Badibanga Promesse, Strategic Account Director CIMA: what CFOs need to know about strategy

“We have grown tremendously in Africa over the last five years,” says Badibanga Promesse, Strategic Account Director- Global Corporate Relations at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). With evident energy, he tells us about the upcoming shift to online-only exams and the continuous drive to keep the syllabus and short courses relevant. “For CFOs this is crucial, because CIMA is the only accounting qualification that has really embedded strategy in its syllabus for many years.”

"CIMA was founded in the United Kingdom in 1919 when Lord Leverhulme, founder of Unilever who was also the first President of CIMA didn't have the information he needed to run his business and wanted to develop people to have those skills.," says Promesse, who believes the institute still offers the most relevant accounting and finance qualification for business. "We don't compete with other institutions, because we're the only ones who offer management accounting. Other organisations and qualifications have their own place too in the world of business."

That doesn't mean Promesse is unnecessarily modest about CIMA's appeal to finance leaders. "I spend my time talking to CFOs," he says. "We talk about the way business is going and its needs. Before 2007 fewer organisations gave serious attention to costing. After the financial crisis this became very apparent, which exposed a great need for more detailed training among accountants and the finance community. Although academic institutions are producing skills, by the time their students have finished the demand has shifted. That is why the corporate world is saying it is not receiving the required talent."

Promesse feels CIMA's qualification addresses the ever-shifting needs of businesses best. "We're bridging the gaps in our syllabus. We go out and sit with businesses and shape our programs to the needs of today. We review the syllabus every 4 to five years. It is a really demanding process, a heavy exercise. For example Big Data wasn't an issue before, but has now become an integral part of the revised syllabus." Another leap forward is the introduction of online examinations from next year onwards. "It is very exciting. From 2015 assessments and exams can only be done online. That brings huge value to employers, because of a better flexibility in managing people during busy periods but as well as promptness of results."

Thought leadership is a also a crucial element of CIMA's offering, with regular reports, white papers and academic research being produced to keep leaders up to date. "Our business entity also offers shorter master courses, which complement the full CIMA professional qualification," says Promesse, who calls himself a true strategist. He has an intimate knowledge of Africa and researched foreign direct investment in Ghana and Kenya for his master's thesis at the Milpark Business School.

The Strategic Account Director feels like CIMA's message is landing better and better in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent. More than ever, the institute is reaching out to business, members and potential members. "Five years ago my department did not exist. My role is to engage with CFOs and other business leaders to make sure we understand their needs and help them and their businesses drive performance and succeed; and that works. We have been around in Africa for many years and our footprint in South Africa is massive, but lately we have been growing faster than ever."

According to Promesse there are over 20,000 CIMA students and members in Africa, mainly spread over the hubs South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana. They work in various roles such as CEOs, CFOs and other senior finance roles. Although Promesse acknowledges that in South Africa the traditional accounting career path is to become a CA, he feels young talents increasingly realize that CIMA offers something entirely different. "It is about awareness. It is not a sales pitch. Our qualification is much closer to the business world."

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