A late afternoon session at the Radisson Royal Hotel, sufficiently sheltered from the UAE's summer heat, witnessed one of my first encounters with management accounting of the theoretic sort. I had no idea that complex accounting principles, when mixed with a healthy dose of competitive spirit, could be so rewarding.
At the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Student Case Competition held recently in Dubai, a team from NYU Abu Dhabi went head to head with three other teams from the Middle East. The objective was to analyze and offer solutions to real-life challenges in management accounting. But it was the competitive process — judged by a panel of experts in the field — that fueled our intellectual drive.
Together with two of my classmates — Weichen Zhu, NYUAD Class of 2015) and Mac Davel Kalumbi, NYUAD Class of 2016) — our team had already progressed past the preliminary stage of the IMA competition. Acting as accountants, we had been required to develop a draft memorandum detailing the problems with the methods of cost allocation and performance evaluation practiced by the management staff at a fictional company, ABC Foods Inc. We had also been required to develop viable solutions to these problems and to send in our entry in a presentable and professional format.
Making it past the initial stage was an achievement in itself; participation had been open to undergraduate and graduate candidates from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, and our very own UAE. Four teams, including ours, were invited to the finals.
The culmination of the competition involved a 20-minute slide presentation from each team, followed by five minutes of questions from the panel. The night prior to the competition, Mac Davel and I set about rehearsing to prepare for the contest.
When the competition finally commenced and we were invited to take the stage, we went about our presentation as best we could. We suggested the adoption of activity-based costing techniques and a net sales approach in the process of cost allocation, as well as the use of more equitable benchmarks for performance evaluation and the inclusion of non-financial criteria in the evaluation of the marketing units within ABC Foods Inc. Although our presentation was slightly marred by a few technical complications with the slides, we responded confidently to the questions fired our way. Following the last presentation, we were dispersed by the facilitators of the competition for a short recess, during which Mac Davel and I made introductions, exchanged conversation, and got better acquainted with our fellow competitors.
After what seemed a very long wait, we were invited once again to the hall to receive the verdict of the judges. We were elated, to say the least, to be awarded second place in what we were told had been a closely contested competition. We remain grateful to the NYUAD community for offering its support, and to all the competitors who participated for making the competition such an instructive challenge.