THE CMA PROGRAM: DESTINATIONS DELIVEREDBy
As I think about the lifelong value of the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification, I sometimes liken the CMA program to a travel agent. Like earning your CMA, traveling to your destination is only part of the enriching journey. There’s also the planning, where you learn about your destination and its different cultures, norms, and values.
To earn your CMA, in addition to passing the exam there are the hard-earned degrees, the gaining of business experience, and the actual study and learning process. That journey doesn’t end with one “destination delivered.” It leads you to take it to the next level of excitement, enrichment, and inspiration! What’s next on your learning and growth journey? Many CMAs have become senior business leaders inside and outside finance and accounting: CEOs, CFOs, controllers, VPs of supply chain, SVPs and chief innovation officers, board members, and more.
For the remainder of this article, don’t think of me as IMA’s CEO—think of me as your travel agent in sharing stories of incredible professionals who have leveraged their CMA to become highly successful business leaders and what they hope to achieve next.
As many of you know, I was CFO of an $18 billion strategic business unit (SBU) in one of the world’s largest and most prestigious companies during a very tumultuous period. But a decade and a half ago, I was actually referred to as CFO and business partner to the SBU. My point is that the role of the CFO team has long evolved beyond the trusted and required role of value steward (in financial accounting, which includes audit, tax, compliance, statutory reporting, safeguarding of assets, etc.) to include value creator (in management accounting, which includes insight, foresight, financial planning and analysis (FP&A), mergers and acquisitions (M&A), predictive and prescriptive analytics, etc.). As Dave Burritt, CMA, CPA, former CFO of Caterpillar and current CFO of U.S. Steel, likes to say, the CFO team serves as the trusted business advisor. Just as the business value chain has become more interdependent, the critical roles of finance, accounting, operations, technology, and strategy have become more interdependent in the quest to deliver sustainable value to stakeholders.
But with this opportunity, and perhaps even obligation, comes the challenge of talent. We need business professionals who can deliver information and insight, data and decisions, formulas and foresight. This is where the CMA program fits. As the world’s leading credentialing program in management accounting, it has a body of knowledge that mirrors the value chain by spanning competencies in finance, accounting, strategy, and operations. I’m proud to say that the CMA continues to play a significant role in helping close the talent gap and deliver to the market ethically sound business professionals who exhibit technical accounting depth with business operations breadth.
Now it’s time to hear from three “travelers” who have had their destinations delivered with the help of the CMA program. There are many more of these stories to tell, and I’ll be sharing them with you in the magazine and on the IMA website.
KATIE ATON JACKSON, CMA, CPA
Destination Delivered: Business Owner
Katie is the sole proprietor of Smillie & Jackson, CPAs, LLC, and is responsible for servicing clients, seeking new clients and business, independently supervising staff, payroll preparation, individual and business income tax return preparation, tax planning, consulting, compilations, reviews, and administration of this public accounting firm.
Katie is a former IMA Young Professional of the Year award winner with quite a story and journey to share. She actually learned of the opportunity to buy into the firm she now owns at an IMA chapter meeting! To quote IMA Chair-Emeritus Ben Mulling (a CFO at age 28), Katie says, “The CPA helped me get the job, but the CMA helps me do my job.” She explains that “The CMA content, with its emphasis on operations, strategy, and financial planning, has been instrumental in enabling me to grow my business with an emphasis on personalized client services and a broader range of advisory services.” What’s the next destination on her journey? Business growth, expanded lines of business to add value to her clients, and community service.
ANTHONY N. CASPIO, CMA
Destination Delivered: VP, Global Supply Chain
Tony is a vice president of Supply Chain at Sealed Air Corporation (Fortune 500, $7B revenue, 25,000 employees, more than 70 countries), leading its global equipment operation of 500 associates spanning nine plants and more than 30 warehouses around the world. According to Tony, “As I progressed in my career, I felt I needed to differentiate myself and grow. I evaluated pursuing an MBA or the CMA. I concluded that the CMA would deliver the greatest value for the investment. With a strong financial acumen and building more confidence as I advanced in the company, I developed a stronger passion to move from reporting value to helping create and deliver value. This has helped me cross over from corporate finance, business finance, and supply chain finance more recently to supply chain transformation and strategy, and, now, operations.”
Thank you, Tony, for describing how the CMA program helped you reach this important destination of relevance and influence. Your next desired destination is becoming president of a business unit!
KRISTINA L. MERRILL, CMA, CPA
Destination Delivered: CFO, M&A/Turnaround Expert
Kristina is CFO at Sky Racing World (SRW), part of the international division at Tabcorp Holdings Limited, Australia’s leading wagering, racing media, and Keno operator and one of the world’s largest publicly listed gambling companies. Kristina has occupied roles as controller and CFO for more than 16 years, having attained her first controllership at age 26 and her first CFO role at age 29. For most of the past 10+ years, she has specialized in helping organizations with turnarounds, M&A, positioning, and growth strategies. At SRW, in addition to “traditional” accounting activities, Kristina leads M&A, HR, and infrastructure IT. She’s truly a versatile CFO!
The CMA enabled her to reach this fast-paced (racing) destination by gaining technical expertise (including the education from studying for the exam), credibility (the CMA is a differentiator that demonstrates competence, ethics, and an appetite for success), and confidence (taking on new or expanded roles, tackling difficult projects, encouraging people, etc.). According to David Haslett, CEO of SRW: “When SRW was established at the beginning of 2014, it was treated as a startup with a small management team, and key skills were an important factor to deliver on the objectives and grow the business. This required a CFO with more than just a finance background, and Kristina’s management experience, CMA certification, and M&A experience were key factors in the hiring decision.” What’s next for Kristina on her career journey? Longer-term, it’s a senior-level position in operations to round out her business management experience. As she says, “Passing the CMA exam for me was a pivotal event in my life both personally and professionally.”
I hope you are as inspired as I am by the incredible destinations that these three fine professionals have reached, enabled by their hard-earned CMA. CMAs have achieved influential positions in finance, accounting, operations, and strategy. Become a CMA and reach destinations that you couldn’t otherwise have reached to enrich your personal brand, organizational capability, and the public interest.