Jim McAvoy, Accountant and CGA, Explains What a CGA Could Do for You

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There are several accounting designations in Canada that are available to accounting professionals. Jim McAvoy, Accountant and CGA, will explain the many things you need to know about being a Certified General Accountant.

What is a CGA?

First, we feel that an outright definition is in order. Quite simply, CGA stands for Certified General Accountant.

Jim McAvoy, Accountant and CGA, explains that a Certified General Accountant is a designation given by members of the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada who are also members of a territorial, provincial or overseas CGA association.

For example, to be a Certified General Accountant in Victoria, you would need to be a member of both the CGA-Canada and the Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia.

 

What does it take to be a CGA?

Is a CGA simply just a designation? Another title that you could add to your name for the sake of adding it?

Not so, says Jim McAvoy, accountant and CGA. McAvoy explains that being a CGA means that you are an accounting professional who has taken the requisite examinations and who holds the necessary education as well as the required experience that is expected of a CGA. These qualifications are set forth by CGA-Canada.

In short, a CGA acts like a professional certification of sorts for accounting professionals. It certifies your education, experience and education.

How does a CGA differ from other accounting-related designations such as the CA or the CMA?

Jim McAvoy, accountant, says that the CGA is not the only accounting designation in Canada.

First, there is the Certified Management Accountants, or CMA, which is given out by the Society of Management Accountants. This is especially for those who work in cost accounting or management accounting. Accountants who are into finance, sales, marketing, strategic planning, human resources and information technology may also aim for a CMA.

For public accountants, you can get a chartered accountant, or CA designation. But you have to be a member of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

However, the best thing about the CGA designation is that it allows you to get your designation while still working full time. You have access to learning materials 24/7, allowing you to study when you can and when you want. What’s more, the work experience and educational background you need to get your CGA is very broad. This means that you can work in an area of accounting that you love and still get a CGA designation.

By contrast, you need to have an accounting undergraduate degree, you must have graduated from a CA-approved institution, and you must complete very stringent requirements in order to get a CA designation.

Note, however, that even if you are not required to have an undergraduate degree in accounting to become a CGA, it is an exit requirement. So if you have plans of being a CA, then you can start to study accounting earlier.

How to get a CGA?

To obtain your CGA designation, you would need to have an undergraduate degree. Any undergraduate degree for that matter. That means you do not have to get an accounting-related college course to become a CGA. “In fact, I had an arts degree,” Jim McAvoy, an accountant and senior partner at McAvoy Rule and Co., relates.

“That alone would have meant that I would not be eligible for a CA, unless I go back to school. At that time, that was not an option.”

You would, however, need to have two to three years’ work experience. As mentioned before, this can be very broad. You could get work experience as an accounting professional in taxation, business strategy, management, auditing, and finance, among others.

Additionally, you would need to take the required number of CGA courses. Two years’ worth of courses will be sent to you through correspondence.

McAvoy explains that this formal program has 19 courses, professional qualification exams, and five different levels. Foundation studies comprise the first three levels, then advanced studies for level 4 and then the certification level, which they call PACE, is the final one.

CGA-Canada opted for a competency-based education program for CGA. This means that you would need to demonstrate skills and do tasks that you would be expected to perform at work. You must be able to demonstrate competencies in leadership, professionalism and, of course, knowledge of and in your work.

Why be a CGA?

In recent years, the overall job market in Canada has drastically tightened. There are simply more people who are qualified for a job than there are available positions.

This is also true in the field of accounting. More and more accountants are competing for the same positions, so it really pays to have an edge. There are already around 75,000 professionals who hold a CGA.

With all things kept equal, a CGA would be more attractive for an employer. It can easily signify that:

  1. You have the experience that you say you do.
  2. You have the skills and knowledge that you say you do.
  3. You have been updating your knowledge over the years.
  4. You have passed the exams and requirements set forth by CGA-Canada.

Between a person who can prove all these and another person who could not, who do you think would an employer hire?

Not only that, the Certified General Accountants of Canada as well as their provincial, territorial and offshore counterparts, keep a database of members that employers can pay to get access to. What this means is that you may get the chance to be contacted for an opportunity that is first available only to CGAs. That means that you get more career opportunities where you have lesser competition.

Further, CGA associations also hold members-only seminars, workshops and professional development trainings. You do not have to go far to learn more about how to do your job and how to be better at it.

Lastly, if you are going into business, a CGA would be just perfect for you. A CGA designation would prove to be a great boost when it comes to your credibility, which you will need to attract new clients. Moreover, if you are planning to work abroad, a CGA designation is recognized in 170 countries!

