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Mid career CIMA for senior roles

Should I embark on CIMA at 39 to pursue finance director roles?

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My career has been mostly in Venture Capital and leadership roles wealth management firms. So while I'm no accountant and could'nt produce a set of accounts I am very good at reading and analysing accounts and using them to form strategic and business decsions. I've done this within firms and on the boards of companies through my VC work.

But a few years ago I left London for family reasons to Southampton. There is a financial sector here, but fairly small, and I'm not seeing much by way of jobs of great interest. What I would really like to do is use my skills in a growing SME at a senior level. Realistically this would probably mean taking a job as finance director, or possibly COO. And while I'm good at analysis/strategy I would struggle being the guy who actually puts the accounts togthere without further training.

I'm thinking if I did CIMA it would train me in all the nuts and bolts bits of accountancy, and hopefully my experience would aid me on the business/strategy aspects of the course. That would put me in a strong position to go after Finance director roles in SMEs espacially ones with a good experienced financial controller. I'd really value frank opinions, espacially from people who make recruitment decisions at this sort of level. If nothing else it would give me useful knowledge while looking for a role, but its possible there are other options I'm just not considering. I think if I did this I'd probably do an online only course and fit it in around work/young family.

 

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04th Jul 2019 09:04

Hmmm… where to begin?

As in most fields, in accountancy you need both classroom learning and experience. So you can do your CIMA studies but that doesn’t help with experience. The hard reality is that you know nothing about posting journals, running a month end, cost accounting, variance analysis and so on. You’ve got no experience of any accounting system. So you will likely need to start near the bottom to get that skill and experience. (and to get your CIMA qualification, you will need to have at least some of that)

Maybe you think you don’t need that because you’re going to be operating at a strategic level. But in a SME, you’re likely to be the only one that can do most of those things because your entire finance team will be 2-3 people to process tranactions, one of whom might have done AAT.

Do you have the appetite to work at a junior level? And can you convince the hirer that this hot shot City type is willing to roll their sleeves up and will be content doing that?

Possibly you’re making the mistake of thinking that a finance director does almost the same things as you did in your previous roles. Whilst there are some elements that are similar, you might be better trying to analyse your plans as a complete career change rather than a sort of sideways shift

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04th Jul 2019 09:50

It won't do you any harm to do CIMA or any other accountancy qualification in order to give you a better understanding of the accounts and how they are compiled. But don't expect to take a course and then be able to complete a set of accounts - there's a reason the main accountancy professions require an amount of work in a relevant role before accepting you as a member. Experience should (and in many aspects rightly does) carry more weight in the accountancy profession than being able to pass exams.

The SME's you would be looking at will more than likely have an external accountant, and, depending on the specifics of the role, you could have little to no involvement of the actual accounts preparation. But if you are responsible for the team that does, you'll need to know how they should be doing their job in order to do your job properly.

Regardless of your future role, there's no harm in expanding/improving your knowledge, whether or not you actually end up using it on a day to day basis further down the line. As you suggest you have a good idea of what the numbers in a set of accounts mean, I would think it would be interesting for you to find out what dictates how they are prepared.

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to 2003bluecat
05th Jul 2019 12:21

2003bluecat wrote:

But don't expect to take a course and then be able to complete a set of accounts -

The SME's you would be looking at will more than likely have an external accountant, and, depending on the specifics of the role, you could have little to no involvement of the actual accounts preparation. But if you are responsible for the team that does, you'll need to know how they should be doing their job in order to do your job properly.

Thanks Blue, I think you have come at it in just the way I was thinking.

I seen FDs in many molds in companies I've worked with. Sometimes they do all the accounts themselves with just a little bookeeping support. And obviously I couldn't do that, I'd be hopeless even after passing a set of exams.

But then again I've also seen FDs who were not actually qualified accountants of any sort and like you say they get the accounts done externally. Then the FD acts as a co-CEO when it comes to the business strategy and operations. I have found this to be most true where the founder and CEO is a very creative or technically minded person, but not particularly business focused. But this might be quite a niche.

