Zahara Ansary is at the helm as the Country Manager—Sri Lanka & The Maldives for AICPA ® & CIMA ®, collectively known as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants ®. In anticipation of International Women’s Day, she graciously offers her insights as we traverse through the transitional period of 2024, setting our sights on the horizon of 2025.


Envisioning the trajectory of her team’s growth and innovation by 2025, Zahara underscores the disruption within the accounting profession. However, she also perceives these challenges as ripe with opportunities. The advent of emerging technologies is reshaping the landscape of finance functions, presenting an auspicious occasion to spearhead innovation across the profession. In her perspective, cultivating a culture of lifelong learning coupled with a growth mindset is imperative to address the demands precipitated by digital acceleration.


Embracing this paradigm shift entails disrupting established mindsets and routines, and leveraging technology to their advantage. By fostering a climate of continued innovation, Zahara believes they fortify the resilience of both the profession and the organizations they serve. She asserts that emerging technologies such as generative artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and machine learning can enhance efficiency, enabling professionals to redirect their focus towards articulating strategic objectives and fostering sustainable business operations.


Zahara advocates for seizing the present moment as an opportune juncture for accounting and finance professionals to pursue the most fitting qualifications. Among the myriad options, the Chartered Global Management Accountant ® (CGMA ®) designation stands out as a premier choice for those aspiring to thrive in business. At AICPA & CIMA, multiple pathways are available for professionals aiming to attain the esteemed CGMA designation. These pathways encompass the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP), the Self-tailored Learning Pathway, as well as experiential and academic gateways tailored for professionals boasting an illustrious CV.


For seasoned professionals with years of experience across finance and diverse business functions, the experiential gateways, including the CFO Programme, Senior Executive Programme, and Professional Gateway, have been meticulously designed to cater to their specific needs. Under Zahara’s stewardship, these initiatives epitomize AICPA & CIMA’s commitment to nurturing talent and fostering professional excellence within the accounting and finance spheres, poised for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as they navigate the evolving landscape of the profession.


In these extraordinary times, the relevance of a management accountant hinges on a forward-looking approach. At AICPA & CIMA, the emphasis on creating toolkits, guidance, thought leadership papers, conferences, and other resources underscores their commitment to empowering members, CGMA candidates, and businesses seeking staff training materials. The organizations understand the importance of adaptability and accessibility in learning, reflected in the development of learning modules and resources tailored to meet learners wherever they are in their careers and in formats they prefer, including formal learning modules, online forums, webcasts, and social and networking opportunities like the CXO Forums and ENGAGE conferences.


Flexibility in learning extends to how, when, and where professionals choose to engage with educational resources. With a focus on staying ahead of the curve, certain topics such as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data have become increasingly critical. The surge in demand for ESG initiatives, clear metrics, accurate data, and transparent reports necessitates the leadership of management accountants who possess analytical abilities and meticulous attention to detail. Recognizing this, AICPA & CIMA equip professionals with the tools and knowledge needed to lead their organizations in ESG through programs like the Fundamentals of ESG Certificate program and other resources tailored for this purpose.


Furthermore, AICPA& CIMA members receive the Transformative Skills Pack, offering free continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to advance in six key areas or ‘mindsets,’ including ESG, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), strategic thinking, creative thinking, digital, and ethical mindset. This comprehensive approach to professional development ensures that members are equipped with the multifaceted skills required to navigate the evolving landscape of finance and accounting effectively.


Additionally, the recently published Future of Finance 2.0 Theme Papers serve as an invaluable resource, offering insights gleaned from research on workplace evolution, the digital journey, ESG considerations, and organizational sustainability. By staying abreast of emerging trends and providing resources tailored to meet the evolving needs of professionals, AICPA & CIMA remain steadfast in their commitment to supporting the growth and relevance of management accountants amidst extraordinary times.


