Tag Archives: Accounting

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


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.


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.


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.

The Week Ahead – 18th April 2016


It’s been a tough of couple weeks for me personally in terms of getting back on track with my CIMA F2 studies after failing at the beginning of the month. The Kaplan exam kit arrived so I could start revising again but I’ve yet to open it. But nevertheless a new week brings new hope!

There was little activity on the site last week due to the fact CIMA was at the back of my mind but I intend to rectify it this week.


The May sitting of the case study exams are approaching and you can find the preview videos on the pre-seen analysis below. Worth a look and contain over 30 minutes of video for each paper – OCS, MCS, SCS – they will get you on the right track passing the upcoming CIMA case studies. For those sitting the OCS exam next month you can read how I passed it here.

May 2016 OCS – Sanchez Navarra

May 2016 MCS – IC Optical

May 2016 SCS – Dreem Park

The CIMA Student Website

This week I’ll look at each May case study paper in terms of industry analysis as well focusing on an F2 topic I will be revising this week. Most likely long term leases and how to calculate them using the sum of digits method.

If you have any suggestions in terms of content for the site then please reach out to me on thecimastudent[at]gmail[dot]com.

Happy Studying!


E2: Useful Links and Resources

CIMA E2 Culture Exam Tips


E2 Project and Relationship promotes an integrated approach to managing organisations from an internal and external perspective. It takes the knowledge you have gained from the E1 paper and builds on it by looking at the concept of strategy and how it can be implemented by people, projects, processes and relationships.

Here are a come useful websites and links to get you started on your way to passing the E2 Project and Relationship Management paper.

E2 Useful Links and Resources

Astranti Managerial Membership – Free Study Text 2015 – Astranti provide free study texts for ALL of the CIMA  papers and I use them as a base for my exam preparation. They are easy to digest and can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection.

CIMA Connect E2 group – the official CIMA connect page for E2 students. You can find articles on the E2 syllabus as well as a place to discuss the paper with other students and CIMA moderators.

The Change Process – study notes released from CIMA on the change process within an organisation. Discusses how companies should counter internal resistance to change.

How to Keep Mega-Projects on Target – a useful insight to the world of project management and how management accounting can be used to keep global projects on track. Falls under area D of the E2 syllabus.

Acorn Financial Training – Acorn provide class room tuition and home study materials. You can get an extra 10% off ALL of the acorn materials (including E2). Here can find the full the list of materials they offer and to claim the 10% discount please email thecimastudent[at]gmail.com with the items you wish to order.

If you have any additional resources you would like to share with other students for the E2 CIMA paper then please then a link in the comments box below.

The Week Ahead – 1st February 2016

It’s the beginning of February and the case study exams will soon be upon us.


Feb 2016 Case Study Exams

The OCS students are in their final week of preparation for the exam and should be making sure they have every angle covered (not just the theory). So this means, you should be brushing on Industry research as well covering ETHICS! And perhaps a final mock exam to give yourself more confidence.

Here is an article I produced in December on how I remember the key points on Ethics.

Meanwhile, the MCS and SCS students still have a week or two until they sit their examinations so there is still plenty of time to get stuck into the mock exams to prepare you for exam. Also, use the upcoming time to focus on Industry research so you can apply some real life scenarios in your upcoming exam.

The CIMA Student Website

This week I have an article that covers industry analysis for OCS, MCS and SCS for some last minute revision. I have picked out some helpful links for all three levels as well providing preview videos of the Astranti industry analysis.

Meanwhile, on Friday, I will be sharing some tips and views (taken from the CIMA connect site) from students who have already passed their respective case studies.

As always, I would love to hear from CIMA students out there who would like to share any exam tips and resources. You can leave comments below or email me on thecimastudent[at]gmail[dot]com.

Happy Studying!


Social Media Accounts to Follow!

It’s almost the end of the working week and the perfect time to brush on your social media accounts to follow. I have researched, short-listed and drawn up a list of people and accounts you should be following on twitter.

Here they are (in no particular order).


– the official CIMA twitter account is a must follow. They generally reply very quickly to tweets and provide the latest CIMA news and press releases.


– an excellent training provider of CIMA materials and they regularly have competitions giving away materials and discounts to their products. I’ve used Astranti materials when passing the Operational Case Study.


