BONUS | International Management Accounting Day: Jeff Thomson - Creating Value in Critical Times (with Rouba Zeidan)

May 06, 2020 | 23 Minutes

IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) celebrates International Management Accounting Day® on May 6. This global day of recognition commemorates the important role management accountants play within their organizations. Count Me In is excited to participate in the celebration of this day by sharing another bonus episode for the series. Rouba Zeidan speaks with IMA President and CEO, Jeff Thomson, about what this day means to him and how critically important it is for management accountants to continuously create value, particularly in light of today's business circumstances. Download and listen now!

International Management Accounting Day:

IMA's website:
About IMA:

: (00:05)
Welcome back to Count Me In, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world and happy international management accounting day. Every year. On May 6th,, IMA celebrates this global day of recognition to commemorate the important role management accountants play within their organizations to help bring more light. To this day, our cohost Rouba Zeidan spoke with IMA's President and CEO Jeff Thompson. Let's listen to what Jeff had to say about today and how the management accountant is even more vital during today's uncertain business environment. 
Rouba: (00:43)
So today IMA Institute of management accountants celebrates international management accounting day. This is a global day, which recognizes and commemorates the important role that management accountants play within the organization. What does this day really mean to you? 
Jeff: (00:59)
Well, the day it means quite a lot to me. from a relative perspective is up in my top three or four or five days. You know, my wedding anniversary probably, I have to say for the record goes up above. The day I earned my CMA is way, way up there. So way, way up there all seriousness, is international management accounting day because it tells me and it tells us that we've arrived as a community, we've arrived as a profession. We make a difference. We make a difference in people's lives, we make a difference in, organizational capability, as not only stewards of the business, but value creators of the business. And as we've seen through, the events of the Corona virus global pandemic, we make a difference for society, capital markets and you know, management accounting. I'm still in some markets it's not totally understood that accounting is that how, why do we call it management accounting? But the fact that we have an international management accounting day set tells me that we have long arrived as a profession that makes a difference and does a great things for individuals, organizations and society at large. 
Rouba: (02:31)
Excellent. So since its inception in 1919, so that's just about a hundred years ago. Ima's been actively supporting the evolution of the profession through thought leadership, bridging the skills gap and building a strong network around the world. But what is the core role the organization is really played in bridging the transition into this digital age that we're currently experiencing? 
Jeff: (02:55)
Well, number one, we're very, very proud to have just turned one hundred years, less than a year ago. So we call it 100 years and counting. But we're very, very proud of our first hundred years on the legacy that we've built contributions, service to society. But we're also very, very excited about the path forward. First and foremost, I would say that IMA has always stood for ethics and when you think about ethics and financial reporting, think about, ethics and, budgets and forecast, strategic plans and all the things that creative accountants do. Ethics, we've always stood tall on ethics. I've had an ethics committee for decades. We've had a, we've had a statement on ethical professional practice for decades. We've have educational programs and trainings, for decades and that has been one common denominator that has propelled us first 100 years. 
Rouba: (04:05)
Beyond having, I mean, this is a favorite part for me beyond having some of the coolest accounting figures in the world. So the likes of Robert Plant of Led Zepplin, Mick Jagger of the rolling stones and Janet Jackson who studied accounting in college. I mean is management accounting still an in demand profession in the face of automation and the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of jobs being annihilated from existence in the next decade. 
Jeff: (04:31)
There's a lot of risk and opportunity for our great profession of accounting and management accounting. I tend to be the optimist, but I'm only the optimist if we have a sense of urgency and a call to action. And here's what I mean. Accounting is actually a cool profession. We do very, very interesting, type of work. Some of it is could be routine and more mundane, sometimes, putting counts together, the financial reports and transactions. Sometimes that could be mundane. But, we also, do some really, really interesting work in data analytics, risk management, in technology. You know, the CFO team over time has evolved from being strictly in the accounting lane, the accounting zone of accounting for the past. But over time they've evolved to not only accounting but an interdisciplinary approach to the business. Talking about the CFO team, not just accounting, but finance, not just accounting and finance, but add operations add technology, add strategy. So today's accountant, today's CFO has to know something about all of those domains to create value across the supply chain. And so that requires not just an interdisciplinary approach to the business on how value is generated, but up-scaling.if we upscale, in data analytics, in data visualization, in strategic management, we will continue to have a relevant and influential profession. 
