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I am a 31 year old ACMA, Accounting & Finance graduate working as a Financial Controller in a medium sized business.

I have medium term ambitions of being an FD and would appreciate any advice from others who have been through the same process as to how best achieve the necessary skills and knowledge.

I was thinking about taking an MA in Accouining & Finance - is the investment of time and money worthwhile, or should I be looking to develop other skills.

I understand that communication and time management skills etc. are imoportant, but I thought that something more tangible would be of benefit.

All tips / advice etc. would be greatly appreciated.



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30th Nov 2003 00:21

get the best possible MBA
Forget an MA in Accounting or Finance: that's more of the same: your ACMA indicates you have enough technical credentials. Most people involved in the decision to appoint an FD will not be accountants, so the type of MA you suggest will probably not "turn them on", but may unwittingly label you "just an accounting technocrat/ green eyeshade type, etc.".
If you are prepared to take on the burden of studying some more, I recommend you pursue an MBA. Why? Several reasons. It will significantly expand your skill-set; which, in turn, can only improve your marketability. It will indicate a broader candidate than "he's just an acountant" to those non-accountants considering you as an FD. Attending an MBA program will bring you in contact with a range of other non-accountant graduates. Consider the networking possibilities. Finally, many opportunities today are with U.S.-owned firms, or with companies where some of their executives are U.S. trained. I've lived in the USA for 35 years, and can tell you an MBA degree is still considered a significant advantage for career progression. I recall reading somewher that more U.S. CFO's possess an MBA degree than a CPA or similar qualification. As an ex-CFO, I saw the value of both qualifications (MBA, CPA), but the MBA definitely has an edge here.
Whether you plan to pursue study full time or evenings/weekends, I recommend enrolling at the most prestigious University possible. At least in the States, there is a snobbishness/reality/appreciation of quality/ involved that cannot be underestimated. And, again, the networking opportunities only improve in such an environment. Very often, those "non accountants" conducting top-level recruitment attended these prestigious "schools" themeselves, or at least know the pecking order involved.
Good luck.

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26th Nov 2003 14:37

Career Progression
I would like to say that Neil's comments are very relevant. I am a graduate qualified accountant with an MBA. I have recently been considering a job move and the qualifications are proving secondary to factors which are being used to select. Experience is the key. I work in a specialised industry where job agents and potential employers don't quite know what to make of my experience - some cases they say I am too experienced and others, not experienced enough. Also, the profile of companies you have worked for is relevant e.g. if they are all large then you are less likely to be put forward for a small/medium company role and vice-versa.

A Masters in Accounting would really only be useful if you are thinking about becoming an academic, otherwise, I would suggest you take Neil's advice and concentrate on your career progression. The MBA has been worthwhile in that I believe I am now a more rounded person - accounting education breeds a one track mind.

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By Anonymous
27th Nov 2003 16:51

Isn't ACMA enough?

I am in a very similiar position to yourself, an ACMA and Group Financial Controller with aspirations, aged 32, the main difference being I didn't go to University.

My Group FD retired earlier this year, and having been with the company for a few years, both the FD and myself expected the MD to pass the mantle onto me. Unfortunately both he and some other board members thought I was too young, logic I still fail to fathom.

I spent a great deal of time talking to various recruitment consultants and they all told me to relax, after all I am ONLY 32! They had no doubt that the ACMA and my attitude were fine but all I needed was to add a few years to my CV, as the common thought seemed to be I needed to be approaching 40 in order to be 'taken seriously'. I discussed further qualifications but at this level experience, past achievements and background were judged as far more important.

As a final note I have friends who have gained an MBA and there does seem to be an awful lot in common with the current CIMA qualification. My only experience of working with an MBA qualified accountant was an FD at a subsidiary we acquired, who, when asked to prepare a three-year business plan for a £10m pa turnover business came up with one and a half sides of A4!

Perhaps my view is coloured.

Hope this helps.

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By neileg
24th Nov 2003 13:31

The implication in the question is that as an FC you have an FD as a boss. I don't personally think that there is anything specific that distinguishes an FC from an FD except the title and the board position. I have been very happy to serve as an FC and Co Sec, rather than an FD.

However, I think you're really talking about promotion and more money. In that case you need experience and being in the right place at the right time. I don't really think that extra qualifications will really do it, especially as you already have a degree and your professional qualification.

Having said that, some people regard an MBA as a good relevant step to take. Then again, others think it's a waste of time. It does open your eyes to wider business management and everyone I know who has done the MBA has found it helped their career.

The most tangible thing you can have is a track record. Think about structuring your next career moves in such a way as to maximise this. You must consider if you need to specialise in a particular industry.

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