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October 14, 2007

CIMA launches finance research centre

CIMA launches finance research centre

Independent research to determine best practice in the development of finance professionals will be conducted at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Centre of Excellence at the University of Bath School of Management in the UK.

The centre, which is being launched officially on 20 November, aims to identify the knowledge and skill requirements of finance professionals, chart how those needs develop throughout their careers, and develop best practice models to meet the training and development requirements.

The centre will have two hubs, one at the CIMA offices in London and one at the university in Bath. Despite the UK location, the centre intends to have international reach. An agreement has been signed with the University of Kolkata in India, and the CIMA staff dedicated to the project are spread across the UK, Australia and Malaysia.

CIMA director of education Robert Jelly said the centre is very much about the future of the financial function. “Traditionally accounting and auditing look too much at the past. We need people to look towards the future,” he said, adding that the aim of the centre is to produce practical material to meet the needs of business.

The centre plans to work on several streams of research at any one time and results from the studies will be disseminated regularly, via annual reports and specialised reports relating to geographic areas and business sectors.

CIMA has invested a seven-figure sum in financing the centre for an initial five-year period. Both the institute and the university hope funding will be extended.

Philip Cooper, a senior lecturer in accounting at the School of Management, will be the director of the centre. He said there have been substantial changes to the role of the accountant in business in recent years, moving from “back-room bean counter to business partner”.

Cooper said there is currently limited knowledge as to what life-long learning requirements finance professionals have. He hopes the centre will be able to identify the skills an individual needs in order to work towards a specific career path.

Cooper said there will be a multi-disciplinary research approach, involving not only the accounting department but the whole of the School of Management. He said the centre will be peer reviewed to add to its credibility.

“This is not just about CIMA, but general issues,” he said. “What we are looking for is independence and that’s what we’ll have.”

Much of the preliminary work will involve establishing the methodology for the research. Cooper said a lot of the issues, for example measuring competency and contribution, haven’t been tackled before.

The dean of the University of Bath School of Management, Andrew Pettigrew, views the centre as a great opportunity in scholarly terms. “It will be a unique primary data set,” he said. “This is gold-plated research.”

CIMA visited about ten institutions during preliminary investigations to find a suitable base for the centre. The institute’s president, Gordon Grant, said one of the attractions of Bath was the number of corporate links the school has, “which will provide a further channel for disseminating the research results”.

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