

I’ve seen it myself first hand with the introduction of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) that carry out the repetitive mundane jobs in the finance department to either streamline the headcount or free up the time of the accountant so they add value by giving insights to the business on the results of the financial statements.

If all you can offer or willing to offer is data entry and repeating the same jobs over and over, then your days are numbered in the finance department.

Technology is a massive driver in the future of the finance department and it’s in the accountant’s best interest to develop their skill-set alongside this.

This needn’t be becoming an IT expert, but more of understanding change management and project management in the context of the finance department and how IT can drive the business forward.

The modern business is constantly changing and none more so than with the technology used, my own experiences alongside studying CIMA has helped me understand the challenges of change management within an organisation and how to react to different situations.

Let’s take an example rolling out a new ERP system, this will impact the whole finance department as well as the wider business. This will need a close co-operation between the project team, finance clerks, IT professionals and management of the department to help facilitate the change.

The whole finance department needs to react to this change positively in order to make it a success, and if there is resistance then the management need to spot that, understand why and come up with a strategy to negate it.

The accountant needs to develop their skills to work with the new ERP system, so that’s technical skills and communication skills to seek help and training, and also educate others. It’s counterproductive if the accountant is unwilling to change and is stuck on using the old legacy systems.

While senior managers need to under the change management process and really help to deliver the message as to why changes are being made and facilitate the rollout of the ERP system.

All of the above require very minimal accounting skills. It’s about understanding the need for change and how you can contribute to that in your role – even if you are data entry clerk to CEO. Everyone needs to play their part and evolve at the same pace as the organization.

I believe to prosper and continue to move forward in the world of finance, the finance professional needs to continue to look outside the finance department. Understand the risks of the business and finance department and learn how to collaborate with other departments and stakeholders.

Having one trick of producing a set of monthly accounts will no longer be enough.

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Let CIMA shape your future in finance

I’ve worked in a range of roles in the finance but it wasn’t until about 12-18 months when I was studying CIMA that it all began in click in terms of how the role of the accountant is changing – and what skilles are needed to succeed.

The core accounting fundamentals are part of the CIMA syllabus, there is obviously no getting away from group accounts, accounting for leases and share based compensation.

But the P and E pillars of the CIMA syllabus really emphasie what else is needed to be a successful management accountant.

Stakeholder relationship, project/change management, and management styles are all just as relevant as the accounting standards themselves.

So if you can pondering your next step of your career in the finance department, think about the skills and knowledge you have gained from CIMA and see what direction it takes.

Project Manager? Finance Business Partner? Data Analytics? Finance Process Specialist?

There are a host of opportunities and career paths out there that have evolved and will continue to evolve from the role of the traditional accountant.

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CIMA SCS Aug 2018: Finch News Group

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The CIMA SCS August 2018 case study is around a very interesting multimedia and news company called Finch News Group and the pre-seen materials were released last week.

It sounds like a great case study to get stuck into as I’m sure we are all aware of the media. Whether it’s digital, newspaper or social. So it’ll be easy to relate in some respects – good luck to those taking the exam next month!

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

Meanwhile, below are the usual preview videos posted by Astranti.

Pre-Seen Analysis: Finch News Group

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the August 2018 SCS here.

Strategic Analysis: Finch News Group

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the August 2018 SCS here.

Top 10 Issues: Finch News Group

You can find the full set of Astranti videos on the August 2018 SCS here.

Astranti SCS Course with Pass Guarantee

I’ve used the Astranti the materials for the OCS exam and took the full course when passing the MCS exam earlier this year, so I know their materials and tutor support will get over in the line in the SCS!

The full SCS Astranti course currently has a £150 discount that runs until Monday 16th July – just use AUGUSTSCS18 at the checkout to take advantage.

What’s more, they so confident you will pass the SCS exam they offer 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

CIMA MCS Aug 2018: Montel

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The CIMA August 2018 sitting of the case study exam is only six weeks away. This means the pre-seen materials have been released and students should be analysing them from cover to cover by now!

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

CIMA Case Studies: The Four Stages of Preperation

Having passed the OCS and MCS exams first time myself, I believe there are four key stages for prepearion required for passing the CIMA case studies.

Syllabus Knowledge Refresh

Refreshing your syllabus is a good idea while you wait for the pre-seen materials to be released but it’s also key to refer back to the syllabus content for F2/P2/E2 during the next weeks during your exam prep – as you’ll need to revise your weak areas that have been highlighted from mock exams.

Pre-Seen Materials

Next up, you’ll need to get to grips with the pre-seen materials. Go through the materials by yourself first, making notes. Then use your study materials, classroom lectures or video resources to add more depth and understanding to your notes.

I’d also suggest to make a summary of the key points of the whole document on just two sides of A4. This will be easier to remember and recall on exam day. 

Mock Exams

I’d be very surprised if any students pass a case study exam without attempted at least one (you should take three) mock exams in exam conditions. CIMA case studies are notoriously time pressured and you’ll need to be prepared and have an answer planning technique to help you get the most of the 3 hours available.

