Obtaining the CGMA Designation: A Global Perspective

First there was school, then the experience requirement, and finally, the exam. You’ve already worked very hard to obtain your CPA and now you’re employed in the accounting profession, so why would you want to add another set of initials after your name?

Said another way, why would you pass up the opportunity to improve your knowledge and position yourself for either additional opportunities with your firm or company, or perhaps something else in the near future?

While there are many specialized credentials in the accounting marketplace, the still-new Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA®) is gaining momentum because it encompasses our global marketplace. The designation adds to your resume by demonstrating business acumen, ethics, and commitment, while connecting you to a larger community throughout North America and overseas.

Managed in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), the requirements to become a CGMA are straightforward; you may already qualify. The requirements include the following:

  • three years of financial (including internal audit) or management accounting experience in business, industry, or government; or

  • two years of financial or management accounting experience plus 1 year in public accounting; or

  • three years of financial/management accounting experience on a consulting basis; or

  • three years in a management accounting role focused on the management and operation of an accounting firm.

Currently, no exam is required to obtain the CGMA; however, beginning in 2015, those who wish to obtain the designation will be required to pass a strategic case study examination. Sounds good, but how do your peers feel about the CGMA?

Shannon Stith, CPA, CGMA, RP, is a senior planning associate in Boise, Idaho, with Boise Inc., a packaging and paper products company with plants across the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. An AICPA Leadership Academy graduate who serves as chair of the Champions Task Force for the 2013 Women’s Initiative Executive Committee, Shannon says her reasons for obtaining the CGMA were based on personal and professional goals.

“I am a continuous learner influenced by my grandmother and uncle, both former teachers, who cultivated my drive for self-improvement and love of learning from a very young age,” she says. “The CGMA allowed me the chance to gain additional information through available resources to help my personal quest for knowledge to use in improving my professional and volunteer organizations.”

The global aspects were also very important.

“Many companies either have operations across multiple countries or interact with companies outside of their home country,” says Shannon. “Given this interaction, it’s very important to have consistency and standards to compare professionals to best contribute to the success of the business. The CGMA ensures that there is a standard of excellence and quality in what we do, no matter the type of business or the country in which we are working.”

Even though Shannon has only had the CGMA designation for a short time, she already understands the short- and long-term benefits. For example, being a designation holder gives her access to information that is more relevant to industry, including discussions on management challenges and planning, forecasting, and budgeting insight.

“These resources allowed me to contribute further to my current department through knowledge gained and the ability to share resources, but I also enjoy the networking that comes with having the CGMA. The ability to connect with a variety of individuals across the world has provided a different view of problem solving that has helped me grow as an individual. I have been able to reach out to other CGMA professionals on Twitter and LinkedIn to seek out information to help with current issues related to accounting or IT, as well as provide insight to others when they have questions.”

AICPA and CIMA have spent quite a bit of resources on marketing the CGMA, but unless you personally know someone who has it, you may be on the fence.

That’s the case with Heather Zundel, CPA, director of Internal Audit for Presbyterian Healthcare Services (PHS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Like Shannon, Heather is also an AICPA Leadership Academy graduate.

“I am unclear on exactly how this designation will help in my role at PHS, but I think that it may be a lack of education on my part,” she says. “I know that I tested some very appealing tools that the AICPA was considering adding as an incentive to the CGMA, so I admit that I need to learn more.”

Heather says she received a lot of information in the mail and heard about the designation through her affiliation with the New Mexico Society of CPAs.

“I am interested in learning more and really think that it is a good direction for the profession. The difficulty that I face is that my organization limits the amount of memberships it pays for; PHS already covers several of my memberships specific to healthcare internal audit, so the cost associated with this membership will come out of my pocket on top of what I already pay for AICPA dues and other organizations that I have chosen to join.”

Asked how the AICPA could encourage more young CPA to obtain the CGMA, Heather thinks it would be good to form a grassroots effort to educate CPAs in business and industry on the benefits of the designation. One way to do this, she says, is to provide more information to the state CPA societies.

Shannon, on the other hand, believes the way to break through the “designation clutter” is to focus an effort on educating companies and organizations.

“If it is important for businesses to have an edge when competing in a global marketplace, then it is imperative as CPAs to provide additional services to help companies to have that competitive edge,” says Shannon. “The CGMA provides a globally recognized designation that demonstrates understanding and excellence to help individuals and companies stand out and provide the competitive edge necessary to be successful in a global marketplace.”

Given the 2015 exam requirement, now is a great time to explore the CGMA designation to help your decision. Visit the CGMA website for more specific requirements, benefits, and tools provided exclusively to designation holders.