Financial Planning and Analysis: Assembling a team

Industry professionals know that the central role within the finance function is to study figures from the accounts and controllers in order to map out future business plans. The recommendations and analysis they put forward are often essential tools in assisting stakeholders with their decision-making.

Industry professionals know that the central role within the finance function is to study figures from the accounts and controllers in order to map out future business plans. That task includes budgeting and forecasting on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. The recommendations and analysis put forward are often essential tools in assisting stakeholders with their decision-making.

Technical qualifications – such as those promoted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) – aside, there is a difference between a technical accountant and an analyst which sets financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals apart. An aspiring ideal leader must be aware that to excel in this specialisation, candidates also have to be good decision makers, coupling this with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

The key reason for this is that the FP&A professional is often the link between the finance team and the rest of the business. This means frequent presentations to other corporate functions, who may not share the same background or understanding of accounting. Commercial acumen and an approachable personality are therefore both required to facilitate effective communication.

Top candidates in this field have to convey the figures to the firm and also deliver their projections and recommendations for future planning. Recruiting talent with the necessary technical qualifications coupled with people management aptitude often presents a challenge as both require vastly different skill sets: a superstar will be able to present a set of figures to stakeholders with a story to tell.

A wide scrutiny

As FP&A professionals also work much closer to the business they also have to cast their scope of analysis over external factors, which will depend on the industry in which the firm operates. For example, the rate of currency inflation will be a very strong consideration within financial services, just as the cost of raw materials is for a manufacturing corporation. In turn, the depth of financial analysis gets more complicated with each factor playing in.

Keeping ahead of market trends and competitors is also essential in FP&A. There may be external factors that have determined past performance, but an outstanding professional will also be able to foresee other potential considerations. This skill cannot be acquired with any technical qualification, as no one set of rules exists that determines which factor will affect the business in the future.

There are also occasions where incomplete financial information is presented. The ideal FP&A specialist will be able to apply a combination of industry knowledge and core accounting skills in order to piece together a comprehensive picture for the rest of the board.

Due to the nature of this role – which is comparatively more dynamic and provides increased opportunities for interaction – the FP&A analyst is often viewed as being able to bring more meaning to the business. Most accounting professionals show interest in moving into this role; however not every jobseeker has the adequate experience and stakeholder management skills. In this instance, candidates with previous international exposure generally have more commercial acumen, as they can see the bigger picture.

FP&A talent can come from existing employees or externally. In most occasions, we see larger corporations groom and promote executives from within while boutique firms may look towards an additional hire. Typically, a professional with similar industry experience can add value as they already have a solid understanding of how the business works, market trends, processes and revenue channels.

Generally when FP&A professionals move through the business, they tend to gravitate away from finance to be in managing director, commercial director, chief financial officer (CFO) and chief operating officer (COO) positions, which are often given the autonomy to make business decisions. However career progression is dependant on the team and corporate structure as well as the individual’s performance.

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