Rouba: (06:15)
So across every sector and industry around the world, CFOs, controllers, budget analysts and accounting managers use financial data to inform organizational strategy and value in the face of obviously intense competition, uncertain global economic conditions and disruptive technologies. But when you contrast this with the current global pandemic, which is unprecedented, and it's set to bring forth one of the worst and most challenging economic outcomes since the 1930s, what value can the profession continue to create, if at all? 
Jeff: (06:48)
Well, I think this is an opportunity actually, and a challenge, for the CFO, the CFO team to shine. This is happening at Ima with our CFO, Doreen Remmen, happening around the world. You know, in times of stress and disruption and grave grave challenges, whether it's a world health pandemic that started out as an outbreak, then became an epidemic and then a global pandemic that shut down essentially has shut down the world in many, many ways, very tragically. That of course that has dire and direct economic implications. The opportunity for the CFO, CFOs around the world are rising to is, you know, we rely on our CFO and the CFO team to enable and create strong balance sheets, strong working capital, liquidity options, sources and strong liquidity in general. You know, their day to day work, which sometimes doesn't get recognized, creating budgets and a cash position and sound investments and a pathway to the future. Sometimes that day to day work is not necessarily recognized, but in a global pandemic where you have to rely on your balance sheet, your cash position to, see you through the rough spots so that you come out of it stronger. CFOs typically have direct or indirect responsibility today or operations strategy, even human resources. So you think about, all that we can and should be doing to make sure that we retain a talented workforce so that when we come out of a global pandemic, we can hit the ground running. We can eat that pent up demand. We can take that we've learned about ourselves and how consumers behave in terms of procuring our goods and services, and take all of that and create even a stronger rebound, but you have to have the ability to weather the storm. through, courage, courageous leadership, through sound analytics and savvy business judgment and who better than the CFO and the CFO team in being that guiding light, or service or growth and for recovery, quite frankly. 
Rouba: (09:34)
And while we're on the topic of, of the pandemic, how is IMA supporting management accountants around the world at this time where obviously they need all the help that they can get?
Jeff: (09:45)
Absolutely. You know, from the very, very early stages, IMA's view is we are going to treat this global pandemic which absolutely shocked the world and its depth and breadth severity. It's very, very tragic. I'm speaking to you from, one of the epicenters, here in the US global pandemic, where 300-400 people are dying every day. Even though it's beginning to tail off, imagine that 300-400 deaths a day. So early on we said, we're going to be IMA. We're not going to change what IMA is all about. we are going to, put social responsibility first. Social responsibility for the safety of our great staff around the world, for our partners for our members, for our volunteers. Social responsibility, first compassion over commercialism, prudence over panic. And that has manifested itself in many ways because we are a community the very first discussion we had on this podcast was about IMA, andinternational management accounting day and the fact that we are celebrating a community, well that community includes staff, members and board members, et cetera, et cetera. So for staff, we closed our offices early, earlier than most and our offices are probably going to stay closed longer than most. However, we've got a great business continuity plan. We're all serving members from home. We're very, very proud, to make our members around the world aware of our hardship policy. They ever need to, relax or reduce their for a period of time. Do that. We have offered a whole suite of freeeducational programs and promotions in this time when you're at home with your family, what better time than to, take courses, study for the CMA or the CSCA take advantage of are well over 100 credit hours of free CPE. Including, courseware and strategy, competitive analysis. Our new certificate program in data analytics, is still free to members. So, you know, that is our part, as I said, at putting compassion over commercialism. Our small business committee has offered, guidance very very very (he says something that breaks up)to small businesses on how they could cope, with all that is going on and perhaps come out the other side stronger because let's face it, wherever you are in the world, small businesses are disproportionately  impacted. Small businesses as we speak, are going out of business or can't pay their employees or laying off or furloughing. It is very, very sad, but we have to have that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. So, we need to put back compassion first and foremost, in working with our members, offering, and making available free, courseware, and much, much more, on longterm members, and part of our, great, great IMA community and ecosystem to know that we care. We're thinking about you and we're in this together. We're in this together, but we'll come out of this together and even stronger. 
Rouba: (13:51)
Yeah, because you, you speak of the, the SME sector and indeed, I mean, the world bank states that 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide, particularly in emerging markets are SMEs. So how do you believe the sector is going to survive when they're impacted the most, under these extreme global economic conditions? 
