Centenary year reflections from a longtime CIMA member

An Indian CIMA member recalls reading lists, exams, and a visit to CIMA’s London headquarters.

In his February FM column, “100 Years and Beyond”, CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj said the Institute “has made huge strides since 1919 and its first exams in 1920”. I couldn’t agree more. CIMA’s 100-year existence has been glorious, and my career in business has benefited from that.

CIMA’s name back in 1919 was the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants (ICWA). That was 13 years before I was born. I came to know about the ICWA during the 1950s while studying the Bachelor of Commerce degree course at Calcutta University and simultaneously working as an office assistant to earn my keep.

During the 1940s and 1950s Calcutta was a leading industrial centre. It used to boast the major engineering and manufacturing business of Guest Keen Williams, tea grower James Finlay and Co., Jardine Henderson-managed jute mills, and many other commercial, banking, and insurance companies.

Due to the significant concentration of industries in this region, these businesses used to employ a number of cost and works accountants, as they were known then. I had the opportunity of working under a renowned ICWA cost accountant. For a period from the 1980s there was also a CIMA office in Calcutta, and most years the Institute’s president made a visit.

Studying two sets of exams

Initially, I studied under the newly established Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. I was advised though to acquire additionally the ICWA cost accounting qualification, as it would stand me in good stead. I acquired the qualification, and it did indeed stand me in good stead.

By paying the admission fee of £2, 2s, I was admitted as a student in September 1956. There were four parts for the examination: two intermediate stages and two final stages.

The intermediate Part II exam had an engineering paper. As a commerce student, I still remember one challenging question set in June 1957: “Design a simple lathe machine and show how a rod is turned.”

Reading list

There were also papers on topics such as factory administration, and the following books were popular:

  • Factory Administration in Practice, by W.J. Hiscox and James Stirling.
  • Factory Layout, Planning and Progress — With Special Reference to Engineering, also by W.J. Hiscox and James Stirling.
  • Power Economy in the Factory, by J.C. Todman.

In the final examination there was one paper on the legal aspects of industry and commerce; the book on this topic was by W.F. Frank.

The books published by the ICWA were also of great use, and I still refer to them today. They covered cost accounting terminology, an introduction to budgetary control, standard costing, material control, and production control.

There were also books on marginal costing, cost reduction, an introduction to statistical analyses, and presentation of information to management.

From the 1960s, the Institute — along with five other leading accounting bodies in the UK — awarded a Joint Diploma in Management Accounting Services. The exams were held in the UK, and I visited London in 1971 to take two of the four papers of the diploma. I visited London before that in 1964 and was pleased to include in my itinerary the ICWA headquarters at 63 Portland Place.

Nirupam Haldar, ACMA, CGMA, is an information systems auditor and insolvency professional, a former regional council chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, and a former president of the Institute of Internal Auditors-India. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Oliver Rowe, an FM magazine senior editor, at