Iconoclasm in the Accounting Profession

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Iconoclasm: 1. the attacking of cherished beliefs or traditional institutions regarded as based on error or superstition. 2. the doctrine or act of breaking or destroying images. (World Book Dictionary)

Recent IMA press releases have focused on the importance of and need for accountants working inside business to hold the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Financial Manager (CFM) certifications. In order to make this point, we contrasted our certifications with the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification and MBA degree. In response, some IMA members and others from the broader accounting profession contacted me, taking offense at IMA's aggressive position on certification for accountants working inside organizations.

Let me get directly to the point: The CMA and CFM are the financial certifications most clearly geared toward the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the management accountant and finance professional inside businesses. If you want to exhibit prima facie evidence of your capability and commitment to provide professional-level decision support, planning, and control over an organization's value-creating operations, only the CMA and CFM certifications provide it. The CMA and CFM also indicate you have agreed to a code of ethics targeted at financial professionals working inside organizations as part of the management team and you will pursue professional education at a rate of 30 CPE credits per year.

Individuals holding the CPA (and I am proud to be among those) have proven a substantial knowledge of financial accounting, financial reporting, auditing, tax, and subjects related to public accounting (as opposed to a focus on the value-creation environment inside a company). They have agreed to a standard of ethics (focused substantially on auditing) and continuing education. Individuals with MBAs have engaged in a substantial effort over some period of time to gain advanced knowledge of business practices, theories, and innovations. Most MBAs have concentrated some coursework in a particular area of business, but, without an interview or a transcript, I don't know if it was organizational behavior or management accounting.

A wide range of accountants can be qualified for the same type of jobs as CMAs and CFMs, but companies will need to evaluate their experience, education, certifications, and professional commitment more carefully. If they are IMA members, they have agreed to the IMA's code of ethics and have shown a strong inclination to stay current in the profession. The IMA values these members, wants to provide them solid benefits, and encourages certification as a CMA or CFM, if they want it. …