Jeff: (14:15)
Yeah, absolutely and, you know, there are, there are no easy answers. When one day the global economy is, overall doing pretty well, I would say. And the next day virtually flipping a switch, is shut down. You know, it's interesting when we talk about, whether it's the Westor Dubai or China, yeah. Things are beginning to open up again certainly in China, which is very heartening and lifting. The US, state by state slowly is beginning to, open up, but it's not flipping a switch to turn the economy's back on. It's going to be based on cases, remediation of these cases  and prospect of a vaccine much, much more. But when you think about it, the shutdown was flipping a switch, virtually flipping a switch from lights on and glowing and bright, and exciting and hiring to, a complete shutdown and unfortunately there are consequences and, innocent victims quite frankly. And so the more we can do as a global society, as IMA, to enable, (he says something here but it breaks up) small businesses, as I said, IMA is doing its part through our small committee and others to help provide guidance and thoughts, you know. Obviously having a strong balance sheet. I mean IMA is small business. We're Global. We have offices all around the world, but we are a small business and so we are in the throws of facing those same challenges. 
Rouba: (16:10)
So during a recent virtual town hall, which by the way, I'm really enjoying those town halls. It's a way of staying connected to the team globally. You said something that stuck with me. So as we emerge from this critical chapter of our lives, we need to get out of it much stronger than we were before. So what are some of the lessons that you think that we stand to learn about becoming more resilient and a more sustainable organization? 
Jeff: (16:39)
Great. Yeah, and there's many elements. You know, it's kind of interesting. Probably no one would disagree with the statement that, or the assertion that we're going to come out of this stronger, that could apply in your personal life or it could apply in your business life. It's great to be the optimist and to aspire to great, great outcomes even if things are not looking good. But, you know, when we talk about coming out of this global pandemic even stronger, you have to start with the fact that you want to have a company together to come out of the pandemic before you even talk about being stronger. The stark reality is you have to have a company, right? So in terms of weathering the storm, again, here's where the CFO, the CFO team played such a integral role as well as other members of the team. And that's to make sure that in good times and in bad you've got enough cash reserves, you have financial safety margins, you have liquidity, you have working capital, you have a strong balance sheet. That's not a guarantee. It doesn't make you immune from pressure, but it surely can help. But in terms of coming out of it stronger after, you know, here at our financing and our liquidity and our working capital in short term, I'd say there's two elements to come out stronger. One is a genuine people first approach and two is a commitment to learning. So on the genuine people first approach, and again, everybody says we are people first. People first. Well if your first action, regardless of your short term financial position is to, lay off fire cut salaries. And I realized that in some small businesses just for survival, that may have been unfortunately necessary, but it's really, really important to take the view that it's people that fuel organization. And if we really want to come out stronger, we want to keep that inspired group of people, letting that inspiring and inspire talent together, so that when we come out of it, we can not only be ready to rock and roll per the coolest accountants, symbolism. But we're ready to roar. We're ready to rock and roll, to meet that pent up demand. When economies open up and the world opens up. You know, one of our members, in response to one of our free educational offerings, I think it was the data analytics certificate, that we just rolled out, said words to the effect, thank you IMA for helping me grow when the world isn't and so that little beacon of light, that little source of inspiration, really, really shines true. So it really is about people first, whether it's your staff and keeping them safe and secure. About members, making sure you've got a business continuity plan in place to service them and their needs, perhaps in times when they need us most and much, much more. And then in terms of the second main ingredient I would say to coming out stronger is, committing to be a continuous learning organization. We are learning so much every day, about each other as teammates, about our members, and their needs and wants and particularly stressful, an urgent situation. And we're learning a lot about technology and collaboration tools. We're learning a lot about remote work, perhaps this will lead to some new normals, some new abnormals, some of which will be very positive about and others that we may want to evaluate, but it might create a whole new model of how we work and how we engage, but only if we learn, and talk about that what we've learned that could propel us into a great, great future. We will come out of this. it's been tragic. as I said here in New Jersey when, good news is a day where we have under 300 deaths, that tells you how tragic and sad this is and how we must always be on guard. And, I know that world health community is learning an awful lot, that we as citizens of the world hope, take tangible action. But we can do our small part and, from an IMA perspective, always exemplify courage, care, and conviction of purpose. 
Announcer: (21:58)
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at