Leading and listening

New CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj sets out his direction of travel.
CIMA President Steve Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA

The term “first amongst equals” might have Roman origins and be used in the political arena today, but it has an acute relevance to how I see my year as president. I am here to lead as well as to listen; I want a two-way engagement with our members and students.

The role of CIMA president is also to be the eyes and ears of the organisation. I have a formal role as leader of Council, which holds the Association board to account, but I know that my work will need to go way beyond that. I want to set out here my direction of travel.

Much is said about the future in terms of technology, but the future of our profession is our students themselves. We need to understand Millennials’ and other generations’ mindsets as we re-engineer the way members and students engage with us. If current trends in life expectancy continue, members of Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s to around 2010) will have a length of career that their parents would find astonishing. The requirement to be continually learning will be equally as long.

I was at the first Global CGMA Leadership Academy in April in London. This four-day event brought together a group of members from around the world to prepare the next generation of management accountants to lead the profession. It provided a rounded approach — successful professionals need to be able to lead, communicate, analyse, and inspire.

I lecture and speak at conferences internationally, including on shared services — one of my specialist areas. I have also written a comprehensive guide to business partnering. As a result, my interest in wanting to engage with academics and education providers is very strong.

I will also be a champion for our Future of Finance research, which has involved interviews with individuals in 14 countries, roundtables involving around 500 people, and a comprehensive online survey of 4,500-plus people. The research will feed into the CGMA Syllabus, Competency Framework, and CPD, and its white paper launches in the autumn. As well as shaping learning — both qualifications and lifelong learning — it has opened doors for two-way conversations with academics and will elevate us as leaders of the profession in the years ahead.

Much is said about the skills gap — a phenomenon that’s global but especially real in Europe, according to recruitment firm Hays. This view is reinforced by the Association’s own recent research in the UK. Understanding business leaders’ challenges and their need for qualified professionals is therefore also on my agenda.

Our senior members remain strong supporters of CIMA and our Association. They are also advocates for ethical and sustainable business, which in turn helps shore up the public’s trust of business. In my opinion CIMA’s professional DNA will continually develop and evolve. However, our fundamental values of probity, accuracy, and justice will remain our foundation.

Our Association advocates for the right balance between fertile conditions for business success and business regulation. So another part of my role is to engage with IFAC, government bodies, and regulators, who provide the framework in which our members operate.

Finally, and importantly, CIMA’s centenary falls within my year as president. As well as celebrating our evolution over the past 100 years, our eyes will be set firmly ahead. Technology will continue to drive change for the profession, and we need to continue to be out in front leading as that happens.