So if you are an accountant – is that designation really so important?

There is an interesting debate going on between the three main accounting designations here in Canada – CA (Chartered Accountant), CMA (Certified Management Accountant), and CGA (Certified General Accountant) about the value or not of a merger of two or all three organizations. 

Having spoken to audiences at conferences, professional development days and several chapters of all three, it is clear that merging is not going to solve all the challenges that accountants and for that matter many service professionals face – namely differentiation.

In fact if they end up doing a hodge podge of meregers only in some provinces and only some designations the picture may get very much more cloudy than clear. 

In the end the designations on their own are not enough. 

Unless you have sat down with an accountant and heard their explanation of their designation it is very likely that most people would not know the difference and the benefits of one over the other. BUT their buying decision might already be made, at least for a shortlist of who to use or hire. 

This is because the general perceptions are that all (accomplished) accountants are at the very least – accurate, honest and analytical – regardless of designation. so the choice becomes much more about the individual accountants personal brand and the emotional connections one makes to that person. Are you looking for a FUN accountant, or CARING or QUIRKY?  

It might only be when you find a FUN CA, CMA and CGA that the designation becomes important – at least to the buyer. 


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Good point Paul. I am a CMA myself, and while I have my own perception of the strengths and weaknesses of the different designations, they are blurring over time, with or without a formal merger.
    We find that the vast majority of clients for our contact finance services simply want the candidates to “have a designation”… very rarely do they specify a particular one or subset, and if they do, it’s usually the same designation they have themselves!
    They usually take the achievement of any of the designations as having “passed the hurdle” of displaying an apptitude for debits and credits! After that, it is ALL about the person, their specific experience, and their fit and style.

  • Thanks for the thoughts Steve. It was great to see you the other week at IIA Conference.

  • As for me, the importance of designation depends on the accountant as a person. Designation entails a list of pros and cons, which are variables that serve as gauges of their importance.

  • Exactly my point Carol, the designations are important but the person will make the difference.

  • Yes, designation is as important as the person’s character. I think what’s even more important is the accountant’s impact on the industry. This is such a great article, Paul. I love how you shed light on the designation debate.

  • Thanks Darcy. The latest seems to be that a merger is more likely than when this was first posted, Many accountants I have spoken to seem in favour.

  • I have to agree with Darcy there. You have a strong point, Paul. Designation is just a brand, and what matters most is the person carrying it. Regardless of your position or designation, if you don’t have the character to act on it, you’re most likely pushing success away from you. In the end, it’s your will and outlook that will make you stand out from the rest.

  • Thanks for adding to the debate Lenora