– award winning magazine for part-qualified accountants. PQ Magazine share the latest industry news. Very informative.


– Head of Ethics at CIMA. Ethics is an under-rated topic for your CIMA revision – try and apply it where you can. SO this is the ideal twitter account to follow to keep up-to-date with Ethics and CIMA.



-A great source of information for the accounting professional. The Accounting Web UK twitter account posts all of the latest industry news. Well worth a follow.

The Week Ahead – 18th January 2016


Last week was a much more productive week for me personally in regards to my F2 studies. I managed to catch up on some slack from week one as well the week two topics I planned to cover.

Here is what to expect for the week ahead on The CIMA Student.


There was an interesting press release from CIMA that suggested that performance at work is dictated by peoples biology rather than effort or rewards. If you’re interested you read it in full here.

On a more light hearted note, the “19 things you need to stop saying (because you sound like a corporate robot)” article on mashable.com should raise a few smiles.

The CIMA Student Website

The examiners report for the November 2015 OCS was released last week and I will be providing more details and opinion on how the exam was received. The examiners report is an excellent resource provided by CIMA that many students will overlook or gloss over.

Also be sure to keep your eyes peeled for an article later in the week that covers all of the best CIMA and CIMA related social media accounts to follow.

Budgeting and Beyond!

Budget concept
While studying for the operational case study I was revising the budgeting section of the P1 syllabus and the idea of Beyond Budgeting really struck a chord with me.

Traditional budgeting methods, in my opinion, are becoming outdated and counter-productive. The idea that departments will needlessly spend in the final months of the year to ensure their budget is not cut the following is crazy.

Traditional Budgeting Methods

I’ve seen this first-hand when managers have been scrambling around in November/December to spend their capital expenditure budget so they got the same amount the following year. I was relatively new to the company and quizzed a colleague as to why there was so much spend in December and she told me “Well, they will lose their budget next year if they don’t spend all of this years”. Madness.

Beyond Budgeting: A new approach

So Beyond Budgeting looks to rectify these problems by abandoning traditional methods  – the two main drivers for this are;

1. A more adaptive set of management processes
2. A highly decentralised organisation

Beyond Budgeting empowers management by giving them the freedom to achieve their goals without the need of a rigid set of budgeted numbers. Instead, front line management are given goals that are in line with shareholder value and the bigger picture.

As one of the main criticisms of traditional budgeting methods is the fact it’s too short-term in it’s thinking.

These goals are measured using a set of KPI’s, industry benchmarks, customer satisfaction and revenue or market capitalisation.

Hope and Fraser identified 6 shared common principles that should be used by all companies who want to adopt a Beyond Budgeting technique:

– A governance framework based on clear priorities and boundaries.
– A high performance climate based on visible and relative success at all levels.
– Front line teams with a freedom to take decisions in line with the company’s governance principles and strategic goals.
– Teams given responsibility for value creating systems.
– Teams focuses on customer outcomes.
– Open and ethical information systems.

If applied correctly, the beyond budgeting process rewards the high performers within the company and not just the skilled budget negotiators.

Other key benefits include accountability and ownership by empowering the front line teams to make decisions. And, of course, there is less waste as managers are encouraged to work towards medium and long term strategic goals rather than traditional annual budgets that produce unnecessary spend.

CIMA produced a topic gateway document on Beyond Budgeting that can be found here and makes for interesting reading.

Beyond budgeting is:
‘An idea that companies need to move beyond budgeting because of the inherent flaws in budgeting especially when used to set contracts. It is argued that a range of techniques, such as rolling forecasts and market related targets, can take the place of traditional budgeting.’
CIMA Official Terminology, 2005


Integrating Work Experiences and CIMA

Finding different techniques to revise for exams can be difficult. Trying to recall pages and pages of notes and study text in the exam isn’t ideal.

So speaking as an older CIMA student (over 30) it makes sense to try to think about the practical experience you have gained and apply to your CIMA studies on exam day.

Trying to remember the various IFRS’s and IAS’s is nearly impossible; however, I’ve found it very helpful to think about the day job and the tasks I am performing when faced with a question or topic I am unsure of. Thinking about my practical experiences in the office sets off a trigger that allows me to answer the question or recall information I need.

I’ll give you a great example of this.

I was revising for a case study exam earlier this year and had four or five accounting standards that I thought could come up on exam day. In particular, was the one on exchange rate gain and loss.

