Standing up

Business faces a challenge, says CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA
CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA

In my July FM column I set out my direction of travel and how I would champion our Future of Finance research and CIMA’s centenary year in 2019. I also highlighted the different work strands I was committing to as president.

Students — our future members — make up one of those key strands. It’s a long road to travel to become CIMA-qualified, but reaching that point is just the start of a longer career journey during which CIMA and our Association provide vital support.

That sounds straightforward, but business and our profession face a challenge. There is a perception that business is not behaving ethically. Since 2014, Deloitte has been asking Millennials their views on corporate motives and for the past two years their opinions improved, but this year there has been a dramatic switch — now less than half think companies behave ethically.

Deloitte research shows that far from taking a simple view of business and profit, Millennials (born between 1980 to 1995) and Gen Z, the next generation, believe that business should be rated by more than financial metrics. Millennials’ top two objectives for business are providing employment and making a positive impact on society. But they also believe the companies they work for are markedly out of step with those aims.

This is an opportunity for us, however. In an independent, international survey of employers late last year, an overwhelming majority of those familiar with the CGMA designation said it is valuable to their organisation. One of the major reasons: the assurance it provides of global ethical and professional standards. Ethical behaviour continues to be the foundation of everything we do; our fundamental values are probity, accuracy, and justice. For students and members it means standing up for what is right even when there is pressure not to do so.

As people live and work longer, there can be up to five generations in the workplace. Mentoring — and reverse mentoring where younger professionals mentor typically older executives — could provide a solution to the apparent disconnect between younger workers’ objectives and their view of how companies are run.

Throughout my career I have employed CIMA students and have also mentored and coached many. I forged my own career and struck my own path across different sectors and industries. The only mentor and coach I had was the mirror — both types of support were less well defined in the 1970s and 1980s when I was studying and a newly qualified management accountant.

Back in the 1970s, I wrote a business case for the finance team where I worked to buy an electronic calculator. We’ve come a long way since then. Today, I am communicating with a new audience through social media, including Facebook Live videos and Twitter, while still using more traditional presentations for different audiences where appropriate.

Technology such as artificial intelligence, big data, and blockchain are transforming our profession — in fact, every profession. The proportion of jobs that need to use AI has gone up by 450% since 2013, according to Adobe. And tech analyst Gartner predicts that blockchain will have reached maturity in five to ten years.

We are preparing our students for this exciting future — and the opportunities that technology will bring to reimagine their roles to add value in new ways to their organisations.

In my next FM column, October’s, I will highlight a further crucial strand of my work during this year as president: engaging with members, who go beyond for our profession and Institute.