Unconventional: How Philips Healthcare Finds Good FP&A Staff

“People with engineering backgrounds can learn the finance skills as well,” Wulf notes. With innovative ideas like that, it’s no surprise that Wulf was tapped to serve on the 2015 AFP Financial Planning & Analysis Leadership Summit Task Force. The inaugural FP&A Leadership Summit is set for May 19-20 in Amsterdam. Recently, Wulf spoke by telephone with gtnews.

Q (gtnews): Tell me a little bit about your company and what your responsibilities are in supporting your company’s goals.

A (Wulf):
My responsibilities are leading a team of FP&A analysts in a centre of expertise. We have around 50 people here who provide support to both the businesses, the markets, and also to the supply chain. My job is to come up with analytics related to how we did in the past month or a year, but also looking at analysis supporting the forecast and the aspect-oriented programming (AOP) process.

What do you find as your biggest challenge that you are struggling with right now in your role?

The biggest is to get closer to the businesses and the markets that we support and provide insights which add more value in the decision-making process. It’s a challenge for this organisation getting ready with setting up reports and making it a reporting process that is much more efficient as well. But now, we should make the next step and make that information more actionable to people, the finance people or business people, you know, sitting out there. I would say that’s our biggest challenge for the coming year.

One thing I hear quite often is the challenge of finding, hiring and training good FP&A staff to support the company. Do you find this is a case for you at Philips?

I have been doing a lot of recruiting; I must say in the Netherlands it is relatively easy. What is helping is that here we are known as a very effective and well-known employer. I’m finding really good FP&A people who I think combine a number of skills and attributes. They have to be very good on the tooling side. They have to be very good on the communications side as they need to be able to work well together with customers. It’s not that easy. We have a number of very good people. But at the same time, they’re also the people that are not going to stay with you for a long time. We need actually to continue those recruitment efforts because people have two, three years, and then they’re up for the next assignment. It’s not easy but at the same time I feel currently we have a really good and strong team here.

When you’re hiring, do you look for someone with a strong finance background, or do you hire people who’ve worked in particular business units with the thinking that you could teach them the finance components along the way?

Well, it’s good to have a bit of a mix. It also depends on the phase that you are in because if you still have to build, let’s say, a basis in FP&A in terms of tools and things like that. It’s better to have people presumably with a finance background. But at the moment, if you want to grow closer to the business it helps if you have a little bit more people with different types of backgrounds as well. Personally, I work well with both. It’s just that with people who have a finance background it’s a bit easier and quicker to get started.

Why did you find it so important to not just attend the FP&A Leadership Summit but actually help plan it?

It’s an interesting experience. I have been to a few FP&A meetings myself. For me, it’s inspiring to hear from others how they organise FP&A in their company. Then it feels good to help also. I’ve worked in finance for a long time – 22 years or so – and you find FP&A as a new separate domain a few years now. So I’ve been doing bits and pieces of FP&A work but only in the last few years in focus. To me, it’s a very interesting domain to work in and that’s why I’m also happy to come to the event.

Learn more about the 2015 AFP FP&A Leadership Summit.   


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