Holly Rodillo Bernstein's story

Holly Rodillo Bernstein, CPA, CGMA

Director of Accounting, Assistant Controller

Holly Rodillo Bernstein has nearly 13 years of extensive experience in the month end close and financial reporting process, as well as internal controls and compliance, and external audit, over a variety of industries.  In her latest role at Boots Retail USA, a member of Walgreens Boots Alliance and primary distributor of the Boots skincare and cosmetics products in the Americas, Holly oversaw the month end close, accounts payable, accounts receivable, treasury, tax and financial reporting functions, including coordination of all formal financial reporting deliverables to parent groups.  Holly and her team were also responsible for creating cost center and balance sheet budgets as well as cash flow forecasting and multiple ad hoc financial analyses across the organization.  In previous roles, Holly has been responsible for accounting and financial and reporting teams and functions within both the healthcare and telecommunications industries. She has also served as a key liaison with external audit in these functions.

What motivated you to get the CGMA designation? 

I attended an event featuring a panel of finance/accounting leadership discussing the CGMA designation. Up to that point, I had seen a few ads, but the designation was (and still is) so new that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue it. The AICPA contacted me personally, and I was able to learn a lot more about the body of knowledge and the exam. What ultimately motivated me was that it looked like a worthwhile challenge, and a worthwhile distinction among CPAs who want to take their skill set to the next level. 

How has the journey through taking the live and self-study learning and exam been?
It’s been many years since I’ve had to study for anything! At first, the self-study modules are daunting — it’s about 55 CPE hours of self-study altogether, including self-examinations after each module. This is because the CGMA body of knowledge covers a great deal of strategy, corporate governance, technical and leadership skills. The key is to focus on areas that need re-reviewing. None of it should be new to a CPA, or someone who has attended business school; however, it all came together during the live course with Adrian Sims, which I found to be vital in passing the exam. The live course streamlines the information from the body of knowledge into less-intimidating packets of information. Most importantly, the live course taught my fellow CGMA candidates and me how to approach the exam and what the evaluators expect from candidates. The most-effective parts were breaking down mock test questions, as well as taking a full mock exam that was graded and commented upon by the actual exam evaluators.   

What are your thoughts on the CGMA exam? What did you think about the format? What are some aspects that you liked or disliked?
The CGMA is a test of practical knowledge from a finance and accounting professional’s perspective as a leader and innovator. The computerized format is efficient and effective and incredibly easy to navigate. The case study format is completely appropriate, but I feel that the case studies are biased to UK and IFRS companies and accounting policies rather than US GAAP. This has much to do with the AICPA’s partnership with CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) based in the UK; since the CGMA designation was developed under this partnership, and is quite new, that’s not surprising. Though this is useful for the international accountant, I feel that the majority of AICPA members work primarily in terms of US GAAP.

What have you gained from going through the Program?
There is a lot to gain from going through the program. Firstly, I obtained a good, healthy challenge for myself in studying for and sitting for the exam. Most CPAs haven’t sat for an exam since the CPA exam! Secondly, I’ve gained this designation that enables me to be further committed to the profession and to hopefully be a better leader and corporate partner within my organization.

If you were to apply for a new job, would the program be something you’d list as an accomplishment/education? Would it be something you’d lean on to demonstrate expertise in MA?
Yes, of course — I’ve added the acronym to my email signature and LinkedIn page! I’m proud of having this designation, as well as acknowledging my commitment to my profession. As in my above statement, this is a designation that focuses on developing not only a better management accountant, but also one who continuously seeks the holistic view.

Would you recommend the CGMA Program to peers and why?
Yes, I would recommend the Program. I think it’s healthy to challenge oneself as a CPA. One faces the day-to-day challenges at work, such as new projects and successfully developing/managing one’s teams, but the CGMA is laser-focused on enhancing the specific skill set needed for a CPA who is presently, or aims to be, a leader and corporate partner outside of the finance organization, who thinks in terms of his or her company (or industry) holistically, without letting go of the details.

In your opinion, what is the value of obtaining the CGMA designation, both in terms of the journey to get it as well as applying your knowledge, skills and experience to your organization?
To me, the CGMA designation is a unique distinction among accounting professionals that acknowledges an individual CPA’s commitment to being an effective leader and innovator within the corporate environment. I believe this designation enhances and broadens a CPA’s awareness of the internal and external nuances of the complex workings of a business. It demands an understanding of technical details while also being able to take a step back to understand organizations and the financial environment as a whole.