In ensuring that AICPA & CIMA maintain their leadership position in providing relevant Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and facilitating lifelong learning, Zahara expressed a steadfast commitment. With a rich history spanning over a century, she stated that the organizations have been instrumental in shaping the landscape of professional education. Reflecting on recent accomplishments, she highlighted significant milestones, including the introduction of computer-based assessments in 2015 and the integration of digital skills into the CGMA syllabus and case study exams in 2019.


Furthermore, Zahara emphasised the importance of adapting to technological advancements, noting the transition to online case study exams through the Pearson OnVUE testing experience in 2020. This decision, she emphasized, was pivotal in ensuring accessibility and continuity amidst global challenges. She also expressed pride in the global launch of the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP), a groundbreaking initiative aimed at transforming the accounting profession.


In Zahara’s vision, the FLP represents a significant leap forward, enabled by substantial investments in technology. She stated that this program empowers CGMA candidates to embark on their learning journey at their own pace, utilizing any device, with integrated simulation assessments and knowledge checks enhancing the learning experience. Through these strategic initiatives, Zahara reiterated AICPA & CIMA’s commitment to innovation and educational excellence, poised to empower professionals to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.


In her commitment to empowering women professionally and advancing gender equality by 2025, Zahara outlined strategic initiatives aimed at fostering inclusivity and providing equal opportunities. Through the provision of online learning opportunities, she emphasized that women everywhere can pursue the CGMA designation, breaking down barriers to professional advancement. Furthermore, she highlighted the significance of the Global Career Hub, where members can explore current job postings and access job-seeking tips, ensuring equitable access to career opportunities.


Zahara highlighted the importance of knowledge sharing as a catalyst for advancing gender equality, expressing pride in initiatives such as the Satynmag AICPA & CIMA Women Friendly Workplace Awards and the Mums Return to Work project. Recognizing the invaluable contributions of women in leadership roles, she cited exemplary members who serve as leaders within their respective fields, exemplifying the potential for professional success regardless of gender.


In alignment with the ethos of International Women’s Day and beyond, Zahara reiterated the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), emphasizing the provision of resources and toolkits to support members in cultivating inclusive work environments. She emphasized that DEI should not be viewed as a challenge to overcome but rather as an opportunity to create a profession where everyone has a fair chance to succeed. Through these concerted efforts, Zahara envisions AICPA & CIMA as trailblazers in fostering a culture of equality and empowerment, driving meaningful change within the profession and beyond.


As we navigate through 2024 and beyond, Zahara identified several primary obstacles that demand attention and strategic planning. Inflationary pressures and the amount of upcoming elections are poised to exert a profound influence on global markets, setting the stage for uncertainty and volatility. Moreover, the looming possibility of a global recession looms large, threatening to dampen hiring trends and exacerbate challenges associated with workforce mobility.


In tandem with economic uncertainties, the relentless march of technological advancement emerges as a central focus of business transformation in the coming years. Zahara underscored the disruptive potential of technologies spanning agriculture, digital platforms, e-commerce, and artificial intelligence, anticipating significant labour upheaval in their wake. Despite the prospect of job displacement, she expressed optimism regarding the potential for offsetting job growth in other sectors, highlighting the dynamic nature of labour markets.


Looking ahead to 2025, Zahara emphasized the importance of navigating megatrends such as demographic shifts, technological innovations, social changes, and geopolitical conflicts. These multifaceted factors are poised to shape the economic landscape and redefine the contours of the working environment, necessitating adaptability and foresight from accounting and finance professionals.


However, amidst these challenges, Zahara emphasized that global attention to technology and sustainability presents unprecedented opportunities for the profession. By expanding the scope of opportunities, these areas offer fertile ground for accounting and finance professionals to carve out new avenues of growth and innovation.


In response to these dynamic forces, AICPA & CIMA remain steadfast in their commitment to providing a supportive community, comprehensive resources, and ample opportunities to foster success for both current and future generations of accounting and finance professionals. Zahara reiterated their dedication to supporting CGMA candidates in Sri Lanka and across the globe, underscoring the organization’s resolve to navigate the complexities of the evolving landscape with resilience and foresight.

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