Why I Became a CGMA

by Stephen McCarthy, CPA, CGMA, The Presidents Forum – May 22, 2017
Why I Became a CGMA

The short answer as to why I became a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) was to improve my business and to better prepare my accounting undergraduate students for industry challenges.

The longer answer involves a thirst for learning instilled early by my grandfather. He was a machinist at Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, a once-great company long gone from the landscape. My grandfather modeled the virtues of hard work and self-improvement. He was always challenging himself with new skills so that he could readily find work when necessary. Perhaps if Baldwin better prepared for major shifts in our country’s transportation trends then there might be Baldwin airplanes and trucks hauling freight across America.

A Changing Direction at the AICPA

In early 2015, in response to the realities of a changing workplace and external pressures, the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) worked together to create the new CGMA certification. Built around a “Competency Framework,” the CGMA encompasses the business, technical, leadership and inter­personal skills that are needed by business leaders in today’s dynamic, complex world.

Tom Peters' Twitter Stream

On New Year’s Day in 2014, Tom Peters, an American business writer and co-author of “In Search of Excellence,” began the year with a Twitter stream on personal development. Peters tweeted that “public policy is largely irrelevant, that revolutionary economic structural change is here to stay and the only defense is personal development NOW.”

Developing mastery in your areas of strength helps you stand out, which is always good insurance for the future. Peters strongly encourages us to anticipate trends and position ourselves to be ready for whatever roles emerge in the looming reshaping of jobs. Like most accountants, I am goal oriented, so Peters’ tweets ignited a drive for me to find my next challenge.

The Learning Process

At the NJCPA Annual Convention & Expo in June 2015, with Tom Peters’ inspiration in mind, I was informed about a three-day workshop hosted by the AICPA to prepare for the CGMA exam. I subsequently attended the workshop, and I was surrounded by young management accountants sent by their global companies to learn much-needed skills.

As the owner of The Presidents Forum, a business leadership organization, and as a professor in Kean University’s Accounting Department, I am exposed to strategic and accounting issues on a regular basis. However, with greater levels of qualitative and quantitative information available, there is a need for new skills that go beyond financial accounting. Furthermore, for the success of both my business and my role as an accounting professor, I must have an awareness of not only financial accounting for the present but also forecasting specific and global trends.

There is an expression, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” I quickly learned that the challenge of preparing for the CGMA exam would require me to study throughout the summer. But since I intended to pass, putting in the effort was a no-brainer.

The Need to Keep Skills Up to Date

By requiring continuing profession education, public accounting as a profession commits to the core value of continuous and lifelong learning. Accountants, as well as the businesses they serve, receive the benefit when education is targeted to need. For me, the CPE credits directed towards CGMA certification in 2015 were well worth the investment; the skills I learned have certainly been applied over the past two years.

To repeat, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” My goal was to embrace Tom Peters’ challenge and get out of my comfort zone. Personal development is the only defense against economic structural change, and owning skills on par with economic changes is the way to stay on track. Baldwin Locomotive believed trains would always be the major form of transportation moving people and products, but new entrants into the market passed them by. The CGMA was the way for me to gain essential skills and experiences to avoid extinction.


Stephen F. McCarthy

Stephen F. McCarthy

Stephen F. McCarthy, CPA, CGMA, M.B.A., is the owner of The Presidents Forum. He is also is a lecturer in accounting at Kean University. Steve is a member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

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This article appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.