The roles and responsibilities of the management accountant

This is a very brief discussion as to whether the variety of roles a management accountant can undertake are equalled by the range of skills required to perform these roles.

There is a continuing debate over the roles of management accountants within modernised organisations, some arguing that there is a need to develop new skills to progress from “bean counters” to “business advocates” (De Loo et al., p.288), whilst others disagree stating that ‘bean counting’ is still an important aspect of a management accountants job.

According to Weetman (2010), the traditional roles of a management accountant include planning; setting objectives (operational and strategic), decision making; implementing these objectives, and control; comparing actual results against objectives to judge performance. CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) defines management accounting as;

 “It combines accounting, finance and management with the leading edge techniques needed to drive successful business.”

(CIMA, 2009, June)

This definition shows the wide range of business aspects that management accountants cover, and therefore implies they require the accumulative skills associated with each of these roles. This supports the idea that management accountants are becoming more business advocates as they are ever more involved in the operations of the organisation. Similarly, the phrase “leading edge techniques” implies that a duty of the management accountant is continual development to ensure the successfulness of the business.

Research conducted into online job advertisements (200 advertisements) for management accountants has identified five key competencies; communication – 55%, interpersonal skills – 45%, time management – 39%, team player – 35%, and analytical skills – 33% (Quinn, Rochford, p.58). It was also found that along with typical management accounting roles e.g. costing and planning, the overall results showed that management accountants were requested to perform tasks more traditionally accustomed to financial accountants (78% of 200 online management accountant jobs advertisements) (Quinn, Rochford, 2013, p.59).

The significant advances in modern technology and computerised accounting systems demand greater ICT skills, and could be argued to make the mundane tasks of a management accountant easier. Therefore, management accountants now often take on other responsibilities affiliated with different accounting sectors e.g. financial accounting.

“Where once a management accountant’s main role was simply to identify problems, now he or she is called on to provide solutions.”

(Journal of Accountancy, p.17)

The ability to provide solutions requires additional skills and training which modern management accountants often receive. These newly taught skills can often be applied to other roles within business, giving management accountants useful and transferrable skills. New skills can be learned and applied continually throughout a career, whilst there are a limited number of roles and jobs a management accountant can undertake. This would suggest that the number of skills a management accountant needs to, and can possess, are greater than the number of roles a management accountant can assume.

In conclusion, management accountants can undertake many varied roles within an organisation, and many of the skills necessary to carry out these jobs successfully are interlinked and transferable as they are required by several roles. However, in my opinion, the increasingly rapid changes to the roles and tasks required to be performed by management accountants are greater than the number of skills to be learned.

This begs the question – are management accountants an invaluable source to a businesses successfulness and efficiency?

Read more here: The Role of Management Accounting in the Organisation [Download]

List of References

CIMA (2009, June), What Is CIMA’s Definition of Management Accounting? [Online Journal], Retrieved October 2, 2013, from

De Loo, I. Verstegen, B., Swagerman, D. (2011) Understanding the roles of management accountants, European Business Review, Vol. 23(3), pp.287 – 313

Ireland, Accountancy , 45(1), pp.58 – 60.

Quinn, M. (2013). What Management Accountants Do.

Roles Changing for Management Accountants (1999), Journal of Accountancy, Vol. 188(5), pp.17 – 20.

Weetman, P. (2010) Management Accounting (2nd ed), pp.7 – 10

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