The month of June saw IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) host two important events for members: its first fully virtual Annual Conference & Expo (ACE2021), which was held June 14-16, 2021, and attracted nearly 1,200 registrants from 36 countries, and its virtual Annual Meeting of Members on June 24, 2021, drawing registrations from more than 3,000 members around the world. While the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the move to virtual formats, the events also represented opportunities for IMA to reach more members globally.

ACE2021 featured 54 sessions, with the potential for members to earn up to 54 ICMA® (Institute of Certified Management Accountants) continuing professional education (CPE) credits as well as 11 NASBA CPE credits. All Conference sessions were offered live as well as on demand (for 30 days after June 16). This format provided greater flexibility for attendees who may not have been able to attend sessions in real time.

“With the pandemic affecting all parts of the globe, IMA’s ACE2021 event offered our members a wonderful opportunity to upskill in critical management accounting competencies, network with peers and thought leaders, and meet a variety of relevant exhibitors—all from the comfort of their home or office. We received many positive compliments on the virtual platform experience afforded our attendees,” said Deborah Warner, vice president of education and career services at IMA.

The Conference kicked off with a powerful keynote session delivered by Amy Webb, a quantitative futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute. Webb focused on ways finance professionals can “think like a futurist” and presented 11 macro trends poised to disrupt finance, including those in education, demographics, infrastructure, and geopolitics. She also highlighted groundbreaking new technologies that are poised to become mainstream in two to three years, such as synthetic biology and shared computing power through people’s personal devices. She asked attendees to think critically about what these trends will mean for the way they work today and into the future.

IMA’s President and CEO Jeff Thomson and Hirav Shah, IMA’s director of data analytics, delivered an informative case study on how IMA implemented a data analytics program. Thomson and Shah explained many parallels between IMA’s journey and that of small businesses new to the data analytics space, offering “lessons learned” about what it takes to make data useful for strategic decision making.

Technology as a change agent was widely discussed in many sessions, including one led by Bill Sheridan, chief communications officer of the Maryland Association of CPAs, who spoke about how COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of AI, e-commerce, robotic process automation, and other technologies. Sheridan explained how technology is changing everyone’s job and how transformation is the only appropriate word to describe what’s happening in finance.

Although technology was a focal point of the Conference, it wasn’t the only important topic covered. Throughout the three-day Conference, topics such as sustainability measurement; fraud; change management; AI; cross-cultural communication; and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) were also covered by a range of experts. Janet Stovall, senior client strategist of the NeuroLeadership Institute, discussed human capital in finance, specifically the importance of DE&I in today’s finance workforce. She offered actionable strategies for leaders to build objective, habit-based inclusive cultures and described how to overcome systemic inequity in corporate culture.

A little more than a week after ACE2021, IMA held its Annual Meeting of Members. This was the second year in which it was held solely online. Attendees heard stories and testimonials highlighting the ways IMA helped members learn new skills and stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Global Board of Directors member Ashley Gibson emceed the event, which featured remarks from Paul Juras, IMA’s Chair-Emeritus, whose term as Chair ended on June 30; IMA Chair Steve McNally; and IMA Chair-Elect Gwen van Berne. A special “I am IMA” segment featured members from around the world sharing their IMA stories.

This year’s Annual Meeting of Members also served as a platform for honoring IMA’s Global Award winners, like Larry White, recipient of IMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. CMA exam winners also were given special honors. (A full list of all award recipients can be found at here.)

Innovation and a can-do spirit characterized IMA’s move to virtual platforms for these important events. They wouldn’t have been possible without the help of IMA volunteers and staff, who showed a willingness to experiment and try new approaches to reaching members.


Join us in Austin, Texas, for ACE2022, June 12–15, 2022.


IMA is seeking breakout presentation proposals for ACE2022. We’re specifically looking for highly engaging sessions featuring experiential learning, peer collaboration, and innovative topics. For complete details, visit All proposals must be submitted online by August 27, 2021.



IMA’s Student Leadership Conference will be held virtually, November 5, 2021. Registration opens September 7.

About the Authors