By Jim DeLuccia and Seth Fick, CPA
The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation continues to gain momentum, with more than 50,000 holders of the designation in the United States and more than 150,000 worldwide. Based on a competency framework distinguished by its case study exam format, the CGMA is gaining recognition at top companies nationwide as accounting and finance leaders see the value that the CGMA program can bring to their teams.
I recently spoke with Seth Fick, CPA, CGMA, a PICPA member and director of financial reporting at Independence Blue Cross. We discussed what the CGMA designation represents, how it benefits him, and why other CPAs should consider the program.
What is the CGMA?
The CGMA represents a global designation sponsored jointly by the AICPA and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. It is a program aimed at accounting professionals who are looking to earn a designation that rewards you for being a strategic thinker and acknowledges a broad skillset as it relates to overall business management.
What motivated you to get the CGMA?
After hearing about the CGMA designation and what it represents, it sounded like it was relevant to my current job and my career in general. I thought that my career path from the Big 4 to various levels of management within private companies has provided me with a solid accounting and management skillset, but there is always more to learn and different ways to go about it. I felt that this program was a good way to continue that growth path and to test my skills and business acumen while learning new things at the same time.
How does one acquire the credential?
There is an exam, which is a three-hour case study composed of three separate exam variants that take up to one hour each. The exam itself, and the pre-exam study material, put you into a role-playing scenario where you act as a senior finance manager of a company. The company name will be fictional, but the industry scenario that they place you in will relate to the real world. My exam focused on the dairy farming industry; others have been on the reality TV and soda industries. Each of the one-hour segments presents facts and circumstances in a business case format, and each section will ask you, as senior finance manager, multiple questions about how to resolve issues that are presented.
You are graded on your responses to the business cases and receive points for correct/applicable responses. The exam focuses on four key competencies, and you need to display that you have proficiency in each of them. They are Technical Skills (accounting/finance skills), Business Skills, Leadership Skills, and People Skills. To obtain the CGMA designation, you need to attain a minimum overall score, but you also need to achieve a minimum number of points within each competency area. For example, you can achieve the minimum overall score needed to pass and be proficient in three of the four competencies, but not having enough points in the fourth competency will cause you to fail the exam.
How did you prepare for the exam?
There are many ways to prepare for the exam. There is a CGMA review course that is a “must” in terms of studying. The review course provides instructional videos from a CGMA instructor that will help you prepare for the exam format and everything you need to know leading up to the day of your exam. This review course also provides “pre-seen” materials that provide the facts and circumstances about the business and industry to which the exam relates, and also information about your role as the senior finance manager for the fictional company. Lastly, the review course provides an opportunity to take mock exams based on your topic/industry and submit them for feedback. This is a great tool. It simulates the exam and gives you an opportunity for personalized feedback prior to taking the exam.
There are also self-study options with hours of material focusing on various areas that are deemed relevant for a strategic management accountant. The self-study materials teach key terms and principles that the examiners might be looking for when grading the exam. You do not need to go through all of the self-study materials and can choose to focus on topics or areas that you think you need to study the most. However, if time is available, it can only help to go through all of the self-study materials.
What types of skills have you gained from the program?
The CGMA process provides an opportunity to think as a strategic management accountant would. It provides great resources to learn new skills while also providing a refresher in areas that you may already be familiar with. Strategy development and implementation was one of the areas where I gained the most knowledge throughout the process.
How do you see the CGMA helping you?
Through the study materials and scenarios presented by the course, you think with a more strategic mindset. This can be helpful to any professional at any company.
Would you recommend the designation to your colleagues?
Yes. I believe this designation is worthwhile and represents a good opportunity to sharpen business skills and put your knowledge to the test. Successfully achieving the CGMA demonstrates a well-rounded skillset and the critical thinking ability to make key business decisions.