The view from the President: 100 years and beyond

CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA

'It is a privilege to be the Institute's president this year — a year when we respect our great heritage and embrace our future.'

There is a reason our Institute has existed for 100 years: Throughout we have adapted and continued to lead the profession amid a century of seismic economic, business, and social change.

Technology may have changed beyond all recognition since CIMA was founded, but business still faces many of the fundamental challenges that were testing companies in 1919. These were the companies that emerged in the early years of mass production at the beginning of the 20th century. Companies like Unilever, founded by our first president, Lord Leverhulme, and the Austin Motor Company, founded by Sir Herbert Austin, one of a number of early vice-presidents.

Today we talk about data analytics, robotisation, and AI. Then, Lord Leverhulme, writing in The Cost Accountant, described how "the days of 'rule of thumb' are gone never to return".

CIMA has made huge strides since 1919 and its first exams in 1920. Along the journey, our first international office opened in South Africa in 1955, we were granted a royal charter in 1975, and in 2012 we introduced the CGMA designation. We've changed from a British to an international to a global organisation.

Our Association with the American Institute of CPAs now means that globally we empower more than 667,000 members and students. In contrast, the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants, CIMA's name in 1919, had 37 members. The first woman to take exams and become a member was Miriam Neale in 1921. In 2003 Claire Ighodaro was our first female president, and in 2009 Aubrey Joachim became the first non-British and Irish president. Today, the future of our profession lies in the hands of almost equal numbers of male and female students.

It is a privilege to be the Institute's president this year — a year when we respect our great heritage and embrace our future. It is not easy to define that future, but we can look at how we have led change over the past 100 years to learn how to engage with it.

I have experience of leading businesses though considerable change, and I know that not all decisions are popular. Retired US Army Gen. Eric Shinseki put it pretty well: "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." And that is a key message as we move beyond 100 years, embrace the fourth industrial revolution, and celebrate.

A recent London Business School Review article looked at why companies eventually fail. It described how in the mid-1920s, "leading" companies had an average life span of 90 years; today it is a mere 17 years. That said, as well as CIMA, there are a number of organisations that have hit the 100-year mark — a phenomenon covered on page 12 in this issue.

To avoid following the way of companies like Kodak requires a willingness to change. Kodak's camera business collapsed after 124 years in 2012. It had failed to adapt its business model in the face of disruptive digital technology.

CIMA is steadfastly committed to equipping its members for the next 100 years — so that they can seek and take opportunities and deliver prosperity across the world for themselves, their organisations, and their communities.

I want to thank the members and students who have made CIMA what it is today — and I want to engage with many of you during this special year. While 8 March is CIMA's official birthday, we will be celebrating during the year at events around the world (see #CIMA100 and