New CIMA president, Mike Jeans, a keen former oarsman in his student days, has come into the role just as the institute appears to be riding on the crest of a wave.
CIMA has come a long way since it found itself faced with a potential merger with ACCA in 1997. It has gone on to increase its full and student member numbers and strengthened its position in corners of the globe as far apart as Sri Lanka, Poland and Australia.
It has also launched a modern syllabus which embraces web technology which will be used for the first time this November. ‘CIMA has changed in the last few years. Since the merger episode, our self-confidence has been boosted and we have tremendous faith in our new syllabus,’ says Jeans.
‘The syllabus is vital to us and it is imperative we get that right. It is likely that our qualification will increasingly move towards an MBA style exam with a strong financial bias, but not for a while,’ he adds.
Jeans says the increased emphasis on management could even lead to the institute dropping the word ‘accountant’ from its title in the next five or 10 years.
The president – friends with colleague and former English ICA president Baroness Noakes, formerly Dame Sheila Masters, after meeting ‘many years ago’ at KPMG – has highlighted several areas he would like to improve.
He remains realistic about what can be achieved in his 12 months, and cuts both a relaxed and focused figure. ‘I’m not a visionary and I believe the president has a problem if he proposes too many initiatives, because all that happens is he leaves a cupboard full of unfulfilled ambitions.
‘I would like to see the speed of decision-making within the institute committee structures improved. I see it as a big challenge to make the institute faster without losing touch with the council and other members.
‘It is a juggling act but I would like to see a permanent capacity for change introduced,’ says the former UK head of consultancy at KPMG, where he still works as a special adviser.
‘If the process of delivering a permanent capacity for change is implemented, we may see the institute review its syllabus annually rather than every four or five years. If the world is changing that quickly so must we,’ says Jeans. ‘But it is equally important to retain the value and high-profile status which surrounds our qualification.
‘We are the preferred qualification of 70% of employees out of public practice, so we know we’re valued. We also attracted 60% more media coverage last year than in 1998, a result of a conscious effort to talk to the media.’ Jeans will also attempt to work closely with the presidents in waiting in a bid to promote consistency for the future.
What is sure is that the institute is in safe and loyal hands. The former Bristol University student says some of his best days were enjoyed while he studied in the South West.
Now 57, Jeans has retained strong links with the University and regularly takes time out to give talks to students, as a means of repayment. It is this sense of loyalty that will also inspire Jeans for the next 12 months at the institute.
‘I started out as an auditor and didn’t like the life, so I switched to management consultancy. But without CIMA that wouldn’t have happened.
After all these years, now is my time to give back time to them,’ he says.
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