I suppose the amount of variation out their is really significant, and finding these opportunities might be more a networking challenge than anything else.

I wonder if given your comments you think that CIMA is actually what I should be considering, or perhaps start of with a more basic qualification?

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04th Jul 2019 15:06

https://www.cimaglobal.com/Starting-CIMA/Starting-CIMA/Fees/
Don't forget the cost of doing CIMA online/distance.
CIMA recon about £5,300 over 3 years. Do you have the time?
I don't know if they include revision courses etc in their quote.

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to Richard Grant
05th Jul 2019 12:12

Richard Grant wrote:

https://www.cimaglobal.com/Starting-CIMA/Starting-CIMA/Fees/
Don't forget the cost of doing CIMA online/distance.
CIMA recon about £5,300 over 3 years. Do you have the time?
I don't know if they include revision courses etc in their quote.

Well yes it would be a struggle to make time, young kids are not great respecters of 'study time' but many people have managed to do this, so if its valuable enough you would find time.
I'm just trying to figure out if this is the route.

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to Flashman555
05th Jul 2019 13:19

Good luck and I hope it goes well.

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05th Jul 2019 09:35

Glad so see that Mr Flashman555 found the carefully considered frank opinions so useful...

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to paul.benny
05th Jul 2019 12:09

paul.benny wrote:

Glad so see that Mr Flashman555 found the carefully considered frank opinions so useful...

Paul, I can only apologize if I have offended you somehow.
I posted this only 2 days ago and am grateful for the responses. I should also point out that I certainly don't consider myself a "hot shot city type". I'm just a guy trying to provide for my family and make my way through life with hopefully an interesting career along the way.

As for the comments about working at a junior level the frank reality is if it was just me that would be one thing, but it gets harder when you have family with mortgage and other costs to drop down. This is absolutely nothing to do with being snooty though. If you think I'm barking up the wrong tree entirely its fine, that's still useful feedback & Thank you.

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to Flashman555
05th Jul 2019 13:27

In my experience people posting questions return quickly and engage with the discussion - or don't come back at all. I thought you were going to be the latter; clearly that's not the case and I withdraw the criticism.

As for 'hot shot City type' - my point was about hirer perception and how that may make if difficult to be seen as a credible candidate. It's not of itself about your own attitude.

I note that you picked up on comments by another poster that supported your vision as an FD as co-CEO. Beware of confirmation bias - ie giving greater weight to comments that support your vision and beliefs.

You may get lucky and find such a role. But they're rare, particularly in SMEs. If the company is big enough to afford/justify the role you aspire to, they'll probably have accounting in house - in which case you'll be up against people who do have the finance experience.

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to paul.benny
05th Jul 2019 13:34

paul.benny wrote:

You may get lucky and find such a role. But they're rare, particularly in SMEs.

Thanks Paul, And yes... that is my concern. I may be better off channeling the hours I could spend on a qualification into networking instead, it might be more likely to yield a good response.
I sense you think I'm barking up the wrong tree here. Which is fine, that's useful. But I wonder if you feel there is another path I'm not considering?

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to Flashman555
05th Jul 2019 14:37

I guess I do think you’re barking up the wrong tree.

What I’m hearing is that you’re thinking of doing an accounting qualification but you don’t want to be an accountant. Err….

If you’re going to study, possibly an MBA would be better (but much much more expensive).

Neworking may well be a more effective use of your time and money.

Do you have any particular industry expertise?

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to paul.benny
05th Jul 2019 14:46

paul.benny wrote:
<

Do you have any particular industry expertise?

Everything from forklift truck manufacturers to dating apps. Been a generalist investor. But invariably any business has a very similar pattern underlying it. As long as you figure out the drivers of that business you can make it grow.

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to Flashman555
05th Jul 2019 16:43

Agree. Annoyingly for those of us who believe we have transferrable skills, everyone thinks their business is Special and "relevant" experience is essential.

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