Take mock exams!!!

But only once you have digested the pre-seen materials and refresh a high level review of the syllabus content.

Review: Mock Exams and Pre-Seen

Finally, you’ll need to reflect and learn from how your mock exams went. While also referring to the pre-seen materials and syllabus content to improve your weak areas.

It might sound alot of work (it is!) but with the right planning and commitment you can pass the MCS exam first time.

You can read how I passed the Feb 2018 MCS exam here for inspiration. 

CIMA MCS Montel: Top 10 Issues

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

CIMA MCS Montel: Pre-Seen Analysis

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

CIMA MCS Montel: Industry Analysis

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

MCS: Astranti Full Course

The MCS course from Astranti is worth looking into if you’re after a full comprehensive set of resources, what’s more, the course comes with a PASS GUARANTEE.

MCS Course Contents:

  • MCS 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

CIMA OCS Aug 2018: Thomas Fine Teas

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The August 2018 Operational Case Study pre-seen materials are now available and students sitting this exam are advised to make this 29 page document your bible for the next 6 weeks!!

You can find the pre-seen materials for the August 2018 OCS from CIMA website here.

CIMA OCS: Pre-Seen Analysis

You can find the full set of videos on the August OCS here.

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

CIMA OCS: Industry Analysis

You can find the full set of videos on the August OCS here.

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

 CIMA OCS: Top 10 Issues

You can find the full set of videos on the August OCS here.

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

CIMA OCS: Mock Exams

I find that Mock Exams are the best way to gain confidence and get REAL practice of what to expect when you sit the OCS exam. However, it is important not to rush into sitting the mock exams straight away.

You should make sure have understood the pre-seen materials and covered all of the necessary revision before sitting any mock exam.

But don’t fear if you fail the first one or two, the idea is to improve your technique and score with exam exam, so hopefully you pass the 3rd exam with flying colours!

To get a feel of what you can expect on exam day, you can take the free OCS mini mock from Astranti before taking the 3 full mock exams that are based on the Thomas Fine Teas case study.

Astranti Mock Exam Testimonial

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You can find out more information about the Astranti Thomas Fine Tea mock exams here.

CIMA OCS: Case Study Exam Tips

I passed the OCS exam myself a few years ago now, but you can read my thoughts on how I passed the Flores Rosa OCS exam here.

Good Luck and Happy Studying!

CIMA: Getting Motivated

CIMA: Exam Tips

It’s been almost two months now since the February MCS results came out and I’ve yet to start studying for my next exam. I’m really struggling to get back on the horse, so to speak. You can probably tell as the content on the blog has as slipped in recent weeks.

I was so relived to pass the MCS and having invested so much energy and effort in the exam, I needed a few weeks break and this few weeks has seen the last two months slip by without as much as opening my P3 study materials.

Getting Motivated Again

I know the strategic level will be a tough nut to crack and perhaps subconsciously I am delaying my studies, but I’d planned to take the strategic case study in Feb 2019 – with the premise I’d pass P3, E3, F3 by then but that now looks a tall order.

Self Studying CIMA can be a lonely path and it’s easy to get side tracked and down tools completely while you consider your next move and how you’re going to study for the next exam.

I’m also struggling for motivation even though I am on the final level.

Two at a time

Back in March I pondered if taking two exams at a time (P3 and E3) would be manageable as this was as a strategy I used at the very beginning when sitting F1 and E1 together in the same week (managed to pass both first time).

Of course, the operational exams were “easier” but nevertheless studying for two exams at a time worked then and it might actually help to study two different topics at the same time i.e. the variation might compliment each other and keep things fresh when studying.

I also have a couple of weeks of holiday coming up in June but I’d still have 12 weeks of study for P3 and F3 followed by 3 weeks of revision and take the exams at the end of August, then, should I fail one exam I;d give myself the month of September to take any resits needed.

Then I’d have 11/12 weeks to pass F3 before the February 2019 pre-seen materials were released on 17 December 2018. Therefore, reaching my target of taking the SCS exam then.

But is this a risky strategy?

  • Taking P3 and E3 at the same time.
  • Will I have the motivation to study hard during the summer months July/August?
  • Is it dangerous to have such a strict targets – especially when self studying.
  • Is it realistic?

These are the questions I have going round in my head at the moment, anyhow I have the P3 and E3 materials so I plan to make a start on my studies this week and then I’ll make a decision and book my exams for end of August should I decide to sit both.

How do other CIMA self-study students prepare and plan for the exams? Any tips on how I can achieve this target of taking the SCS in February next year or should I just focus on one exam at a time?

 

 

CIMA PER: Practical Experience Requirements

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I had a request on twitter a few weeks back about the Practical Experience Requirements (PER) that are needed to obtain the fully fledged CGMA designation.

So with this in mind and the fact I am beginning the strategic level myself, it seemed the perfect time for myself to delve further into this subject which you may have not even thought about!

What is PER?

Well, let’s start at the beginning.

What exactly is PER you might say?

