Profile: Prof. Dr. Mike Schulze
The following is a Q&A with Prof. Dr. Michael Schulze, IMA’s honorary professor-in-residence in Europe. Schulze is vice dean and professor of controlling, accounting, and financial management at CBS International Business School in Mainz, Germany. On July 1, 2023, he also began a two-year term as a member of the IMA Research Foundation (IRF) Advisory Board:
When and why did you first get involved with IMA? What attracted you to serving as IMA’s honorary professor-in-residence in Europe?
I first got involved with IMA in 2015 during an annual conference of the International Group of Controlling (IGC), an organization IMA also cooperates with, which was also attended by IMA representatives at that time. We got into conversation then, and I was impressed by IMA's global orientation and its large international network. I was also convinced by the fact that a whole range of interesting services is available to members. I became an academic member in the same year.
I consider it a great honor to serve in this role and be able to contribute to the further positive development of our profession in this region. Furthermore, I find it great to be able to meet new people in the course of my volunteer work.
What prompted you to begin pursuing your CMA® (Certified Management Accountant)? How do you think earning the certification will benefit your role as an educator?
For me, there is no question that if I promote IMA as an organization and the CMA as a core offering in my role as an honorary professor-in-residence, I will naturally strive to earn the CMA for myself as well.
I expect that the CMA will certainly expand and deepen my knowledge in some content areas, even if I naturally already have a solid prior knowledge in many areas due to several years of practical experience in management accounting as well as my current work as an academic. Perhaps more importantly, after having obtained the CMA for myself, I can support my students, who are on their learning journey to obtain the CMA, even better and provide advice for the exam preparation from my own experience.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing accounting and finance leaders today?
Accounting and finance leaders are confronted with different challenges today. For example, until recently, a CFO had precious little to do with workforce strategy. But with the rapid advancement of digitalization/data science and its importance to business leadership, new skillsets (from automation experts to data analysts) have necessitated new attention to both upskilling and continuing education in accounting and finance.
IMA, with regular webinars, online training, and certificate courses—as well as on-site events and conferences on a wide range of relevant financial topics—is offering great support in this regard. The world of work in finance departments is also in a state of transition, and we are facing major technological leaps that will massively change the way we work. Jobs in accounting and finance are therefore more exciting and modern than ever. Companies and employees in this area need to get this message out there to make the job description more attractive to young people.
Furthermore, I believe that in the next years, it will continue to be important for companies to automate complex processes in order to give the finance team the time and the opportunity to innovate and add value. This will establish the finance team as a trusted advisor within the companies. It will be able to help the business identify opportunities to increase revenue, save costs, and strategically deploy financial resources to ensure continued growth.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students and young professionals seeking a career in accounting and finance?
The demand for management accountants and finance professionals continues to be high, the areas of application are extremely diverse, the earning potential is very good, and the career opportunities are great. So, from my point of view, there are many good arguments for seeking a career in accounting and finance.
Additionally, many well-known CEOs of German DAX companies started out their career as management accountants or finance professionals, proving that accounting and finance is a good entry point for a promising career. Whether in central, operational, strategic, procurement, sales, or production controlling—the areas of responsibility are varied and offer individuals plenty of scope for specialization and diversification. A degree in business administration is of course the best foundation for a career in management accounting, ideally already with a focus on finance, management accounting, and/or financial accounting. This is perfectly complemented by acquiring the CMA while studying or shortly after acquiring a university degree. I also recommend that candidates join a larger group after graduation, because the greater subdivision into different areas of responsibility that is usually found there provides good insights and offers opportunities for specialization.
What’s been your most memorable experience in your role as professor-in-residence?
At the moment, I’m very much aware of my participation in the Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association (EAA) in Helsinki two weeks ago. We were there as an IMA team with several colleagues, and it was a lot of fun to represent the organization as a sponsor of the event there. We had a lot of visitors at our booth and also received a lot of positive feedback for IMA’s work. It gives me immense pleasure when, in such moments, you can feel the positive impulses that you can set with this type of voluntary engagement.