IAS21 – The Effects of Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates


You can see from extract above the official documentation on IAS21 (in fact ALL of the accounting standards) are very dry and formal. And it’s a time consuming process to go through it over and over again so you understand the purpose of the standard, put it into your words and apply it correctly.

Relate it to Work Experience

Instead, I relate the accounting standard to my actual work experience as a general ledger accountant.

Every month end we ran the foreign currency revaluation on the open AR/AP items and any exchange rate differences were posted to the income statement as a gain or loss.

For example: Receivables Ledger issued in $

Jan 2001 – AR Invoice             $1650         1.61        £1025

Feb 2001 – AR invoice            $1650         1.68       £982

The $ invoice was issued in January when the exchange rate was 1.61, however in February the exchange rate went up to 1.68. The $ is still open but it’s now only worth £982 when translated to the companies reporting currency, so the difference needs to be posted to the income statement in February period as a cost.

Debit – Unrealised gain/loss expense account  £43

Credit – Receivables  $43

This gave me a much better understanding of IAS 21 as I was responsible for posting this transaction in the monthly accounts.

It also enabled me to explain the standard in simple and practical terms. Vice versa, when reading the full accounting standard I had a clearer picture of it’s purpose and was able to understand the more complex or long winded elements of IAS 21.

So when I was ready to sit the case study I knew if a question came up on the effects of exchange rates and how to treat I immediately knew IAS 21, the theory behind and how to practically apply it.

Next time when you’re struggling to remember key models and accounting standards try and relate to your day job and you might find things become much clearer!

F1: Useful Links and Resources


The operational level of the CIMA qualification covers the implementation of strategy as well as reporting on the implementation of the strategy. It’s focus is purely on the short term.

The main area of the F1 syllabus revolves around Financial Accounting and Reporting. However, you shouldn’t neglect business taxation as it represents a quarter of the F1 area.

Useful Links

Astranti Operational Level Membership – Free Study Text 2015 – Astranti offer some great free study texts for the whole of the operational level. The complete study text for F1 is available for free (but only the online version), you will need to pay if you want to print the text.

CIMA Connect  F1 Group  – here you will find the F1 homepage on the official CIMA site. It contains various documents and articles related to the syllabus as well as a discussion forum that can e very useful before exam time.

F1 Study Notes: Ethics – this article on Ethics is a great insight into a real life example and will help you when preparing for the F1 paper.

F1 Study Notes: Financial Reporting and Taxation – a brilliant article from CIMA on the 2015 syllabus and how it’s affected the F1 paper. A must read for all students sitting the F1 exam next.

F1 Study Resources Homepage– here you can find all of the study resources that the official CIMA website provides.


*note: you may need to login into your CIMA connect account for some of the above links.

Outsourcing: A False Economy?

The E1 paper (and the Operational Case Study) could throw up a question on outsourcing. It’s a topic I am really quite familiar having worked in a couple of environments where the company were outsourcing services.

In some instances, it felt like the cost savings made by the company by outsourcing their finance function was actually a false economy. As the quality of the work delivered by the outsourcing provider would ultimately cost the company money as they wouldn’t have accurate and reliable good to make strategic decisions.

OUTSOURCING: An explanation

Outsourcing is the contracting out of services and aspects of the organization to specialist providers. There are two types of competencies that should be considered.

THRESHOLD COMPETENCIES – must be good processes but easy to imitate and they hold no source of competitive advantage.

CORE COMPETENCIES – something you are able to do that drives competitive advantage and it’s very difficult for your competitors to imitate.


  • Cost – the main reason for outsourcing comes down to cost. Large companies will benefit from economies of scale. Reduced capital expenditure and deduced headcount and labour charges
  • Quality – the supplier may have skills and expertise that adds additional value to the products.
  • Focus – company can focus on core areas of the business and increase their competitive advantage.
  • Buyer Power – the outsourcing market is so big, you exercise buyer power to negotiate better deals.



  • Loss of core competencies – losing core competencies will soon see sales drop and the brand will be damaged and overtaken by competitors.
  • Cost Issues – cost savings may not be realized in the long run.
  • Damage to morale – staff redundancies could affect morale of the existing employees.
  • Damage to brand and company reputation – if your customers are dealing directly with the outsourcing provider they could damage the brand of your company with poor service.
  • Risk of loss of confidential information.


