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August 14, 2008

Getting involved

The president of the UK-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants is using his experience in international business to better understand the needs of the institute’s members. Carolyn Canham speaks to Glynn Lowth about the importance of empathy and his desire to get members more involved.

Glynn Lowth says having an accounting background gives him an edge in terms of understanding the commercial aspects of business and being able to deal with financial angles. The new president of the UK-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ (CIMA) day job is IT manager for chemical company BASF.

Glynn Lowth, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants  Glynn Lowth, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

“I have a senior position within BASF IT services and I look after the big systems we have across the UK and Scandinavia,” he explains.

Lowth qualified with CIMA in 1977 and then held a range of financial positions before moving into more operational roles.

“I think it is very interesting to have that financial edge to an operational position. I basically regard myself as a financially-qualified business manager,” he says. “I regard qualifying as an accountant as something that can lead into a whole range of different career options and in my case this was working as a manager in an IT operation and having responsibility for the IT operation in a range of territories.” Lowth says this background in industry helps him understand and relate to the institute’s members.

“Understanding what happens in industry and business and how it works is very important to me so I can understand what [members] are doing. I have worked in international businesses so I can see how the world works and what happens in the international businesses where we have members. That is something that I can relate to very well.”

He says members primarily need a qualification that fits them for the job: “They need to be up to date in terms of [continuing professional development – CPD]. They have pressures in terms of working time, they have pressures in terms of ethics as well, which is something that in the past maybe some accountancy bodies haven’t majored on.

“We are very keen that we have ethical guidelines and we are very keen that our members are aware of these so they know how to react if they are under pressure in a particular way.”

Lowth has been a member of the CIMA council for about 18 years and has chaired and served on several of the institute’s committees, including education and training, international and disciplinary. Lowth says all the committees he has served on have been “interesting and fascinating”.

“It’s fascinating to be able to sit there and help to create the policy around that particular area and to understand it in a bit more detail,” he says.

Lowth was involved with the professional standards committee at the time it was developing a more formal CPD process. “I think [CPD] is very important for the sake of the profession and for the people who use our services so that they know what it is we are about. They know that the members are well trained, well qualified and they are as up-to-date as they possibly can be,” he explains.

Lowth says the international committee was also particularly interesting: “The challenge there is to work with lots of different cultures and to make sure we are developing in an international sense as well as in the UK. I think we do that very successfully as a body,” he says.

“One of the things that I am keen to do is to make sure we do actually keep in touch with those members and encourage more of them to get involved with what CIMA is doing.”

Getting more members involved in supporting CIMA is one of Lowth’s main goals during his presidency. “I think we should really make it easier for them to do that,” he says. “For example, if clearly we have members who are in high pressure jobs, maybe with families, we should enable them to get involved with us on committees or providing some input to CIMA maybe at a local level, so that they can help us take the profession forward.”

Technology is one tool that should be utilised for member involvement. Lowth adds: “We should be able to use technology – having blogs and webcasts and enabling people to join meetings remotely. They are the things we will be moving towards and trying to encourage because we’re a democratic organisation, we’ve got lots of members around the world and I think it is important that we get as much input as we possibly can into the body – it’s a members’ organisation.”

Lowth is also committed to ensuring CIMA keeps everything it does up to date. “I am very keen to make sure that I talk to more of our stakeholders, for example the employers of our members. One of the things that I will be hoping to do is to visit some of those in various places around the world during my year of office.

“We have members in almost every country in the world and I will be going around with some of the staff talking to the members and then, where I can, visiting some of the larger employers as well.”

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