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Time to get stuck in, says new CIMA President

PQ chats with CIMA’s new President Myriam Madden about her career and her plans for the institute’s future

February 2016

We recently met up with Myriam Madden at CIMA’s plush new HQ at The Helicon in the heart of the City of London. She feels this new, open-plan environment says a lot more about CIMA and its transparency and outward looking approach. It certainly looks a better place to work than the old Chapter Street HQ!
Madden is only the second female President of CIMA (the first was Claire Ighodaro, some 12 years ago). She was, however, quick to point out that two of the five chairs of CIMA policy committees are women and two of the vice-chairs are also women. That’s 40% representation in key posts.
Madden grew up in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland, and when she finished high school she admits to having a burning desire to travel, but decided to get a good degree first. It was a toss up between law and business, but she finally opted for a business degree at University College Cork – she felt she would have found a law degree a little dry.
After her studies she wanted to understand what made a successful business, and so steered away from joining a chartered accountancy firm and instead opted for industry.
She joined Hewlett Packard, based in Scotland, and it was then that CIMA entered her life. She had studied their organisation and management style at university, so was pleased as punch to get on to their graduate training scheme. She stayed for over 12 years, working in different finance functions getting valuable operational experience. An opportunity then arose to move to London and work with the internal audit team. It also involved travelling two weeks every month. That meant Italy, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland and France; three years of travelling that got her travel bug sorted.
She then moved back to Scotland and helped set up Hewett Packard’s first business partnering unit.
Fast forward to today, and her last role before becoming CIMA President was as director of finance at Historic Scotland, where she managed a team of 40 staff. She is taking a sabbatical year now, so she could concentrate on properly fulfilling her CIMA role.
We asked Madden if she found the CIMA exams hard. “Of course they were! They are always tough going and a test of stamina and will power,” she said. As many of PQs today would understand, her friends were always out on the town enjoying themselves while she studied. “I had my head in a book on a Friday night, a full-time job and was struggling to get the work-study-life balance right.”
She said there are always reasons to put things off, so her advice is to “just get started and get stuck in”. She feels that getting the CIMA qualification is about investing in yourself and your future.
Getting back to her student days, Madden explained that her company had an October year-end, so she was encouraged to take the exams at the May sitting. That meant having a proper study plan, which she admits she didn’t always stick to: “I was in my 20s, away from home, and having a good time.” She did come down to London for a two-week revision course, but the rest was home study (distance learning).
She passed all her CIMA exams first time, except tax. Madden admits that failure was a real shock to her system. Her immediate reaction was disbelief and then huge frustration, as she had to study one of her least favourite subjects again! She didn’t want to sit tax a third time so she compared notes with other students who had sat and passed to see where she needed to concentrate and then just got stuck in big time (taking her own advice).
Looking at CIMA today, Madden feels she would rather be a student now. The flexible new approach suits both students and employers. “When I sat, the set-up was more employer-orientated,” she suggested. CIMA PQs can now do the exams anytime and that flexibility is ‘simply fantastic’.
Will power and discipline are still just as important and PQs have to be motivated. But Madden stressed that if you are studying to be a management accountant then you have to get used to setting your own deadlines – it’s what happens in the real world. It does make it a bit more challenging for students, but she told PQ not to underestimate CIMA’s students. She said: “They will rise to the challenge and embrace the new way of assessment.”
As President, she wants to ensure the institute is at the cutting edge, meeting the needs of business and its members (and future members). By joining forces with the AICPA Madden believes the two can create a truly global footprint.
Together, the two now represent over 600,000 members and students across the world. She feels they can achieve greater market recognition, with employers saying, ‘I want a CGMA, as they know what one looks like, the skills they have and what they will bring to the business.’
Madden is keen to ensure CIMA takes its rightful place at the top table and will be working hard to ensure it moves in the right direction during 2016.

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