What businesses will expect from finance

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) has launched its 2015 Professional Qualification Syllabus. Developed in consultation with employers and finance leaders, the updated syllabus is designed to provide students with the accounting and finance skills, business acumen, people skills and leadership skills required by businesses throughout the world, now and in the coming years.

While the focus of the syllabus remains on building these skills to ensure that Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation holders will be highly employable, there are changes in the subject areas studied as well as the assessment methods. CIMA revises its syllabus regularly to maintain relevance in an evolving global marketplace. The syllabus guides CIMA students toward a CIMA qualification. Students must complete three years’ practical experience and pass an assessment, which is based on the syllabus, to become a CIMA member and obtain the CGMA designation.  

The syllabus is also of increasing importance to members of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). CIMA and the AICPA formed a joint venture in the creation of the CGMA designation. Currently, CPAs who have the requisite practical experience are eligible for the CGMA designation. Come 2015, candidates will also be required to pass an exam based on the CIMA syllabus to obtain the CGMA designation.

The revised syllabus includes new topic areas such as managing Big Data, finance function transformation and shared services, as well as sustainability and narrative reporting.

The relative weightings of some existing subject areas also have been adjusted to reflect their relevance in today’s workplace. For example, content on costing, cost management and cost leadership has been reinforced. As in previous years, the topic of risk is the primary focus of the Risk Management module at the strategic level stage, but the subject is now also covered in more detail in the operational and management levels of the syllabus.  
New format

The CIMA assessment, which historically was taken by students on paper, will soon be computer-based. The three tests for each level of qualification on the CIMA route will be available on demand at one of 5,000 testing centres worldwide, and CIMA is the first global accountancy body to pioneer a combination of computer-based examinations.

Each of the nine subjects of the syllabus will be examined via an on-demand objective test, which will examine all of the subject’s learning outcomes. A further innovation in the assessment process is that at the end of each of the three levels (operational, management and strategic), an integrated case study exam will assess integrated knowledge across the three syllabus pillars (enterprise, performance and financial). These case study exams are designed to consolidate learning and simulate the working world. The case study exams can be taken at one of four sittings per year.

Starting in January, CGMA candidates on the AICPA route will also be required to pass the strategic case study exam and fulfil practical experience requirements to become designation holders. The exam, which is also the final stage of assessment for CIMA-route candidates, will cover the strategic level of the syllabus, comprising the following subjects: strategic management, risk management and financial strategy.

Framework, joint development

The syllabus was driven by a competency framework for finance professionals. It was developed to show the skills, abilities and competencies that finance professionals need to help drive the success of their organisations.

Research for the competency framework and syllabus involved interviews with organisations from Malaysia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States; round-table meetings in 13 countries; and an online survey of at least 3,000 CIMA members and students as well as academics and education partners, such as tuition, test preparation and training providers. Further detail can be found in CIMA’s Ready for Business report, which explores the disconnect between educators’ priorities and the skills businesses need, and explains how CIMA worked with key stakeholders to update the syllabus and assessment.

“When designing the 2015 syllabus, we set out to enhance its relevance to employers, to ensure the rigour of the related examinations and to align the learning experience of candidates to the real world of business,” said Charles Tilley, FCMA, CGMA, CIMA’s chief executive. “I feel we have succeeded in this.”

Added Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA’s president and CEO: “The syllabus sets the benchmark for competency development that will inform tools and resources that benefit our members in their commitment to lifelong learning. It will empower CPAs who have moved to management accounting with the advanced knowledge they need to continue excelling in the discipline.”

More information about the syllabus and its implementation worldwide is available at CIMA’s website.

Samantha White ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.