Sculpting Pathways in Accountancy – FCMA, CGMA, Deputy President at The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), Melanie Kanaka

Balancing an account sheet requires guidance, patience and competence. However, Accountancy involves much more than understanding the financial numbers, it is the profession that drives business, economies and careers and must be given utmost importance in terms of training and academics. Ensuring this dream for many, Melanie Kanaka FCMA, CGMA, the Deputy President at The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), shares her perspective on how the Management Accountant Profession has paved the way to success to many lives in the 21st century. 

Melanie began her CIMA journey by taking their professional qualification as an interim whilst she waits to enter the state university. She completed the CIMA qualification midst her degree providing her with an early opportunity to enter the workforce and experience upward mobility throughout her career. “The CIMA qualification gave me an insight to business processes and systems which set the tone for my interest in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP),” she explains her steppingstones to diverse roles in Finance, Treasury, ERP and General Management in her 30 years of experience. Further, she stated, “adequately re-tooling effectively to handle the ever-changing challenges of today’s business environment.”

Being immensely impressed by CIMA’s positive benefits to the younger generation, Melanie decides to contribute to this brilliant profession by initiating her journey as a volunteer to serve the profession and for the professional body. Later, she subsequently served trajectory roles from the local committees to the Sri Lanka Divisional Council member as held the office of Sri Lanka Divisional Vice President. In addition, Melanie was obliged to expand regionally and globally as a membership assessor whilst serving in numerous Policy Committees in CIMA. 

Over the years, Melanie’s commitment to the profession and professional body has paid off, extending many opportunities to serve at a global level. She was afforded the privilege and honour of chairing two of the body’s important committee’s – the Membership Committee and the Professional Standards Committee at CIMA. Furthermore, she adds, “In June 2020, I was appointed as an honorary officer of CIMA, becoming a member of the organisation’s leadership team. I am only the third female to hold this position to-date in a history of over one hundred years and the very first female outside of Europe.”

Melanie briefs that the origins of CIMA were established in 1919 under the Royal Charter to gratify the needs of ‘business and cost accounting’, transforming to meet the demands of the business and the profession itself. Evolving constantly, CIMA expanded to Sri Lanka in 1965, adding the international essence into the industry. By 2017, CIMA together with The American Institute of CPAs inaugurated The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (The Association), formulating the largest and most influential accounting body globally serving nearly 700,000 members, students and professionals worldwide.

Although encircled by a global pandemic, Melanie sees value for business’ in maintaining accounting and finance skills as it drives a greater demand to keep the national economies stable. She stated, “Accounting and finance professionals must now, perhaps more than ever before, constantly evolve their skills and keep on top of the latest trends as the pace of change today is faster than ever before”. In addition, with the pandemic limiting and aligning services to digital platforms, she believes this can be an avenue to “embrace digital transformational change and rethink new, innovative ways of working and prioritising digital skills as the forefront of business and finance.”

CIMA provides an updated syllabus to their professional qualification in 2019, introducing “digital finance skills to complement the existing leadership, business, technology, and people skills under the CGMA Competency Framework”. Rather than confining their journey in accounting and finance to examinations, professionals can excel to earn the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) prestigious designation, which lays a solid path to follow a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) career. This can further open opportunities to broaden individuals in the aspects of “professional forums and events, conferences, a library of learning resources, research, online courses, insights, and access to the global job board”. Melanie emphasises that with the recent introduction of the CGMA Finance Leadership Program, a digital self-learning e-learning and assessment platform, opportunities are given to aspiring accounting and finance professionals who are wanting to advance these skills globally and locally in Sri Lanka. 

According to Melanie, a C-level professional has numerous advantages attached to obtaining a CGMA designation. In a whirling business environment, individuals with CGMA designation can “translate complex information and communicate it effectively to business partners and stakeholders to guide critical business decisions, in turn creating sustainable business success” she adds. Exemplifying “adaptability, mobility and leadership”, the use of management accounting related tools can further assist them in pinpointing novel possibilities to cope and accomplish risks, creating a sustainable business that will thrive and grow. Melanie reassures the benefits of acquiring a CGMA designation for C-Suite professionals, fine-lining an equilibrium between their financial strengths and business expertise to enhance business performance, be the core and the backbone of strategic decisions. 

A CGMA designation holders help organisations adapt and thrive – Melanie believes “CGMAs has the talent, the right expertise and skills to understand and analyse the existing data, therefore, providing actionable business insights and adds value for the organisation”. She further states that their professional qualification supports understanding digital perspectives for the accounting and finance profession, encouraging the change in mindset with these professionals. 

The COVID-19 pandemic being an unprecedented and tragic change of events for most parts of the world, Melanie reassures that CIMA stands committed to their members and students, supporting them through their professional journey’s in achieving milestones in their careers. Their guidance to help individuals strive in organisations, aided global economies, supported countries to recover and the profession itself has been strengthened via the diverse range of business recovery support options open to their members and students. Some such benefits include CIMA Economic Recovery Resource Centre, Business Recovery Toolkit, Roadmap (for smaller organisations to chart and drive their transformations), Agile Finance Reimagined whitepaper, CIMA benevolent fund, Business resilience (tools assisting in business reopening) and a lot more. 

Having been pioneers in the incorporated fields of academics and management accounting, CIMA looks forward to accelerating digital-first approach solutions for its members and students such as global ENGAGE conferences and the CGMA Finance Leadership Program whilst increasing governmental and regulatory engagements worldwide. In addition, they hope to widen CIMA research to provide a global perspective on business performance and sustainability by opening a wealth of free articles and resources. Melanie reasons the benefits of having an international community to help amplify careers and businesses. “I believe that accounting and finance professionals should pay particular attention to how environment, social, and governance (ESG); diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI); and new, emerging technologies are impacting society, businesses, national economies and consequently our profession”, Melanie concludes confirming that CIMA and the Association will progress further, striving to meet the ever-changing needs of the accounting and finance profession into the future. 

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