September 2003

Looking into the Future with Institute Of Management Accountants Chair Kim R. Wallin, CMA, CFM, CPA

With 67,000 members and 265 chapters, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is the world’s largest organization dedicated to advancing management accounting and financial management serving individual professionals and corporations. Founded in 1919, IMA’s stated mission is to expand the professionalism of financial managers and executives involved in corporate accounting and financial management.

The cornerstones of IMA’s programs include two professional designations: the CMA (certified management accountant) and CFM (certified in financial management), as well as a range of professional educational programming. The CMA certification turned 30 years old this year. IMA publications include the monthly Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly. IMA headquarters are in Montvale, N.J.; its website is

The CPA Journal: What path led you to become IMA Chair?
Kim R. Wallin:
I’ve been involved with IMA for 25 years. I joined as a student member and served on various committees and the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) board of regents, which I chaired for two years. At the first conference I attended as chapter president, I decided to pursue the presidency of the national organization. It’s been more than 12 years since someone like me, from a local CPA firm, was elected, and six years since it was a CPA from what are now the Big Four public accounting firms. I’ve always believed in IMA but last year when I decided to run for chair-elect I didn’t like the direction the organization was headed—it wasn’t focusing on its core products. I kind of represented a nonestablishment group. I was nominated from the floor—the first time that happened in the organization’s history. I ran for the office to make a statement that IMA couldn’t continue doing business as usual, and a groundswell of grassroots support helped elect me.

CPAJ: The last time The CPA Journal published an article about the IMA was in 2000, just after Frank Minter’s inauguration as president and David Schweitz’s arrival as the new executive director. What major changes have happened in the organization since then?
We’ve changed the governance structure twice. First, we created the Office of Chief Executive Officer (OCEO), which included the immediate past chair, chair, the president, the president elect, and the executive director.

We changed that structure to establish a 15-member executive committee, which includes the standing committee chairs, the current chair, the chair emeritus (who is the immediate past chair), the chair elect, and the president/CEO, which used to have the title of executive director. This structure enables the organization to make changes quicker and to maintain continuity. We’ve also reduced the size of the board of directors from 240 to 100, then again to 50.

You should also know that in February the IMA’s Board and Executive Committee passed a balanced budget from operations for the first time in almost 20 years. Part of how we accomplished that was to raise dues by 21%. The last major dues increase was in 1989, with only small yearly increases since then. We also reduced the financial support to chapters—which had never been done—by 50%, but our members accepted the change because they wanted to ensure IMA’s viability. Another big change was giving our executive director the title of president/CEO; the chief elected officer now holds the title of chair. We did that to acknowledge that IMA is a staff-led organization and it will keep us focused on our strategic plan. The president/CEO will now be held accountable for carrying out our strategic plan.

The net result of all of these changes is positive membership growth for the first time in years. Our current total membership is 67,000, 20.5% of which are CPAs.

CPAJ: What initiatives are you undertaking during your term? And what are you finishing that had begun earlier?
IMA is getting back into the education business in a big way, including developing our own courses. We’re also doing more research, because keeping IMA members on the cutting edge means we have to see trends as they develop, and that requires research. And we want our research to be practical so that it can be used by our members and drive the courses we develop. So we recently did a best-practices survey and a salary survey.

This coming year for the first time we’ll have our own review course for the CMA exam; we’ve been benchmarking it against other organizations’ review courses. And members have been asking for more exam prep materials, I think because we’ve had tremendous growth in the international arena and there haven’t been enough courses in the international area. These programs will increase our nondues revenue, which we can use to enhance the CMA and CFM programs, including more and better marketing. We chose Holmes Corporation as our vendor partner for these programs because it has a lot of experience with certification preparation courses and a huge distribution network, including colleges, universities, and corporations. This CMA review course should come out by June 2004.

CPAJ: IMA focuses a lot of attention on its student membership category and promoting education in general. What are the significant plans and accomplishments there?
To reenergize our student membership category and other activity in the schools, we revamped our Professor in Residence Program. Instead of it being a full-time position, it is now a part-time position. To assist our professor in residence, we have regional professors in residence around the country. We’ve had three student conferences, and they’re successful because we have these professors out there talking to students. We had a two-day student conference last November in St. Louis with more than 400 students. Out of about 800 members attending our national conference in Nashville in June, we had about 35 student members even though none of the programming was specifically geared toward them. We held the final judging of our student case competition at the conference.

CPAJ: Do the survey findings of the recent Ernst & Young/IMA best- practices survey indicate any new directions where IMA wants to focus resources?
The study confirmed some things we already knew from our Becoming a Business Partner Study, done by Gary Siegel, Jim Sorensen, and Sandy Richtameyer: The role of a management accountant is evolving into that of a business partner.

Siegel has been working with IMA since 1994. In 1996 he did a study on the skill sets management accountants need. In 1999 he did a study on whether the “bean counter” role was changing. A 2002 study found that even though accountants should be business partners, companies won’t accept them because they don’t know how to use them. The converse was true as well: Accountants don’t know how to fill the role of business partner. We’re going to develop courses teaching the skills that business partners need, based on the study.

The Ernst & Young/IMA best-practices study confirmed some of this—it talks about the skills needed to be business partner—but companies often don’t want to spend money identifying how to cut costs. The Business Partner Study shows how to implement this: how to present the information to a company in a positive, constructive way.

CPAJ: What other news from the IMA conference in Nashville do you want to share?
People left the conference very excited about what IMA is doing. We’re also getting our name out there more and taking a proactive role. We’ll no longer be the best-kept secret in the professional community.

CPAJ: How has IMA been affected by the accounting scandals of the last two years? In addition, what is the organization’s position on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the possibility of auditing standards for public companies being applied to nonpublic companies, and the nature of IMA’s relationship with the PCAOB?
IMA hasn’t had any direct involvement yet with the PCAOB. We recommended a person to serve on the board, but that person was not appointed. When the SEC was developing its definition of “financial expert,” IMA submitted comments because the proposed definition was too narrow. Initially, the person had to have auditing experience, and we recommended that an expanded definition include our certifications CFM and CMA.

None of the scandals have involved our members. Our Ethics Committee and ICMA check out any possible connections between news stories and IMA members. Sarbanes-Oxley affects our members because they’re on the front lines in terms of implementing the act’s requirements. We’ve started a Listserv on best practices, with Ernst & Young and Deloitte & Touche providing content. Across the board, IMA has been emphasizing ethics more. For example, we have a new course on ethics that includes how to handle different situations. Many nonmembers have pledged to our code of ethics, and we’ve opened IMA’s ethics hotline—(800) 6ETHICS—to nonmembers so they can receive information and counseling.

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