Outsourcing, of course, can be very beneficial to a company and in fact improve the services and efficiency of the company. For example, outsourcing the AP function can save the company headcount and they can leverage on the expertise of the provider who should have better and more efficient processes to perform the accounts payable activities.

Moreover, the company can now focus their efforts on the activities that actually add value in maximising revenue.

Outsourcing is one of the very first topics in the E1 syllabus. It’s so common place in the modern business world a lot of CIMA students who are working in a finance function of large companies will have first hand experience of the reality of outsourcing.


CIMA Exams – one at a time?


The new CIMA 2015 syllabus, in my eyes, has changed dramatically when you consider the examination structure. The objective tests can be scheduled at any time and have been reduced to 90 minutes with several smaller questions covering the whole syllabus.

It’s a welcome relief not to have face the 180 minutes hand written exams for each subject area, however, the new case study exams at the end of each level are as broad as they are challenging. Trying to revise for all three subjects and apply it to the pre-seen material is definitely a big, big challenge.

Personally, I have yet to sit one of the new operational exams in the 2015 syllabus and I am thinking about the path I will take next.

The exams for the 2010 syllabus were scheduled at certain times during the year, which usually meant students (myself included) would study for two papers at a time.

  1. To add variety to your studies
  2. To make the most of the exam timetable

However, the new syllabus means you can sit the exams any time you want. Well, the case study exams have set times but you can sit the objective tests whenever and, what’s even better, is the fact you get the results there and then!

Meaning, if you  fail an objective test you can re-take it the following week or month, ensuring you don’t lose too much ground when waiting for your next exam.

Nevertheless, it’s given me a bit of a problem when considering the approach to study for the CIMA objective tests. Do I just focus on one exam at a time, or do I attempt to sit two or three at a time?

There is an interesting article on the CIMA website that highlights the pros and cons of either approach. You can find the document here and it’s well worth a read.

The main points worth considering are the impact on the case study when deciding what path to take on the objective tests. If you take just one exam at a time “You may need to refresh your knowledge before taking the case study“.

Alternatively, by taking three subjects together (or two) “You will see clear links between each subject to prepare for the upcoming case study

Currently, I am swaying towards studying for one objective test at a time so I can focus my attentions on the one subject and ensure I pass first time. Also, by focusing on one subject at a time I should be in a position to take the exam quicker – perhaps in a two month period? Meaning I won’t have such a long gap between papers and ultimately the case study.

I guess it’s all down to personal preference but the 2015 CIMA syllabus is certainly much more flexible than ever before.



Traditional Study Materials v Online Materials


image from Dave and Les Jacobs (Getty Images)

When I started my CIMA studies last year I automatically purchased all of the study materials from Kaplan without giving it much thought. I ordered the E1 and F1 books – so the study text, exam questions kit and revision guide – and was generally pleased with them in terms of content. Especially the exam questions kit, which was excellent when in the final weeks of exam preparation.

I passed both exams first time in the November 2014 sitting and thought to myself I would stick with ordering the Kaplan materials. But when returning to my desk to pack up the books from E1 and F1 I soon realised – what am I going to do with these books now? And imagine the amount of books I would have collected over the next few years while studying CIMA. Not to mention the cost involved (the delivery was astronomical as I live  in Central Europe).

Online Study Materials

So I explored other alternatives on how to study CIMA. And the more I thought about, the more I realised that purchasing physical copies of the study texts wasn’t efficient for me. Instead, while studying for my next exams, I used a smaller learning provider where I could purchase the study texts online (in fact the basic study text itself is free).

I feel it gives much more flexibility and you can access it anywhere you have internet access. So you can squeeze a couple of hours study in when you are in the office (lunch break of course), or when you’re travelling. It means you don’t have to carry around a text book the size of a telephone directory in order to study marginal costing or catch up on consolidated group accounts.

However, I do agree, there is something comforting and traditional and sitting down to study with a large textbook and calculator. You might find that this way if studying is more suitable for you. It’s hard to break this kind of trend as it’s the way we’ve always studied from the age of five years old onwards.

But overall I believe that using online materials saves you space, time and money. And if you are still getting the shakes by not having a physical book to hold you can always print the materials out!

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if my beliefs remain the same when studying the Management and Strategic level of CIMA.