November 12, 2022

IMA: Leading professionals amid global challenges-


Arab Finance: As global tensions persist, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) plays a notable role in guiding organizations and the private sector to overcome the challenges they face. The US-based IMA is one of the largest associations that back professionals in business through research, the Certified Management Accountant programs, continuing education, networking, and advocacy of the highest ethical business practices across four regions; The Americas, Asia and Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East and Africa.

In an exclusive interview with Russ Porter, CFO and Senior Vice President, Strategy, Technology, and Analytic Finance at the IMA, he tells us about the role of IMA in supporting sustainable business amid the current concerns over the global economy and its expansion plans in the Middle East and Egypt.

Recent GECS reports mentioned fears and concerns regarding the global economy, how could this affect the Middle East with a special focus on Egypt?

As we now live in a highly interconnected global economy, events like recessions, inflation, and supply chain turbulence resonate around the world, and the Middle East is no exception. Part of the difference in the impact between economies is the demographics of the regions, and the ability and willingness of individuals to adapt to change. Countries like Egypt, while battling challenges such as exchange rates, have a mix of resources that could be used to help generate additional growth and emerge from the next economic challenge stronger.

How could CFOs support their organizations in overcoming these challenges?

First, CFOs can help their organizations keep their focus on the long-term mission and vision. These are the enduring elements that will help companies navigate through many turbulent short-term events. Second, they can spend resources planning – thinking about the potential outcomes and challenges the company can face and preparing for those events should they occur.

This includes not only preparing for risks, like liquidity challenges, supply chain bottlenecks, or reductions in product demand, but also for opportunities to capitalize on new growth opportunities or ways to reduce cost while still satisfying customer needs.

This requires insight and foresight from the CFO and their team, as well as the ability to properly communicate and influence the organization.

In a stressed economy, what role does the private sector take to ensure economic growth?

One of the best ways private companies can drive economic growth is through innovation.

New products, new processes, and even new markets are often created during difficult times, as people realize that the way they were used to working may not be the best way, so they seek out new solutions.

Finding new opportunities requires business leaders to listen to the underlying needs of customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, and identify how to deliver on those needs in novel ways. This requires great listening skills for the organization, but also the ability to adapt quickly to emerging ideas that have the promise of long-term success.

How could IMA support CFOs in developing sustainable business reporting?

IMA has several resources available to CFOs to help them understand, communicate, and act on the business needs driven by the increase in attention here.

Our research papers, courses, and webinars can help inform CFOs about these topics and provide guidance in how to persuade others in their organizations to focus on related issues. As customers increasingly base their buying decisions on the sustainability profiles of organizations, this is quickly becoming a core financial consideration for companies at the heart of their revenue management.

What are your expansion plans in the Middle East?

In addition to our office in Dubai, which has been a presence for years, we are preparing for a new office in Cairo this year and are about to announce our new office in Riyadh.

These are the next steps in building IMA’s presence and expanding our support to management accountants throughout the region, and we look forward to future expansion as our membership in the region grows.

When are you inaugurating your local office in Egypt?

This past September, I had the great pleasure to be in Egypt, meeting our newly-hired representative, and signing the lease for our new office in Cairo.

We are now more firmly established with a permanent presence, and will continue our efforts to build membership, the profession, and engagement with members, companies, and universities throughout the region.

What is the relationship between IMA and Egyptian universities to expand and offer services/training?

IMA has supported many universities in Egypt by providing 10 annual CMA (Certified Management Accountant) scholarships to each university. which entitles each recipient to sit for the CMA exams at no cost to them. The objective of these scholarships is to encourage students to complement their bachelor’s degree with a globally recognized CMA certification, thereby increasing their employment prospects to start and grow their careers.

Also, we have endorsed some universities through the IMA Higher Education Endorsement Program, including the American University in Cairo – School of Business, the German University in Cairo, and the British University in Egypt. Being an IMA-endorsed school is a stamp of excellence which signifies that the university's accounting and finance program provides the curriculum needed for its students to prepare for the CMA exam and have successful careers in management accounting.

What are the new trends/technologies in accounting and analysis?

The management accounting profession, including both accounting and finance professionals, is frequently evolving as new issues, new technologies, and new ideas come into discussion.

For example, technologies like robotic process automation, or RPA, eliminate the need for accountants to conduct routine processes, enabling them to work on projects more valuable to their companies. Blockchain technology is another area of great interest, as it has the potential to redesign a number of financial processes and create new markets in many commercial areas.

But it’s not just technology – management accountants are getting more deeply involved in their businesses. Given the full-company scope of accounting and finance, our professionals can see company processes end-to-end. This enables us to help influence emerging areas like sustainability, governance, and business optimizations. At the same time, new tools enable us to increase our predictive capabilities – no longer are accountants simply saying what happened last month, last quarter, or last year. Rather, we are able to more accurately predict what’s going to happen in future periods and help direct our companies to drive better results through more informed decisions.

How can the finance function play a critical role in successfully enabling sustainability transformation?

There are many ways that finance professionals can help their organizations. First, they can call attention to an issue, and its importance to their organization. As customers increasingly shift their purchasing to companies that incorporate sustainability into their practices, these issues become directly relevant to financial success and growth – that’s something underappreciated by many organizations today.

Second, finance teams can help companies understand and make decisions based on the costs and benefits of various actions. By leveraging the accounting and finance team’s “whole company” view, professionals can ensure that all relevant costs and benefits are accounted for, including the company and other stakeholders, whose engagement is critical for long-term success.

Finally, finance teams can help communicate and influence other functions to incorporate sustainability topics into their own decisions and maximize benefits for the company in the long term.

What are the possible trade-offs that businesses will need to come to terms with? Could it be a focus on ESG goals; increasing employment; reduced shareholder returns or any other?

Every decision involves tradeoffs in some respect, which is why companies need good governance, based on a set of core values that embody how the company wants to operate. Companies can make these tradeoffs today – balancing stakeholder needs in how they price to customers, how they pay employees, and how they provide returns to owners and shareholders.

Topics of sustainable business management are no different – when we pursue the long-term success of our companies, we can and should consider how the decisions we make today will affect the longer-term buying behavior of our customers, whether employees will want to work at our company, and how suppliers will respond to our needs. If our company’s practices relating to environmental issues are a key consideration for these partners, we need to ensure that we’re making decisions consistent with their needs, or else, each of them will find some other company to work with. If companies only make valuable decisions in the short term, they’ll find the market moving away from them, which will significantly shorten their productive years.

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