When Holland America Group (Holland America, Princess Cruises, and Seabourn) wanted to find a way to enhance the skill set of its finance and accounting staff, it decided to encourage CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification.

The initiative began about a year ago. According to Myra Kaczmarek, CPA, CTP, Holland America’s director of special projects, senior finance leadership at the company wanted to provide professional development for the accounting and finance team. The subject arose from a brainstorming session by the leadership team to identify ways they can develop the staff and the CMA certification was proposed as a vehicle for providing that training.

It then fell to Kaczmarek to “make it happen,” so she started researching the CMA and IMA. What she found was encouraging. “I reviewed the CMA study course topics and saw that it was a good fit for our organization, because it incorporates the disciplines of the accounting and finance needed to further develop the staff’s skill set and business acumen,” she says.

Kaczmarek then reached out to Lisa Beaudoin, CMA, CSCA, CAE, IMA director of business development, who conducted a kick-off meeting via live webinar. It was a kick-off meeting, rather than a traditional information session, because by then, Kaczmarek mentioned the company had already encouraged nearly a dozen professionals to commit to pursuing the CMA.

The company is backing up its commitment with financial support. They are paying – up front, not through reimbursement – all exam program fees and the cost of an exam review package of each candidate’s choice.

Currently, 11 professionals from two company locations (Seattle and Santa Clarita, Calif.) are preparing to become CMAs. Among them is Kaczmarek, who wants to lead by example and is serving as a mentor for the group. One candidate is taking the exam in the May/June testing window; Kaczmarek will probably take it in October.

Kaczmarek explains that the initiative reflects the company’s long-term priorities, “It’s part of the company’s commitment to its staff, because we’re giving people the opportunity to grow professionally in our finance organization. Commitment to staff training is part of what it means to be a world-class organization.”

Kaczmarek also noted the value to each individual who is pursuing the certification. She reminds them that the certification is portable – that it will stay with them throughout their careers.

Plus, she appreciates what taking the exam says about the person who pursues it. “It’s a character-building experience to commit yourself to doing something like passing the CMA exam while working a full-time job. It’s a great learning opportunity for those who set it as a goal and put in the hard work and dedication towards achieving it,” she says.