Jim McAvoy is an accountant and a CGA. He is a co-founder of McAvoy Rule and Co. Since 1981, McAvoy has been involved in the daily operations of the firm.

Interview: Jim McAvoy, Victoria, BC Bridge Champion, Talks About the Game

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In this interview, Jim McAvoy, Victoria, BC resident and bridge champion, shares some tips on how to play bridge.

Learning bridge: Reading about it? Or just playing?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to learning bridge.  One group says that you should read about the game first, and to get tactics and techniques from the experts.

Some bridge players attest to the fact that they got introduced to the game and got hooked to playing it right after.

Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion advocates a little bit of both.  “There is no way around it, you must read and play at the same time.  You can get the how-to’s in a social bridge game, but if you really want to excel, you simply must read up on bridge.  The good news is that there are a lot of great resources on bridge online, so you can just check in when you have the time.”

However, McAvoy concedes that just hitting the books is not a very fun thing to do.  “You would find yourself very easily bored if you just focus on the strategies.  Bridge is social and it should be played.  It will be very close to impossible to learn how to play bridge just by reading.  You need to see the plays in an actual game.  Unless you have very strong visualization skills, you will not be very successful in learning bridge by pure reading.”

Learning Bridge

Learn from the best.  “Also, remember that bridge is a game wherein you can play with champions and still win the round.  I always recommend playing with really good players to get a taste of how they play the game.  There are simply a lot that you could learn by playing with the best.  I always welcome people who would want to learn from me and play with me.  I like it that they are not intimidated by playing against Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion.  I certainly would not mind teaching people the game that I love so much!”

What are the traits of a good bridge player?

“Bridge is a game that feels like chess, poker and any competitive sport combined.  So aside from being competitive and being a sport, here are the characteristics that I think a great bridge player ought to have:

  • Be patient.  Anything worth doing is worth your patience.  Bridge takes time to learn and master, so be sure that you have the commitment to learn it.  And I assure you, it will be worth it!
  • Have fun. Bridge is a game, so always have fun.  It makes no sense to be playing something that you take no fun in.
  • Be very analytical. No doubt about it, you need to keep your head on while playing bridge.  You have to be on your toes and be very mentally alert.  Or else, you will just lose each and every time! It will always be great to remember that bridge is primarily a game of logic and wits.  You need to be very logical to be able to guess what your opponents’ hands are and how they are going to play their cards or defend it.  I have an edge, I think,  because before I was Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion, I was Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC accountant!  Simply said, I had the training in being very analytical and very careful.  I am not saying that you need to be an accountant to win at bridge.  Far from it.  You just need to analyze a lot!
  • Concentrate and focus. The ability to concentrate and focus is every bridge player’s best friend.  From analyzing your hand to bidding, to the play or defense, you need to give it your full attention.
  • Anger management. Believe it or not, bridge can become very intense for some people.  There are times when a great game of bridge turns sour or, worse, turns into a disaster because of unchecked tempers.  Be sure to have even temperaments.  Learn to let go.  If you have the best score, good, if you have the worst scores, then just let it go and move on to the next game or have tea afterward.
  • Positive thinking.  You simply cannot have fun with a bridge game if you keep a bleak outlook and if you consistently think that the game is not going well for you.  Be positive.”

What resources could you suggest for those who are learning bridge?

“There are a lot of great bridge books out there.  The great thing about these books is that they do not have an expiry date and you could keep them and lend them to friends and family.  You could use these books to introduce them to bridge.  It is such a sound investment!

“Check out Why Lose at Bridge by SJ Simon.  It teaches you about the game in a very fun way.  The writing is practical and very funny.  You may be chuckling along or laughing at what you are reading, but it does teach you the finer points of the game as well as how to avoid making mistakes.

“Another book you should check out is Hugh Kelsey’s Killing Defence at Bridge.  This teaches you how to become a discipline counter and how to formulate winning defenses!

“Terence Reese wrote Reese on Play: An Introduction to Good Play.  The title says it all. If you want to learn more about tempo, deception and avoidance, then Terence Reese is your man!  Another book from Reese is The Expert Game where he explains more about technical errors most people commit and how to avoid them.

“Lastly, you have Bridge in the Menagerie written by Victor Mollo.  I think that every bridge player should read this book.  The tone is casual, yet it tome is packed with stories and lessons that are both instructive and funny.”

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Jim McAvoy, Victoria BC bridge champion is also an accountant.  He is a CGA and co-founder of the Victoria CGA firm McAvoy, Rule and Co.