It’s about fulfilling the practical experience that is required in order to be considered a competent chartered global management accountant.

As a CIMA student/member you’ll need to have 3 years relevant work experience under your belt and fulfil a certain criteria that is measured by the CGMA Competency Framework (more on that later…).

As a student you’ll need to submit the relevant work experience using the MAT Membership Application Tool – here you will record your practical experience against the CGMA competency framework – it will need to verified by your line manager or something at who can prove you fulfilled the criteria.

Finally, once you’ve passed the SCS exam,  it will be assessed by CIMA to determine whether you have gained the sufficient experience and then be awarded the CGMA designation. 

When do I need to take action?

I imagine most student’s leave this part until they have passed the final exam and then realise they need to submit their PER.

However, you can begin to complete the PER as soon as you begin studying CIMA – as long as you have demonstrated the professional experience in the workplace.

And that’s something I have started to myself since researching this blog post as it will save time when I do finally complete the strategic level.

As well as reading this article, I would suggest you to take a look at the official CIMA PER Guidance here – this will explain in detail;

  • What is PER and why it’s required.
  • The CGMA Competency Framework.
  • The criteria you need to fulfil.
  • How the MAT (Membership Application Tool) works.
  • FAQ’s

In summary, I would suggest all students (especially those with 3+ years’ experience in finance) to start your PER now and document your practical experiences in line with the CGMA competency framework.

Not only will you be a step ahead when you complete the strategic level, recording the experience as and when we complete it will ensure its accuracy and help the verification process.

How do I take action?

Let’s take a look first at the CGMA Competency Framework to see what kind of practical experiences we need to submit and get verified.

The hierarchy of the CGMA competency framework is split into four levels with Level 1 based are the four knowledge areas which we are already familiar with from our case study exams (see the core in diagram below);

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Level 2 is what is known as the competency category you can see listed out in the above disagram – for example, the first one under Technical Skills is “Financial Accounting and Reporting”

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Level 3 is the proficiency level of the category, which is clearly shown in the above illustration.

Meanwhile, Level 4 is the competency required to fulfil that specific proficiency level. This is ultimately the professional competency we are aiming to demonstrate in our PER.

Completing your PER

Now we understand whats behind the competency framework we can begin our application.

I’ve just recently begun to the complete the PER application by logging into MY CIMA account and selecting the Updated PER option in the MY CIMA menu.

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It’s actually quite easy and self-explanatory to complete despite my initial trepidation.

You start by entering your personal details and then your employment history with timelines – now you have the chance to select the Level 4 Competency’s we looked at earlier.

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For example; I selected the following competency:

Level 1: Technical Skills

Level 2: Financial Accounting and Reporting/Transnational Accounting and Closing Process

Level 3: Advanced

Level 4: Simply, improve and harmonise existing and complex processes and systems for accounts reconciliation’s and month end closing.

So remember, it’s the Level 4 competency I am documenting here.

Once I have added how I have demonstrated this skill (500 words maximum) I save it on my application, but then it will need to be verified by my line manager.

You can do this by adding a verifier to each employment role you listed on your application, it’s quite straightforward, nothing too tricky.

Once you are ready you can submit it for verification.

Just to clarify, it doesn’t matter if you are still on operational level, you can still add the professional experience to the PER and get it verified by your manager/designated verifer.

It’s the final step of submitting the PER application to CIMA can only be done once you have passed the final Strategic Case Study exam.

If you’re still none the wiser, then take another look at the Official CIMA PER Guidance from CIMA, or you can leave your comments below and I will do my best to answer ASAP.

CIMA SCS May 2018: Couchweb

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Students sitting the SCS exam May 2018 will be dreading the next few weeks ahead of them, but to honest it’s where we (as students) all want to be! One more exam!!

CIMA released the pre-seen materials for the May 2018 SCS exam Couchweb a couple of weeks ago, so you should already be well versed with the materials. Below are a few visual aids to help you on your way.

You can find the official SCS Couchweb pre-seen analysis from CIMA here. 

Couchweb: Pre-Seen Analysis

Here it begins. The pre-seen analysis video from Astranti below will get the ball rolling for your SCS exam next month.

You can find the full set of videos on the May 2018 SCS here.

Couchweb: Strategic Analysis

The strategic analysis of Couchweb will help you identify where the company strengths and weaknesses lie and where they are heading.

You can find the full set of videos on the May 2018 SCS here.

Couchweb: Top 10 Issues

Now you’ve had time to look through the pre-seen analysis and strategic analysis, you should have an idea of the Top 10 Issues with couchweb? If you are still struggling for focus then the Astranti tutors view of the Top 10 Issues will help you on your way to passing the CIMA SCS first time.

 

You can find the full set of videos on the May 2018 SCS here.

Astranti SCS Course with Pass Guarantee

The SCS complete course boasts a huge amount of materials, advice, videos, mock exams etc etc. I’ve used it to good effect when passing the MCS exam earlier this year so would definteltly recommend it.

What’s more, they so confident you will pass the SCS exam they offer 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