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June 29, 2009

Joachim interview: Staying relevant

The new president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants has worked in almost all the major countries the institute has members in. Aubrey Joachim tells The Accountant about how the CIMA qualification is a passport to working around the world and why he picked ‘relevance’ as the theme for his presidential term.

he Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) has elected its first president who comes from outside the UK and Ireland

Aubrey Joachim was born and educated in Sri Lanka, is of Portuguese descent and is now an Australian citizen, but his international experience does not end there.

Working for engineering and construction company McDermott International, Joachim also lived and worked in Dubai, Singapore, London and even briefly in New Zealand.

In 2005, he set up a boutique consultancy that runs strategic financial and management accounting workshops, courses and conferences across the world. His most recent assignment was speaking at a risk management conference in Zambia and he has worked in countries as far and wide as China, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Iran.

Travelling the world

Joachim says the highlight of his career has been the opportunity to travel and see the world.

“If there is one book I will write at the end of my career when I sit down somewhere to pen my thoughts, it will be titled: Talking My Way Across the World,” he says.

Joachim is a strong advocate for CIMA, crediting his mobility and achievements to the competence provided by the professional qualification.

But while CIMA may have helped facilitate Joachim’s global career, through his presidency he is providing international credence to the institute, which is based and still has its majority of members in the UK.

“For 90-odd years CIMA has always thought of itself as a UK-centric organisation and still to some extent there is that thinking among our council members,” Joachim says.

“I am sure there will be some members in the UK who do not know the reach and extent of CIMA across 160-odd countries.

“I am bringing the perspective that this is an international body and I often use the analogy that we talk a common language, irrespective of which country we go to.

“A financial or a regulatory accountant has to talk the language of the country of domicile, has to understand the laws and regulations and audit practices there, but we go into a business and business is common across the world.

“Therefore, we talk the language of business, which is ubiquitous. The qualification has cut across cultures, it has cut across language barriers, it has cut across jurisdictions.”

In The Accountant’s most recent survey of the UK accounting profession, CIMA reported that about 25 percent of its members and 39 percent of students were based abroad. Joachim says international student growth far exceeds growth in the UK.

He hopes that in the next five to 10 years there will an equal number of members spread across the globe.

The universal appeal of the CIMA designation links to the theme Joachim has chosen for his presidential term, which is ‘relevance’.

“An organisation like ours has to be relevant, relevant enough to attract the right type of people to become members and students. Relevant in order to provide the right level of syllabus and level of knowledge that we want to impart to all our members,” he explains.

To remain relevant, CIMA members must get involved in risk, strategy and helping organisations manage their performance and achieve financial outcomes, Joachim says.

He adds that there is no better time than the current economic climate for finance professionals to demonstrate this relevance as some organisations have not faced recessions before.

“If organisations are looking for our members to be able to provide confidence and help them get over this situation it is all the more reason why we as a body must be relevant in the current climate – giving advice, understanding what happens in business and helping our members, who in turn will help their organisations,” Joachim says.

To remain relevant, finance professionals have to evolve, he adds.

“We have to move from being mere number-crunchers and spreadsheet jockeys to people who really add value to the bottom line,” he says.

Joachim has high expectations for CIMA members too.

He says he would be disappointed to see a CIMA member in a strictly financial role 7-10 years after qualification.

“We want that person to move into the real guts of the business, that is the challenge and that is what I would expect of every CIMA member going forward,” he says.

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