Management Accounting: Graduate Area of Work
Management accounting is a sector that brings together accountancy, finance, and management to generate information, specifically for a company’s managers in order to help them with their decision-making process and the implementation of their financial strategies. The responsibilities of management accountants are two-fold – they provide critical information to management about the state of a company, and may also be business partners who take an active role in planning and strategising a company’s business policies.
A management accountant draws conclusions from the financial information they obtain, using it to generate business-specific insights into the ways a company can prepare and adapt according to an ever-changing business environment. This can mean offering advice from topics ranging from product design economics and the cost of running production lines, to strategies for hiring and managing staff or planning for the implementation of IT solutions.
As it is the job of a management accountant to advise the management on the implications of their business decisions, projects, and financial controls, they need to be able to see the business from a complex global perspective. Good management accountants are as aware of global trends as they are of specific, local issues to each process; and are able to see how both factors interact and affect the company as a whole.
Most graduates and newcomers to the field usually start with a position in general accounting roles, where you will pick up various business skills that will be useful for management accounting. If you intend to specialise in management accounting, you will be encouraged to study for the specialist professional qualifications offered by various professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
Some of the early responsibilities that you can expect starting out as a management accountant include crunching numbers for internal reviews and helping out with preparing the management budget. Once you have established yourself in your position, you may be asked to assist with risk management, identifying trends and opportunities for future investments, and overseeing lower-level accountants who are in charge of basic accounting tasks. The bulk of your duties, however, will involve working closely with senior management, as you advise them in their decision-making and strategy-planning.
As is the case with most accounting positions, having a business- or finance-related degree, or a relevant professional qualification (such as those offered by CIMA) will be beneficial. Aside from paper qualifications, however, a credible management accountant will possess a good foundation in SAP management software, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and financial analysis and reporting skills.
Good communication and persuasion skills are also valuable, as you will often have to translate complicated concepts and numbers for the understanding of the management, as well as sell your ideas and opinions to them. It is also necessary for you to possess excellent decision-making skills, and to be firm in your judgement calls. In this sense, a high level of confidence will stand you in good stead.
As a more senior management accountant, you may also want to develop the ability to observe a local trend in terms of the international perspective, so as to decide on the actual value of investing in the trend. Good leadership and management skills, too, will be of use to you.
Ups and downs
The role of a management accountant is quite a challenging one, and some will find the mental stimulation quite enjoyable. Your duties may be quite diverse and taxing, but can also be very rewarding, as the knowledge that you have assisted in the decision-making process of the company (especially more successful ones) can be particularly satisfying.