Reinventing FP&A: The Essential Skill Sets
by Dr. Amarendra Kumar, General Manager of FP&A at Pyramid Consulting
There is evidence that FP&A interest is growing fast. Each and every day, CFOs feel the pressure building on the finance function to contribute more to business success. Within the CFO’s organization, the responsibility for tracking, assessing and reporting corporate performance normally falls to the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) group.
In reality, FP&A specializes in analyzing and planning for the future, wearing multiple hats and identifying various improvement strategies. A valued FP&A specialist is someone who has the ability to engage with and influence the full breadth of top management – not just CFO – ensuring they have the necessary information. The specialist will explain why the business needs to go towards x, y, z markets and not the a, b, c direction they were planning.
Members of FP&A are the Finance “ambassadors” to business leaders. Embedded across the business, they are a crucial part of decision making in areas such as planning, making resourcing decisions, measuring success, approving investments, and more. Roles include working with the marketing, sales, product, and engineering departments, as well as corporate (which touches on everything, and interacts directly with the CFO). A strong FP&A individual will have the ear of the sales director and can talk to the commercial director and operations director. He/she can sit down with the managing director and also be the right-hand man for the CFO.
FP&A is historically seen as strictly a financial function. There is often confusion regarding the roles of Accounting and FP&A and their differing objectives. Accounting, on the other hand, is very much a science, focused on meeting GAAP standards, instituting controls and shortening the close process. As was previously quoted by Mark Gandy, G3CFO, "The financial controller typically looks backward, the FP&A professional looks forward and sideways, diagonally, upward, downward, multi-dimensionally, and so on".
The role of an FP&A professional is largely a new and evolving one—to be truly great s/he has to be flexible, quick and adaptive. As the primary driver for financial planning, forecasting, reporting, and business analysis, FP&A plays a critical role in the organization and with their business partners.
FP&A moves beyond the traditional budgeting process to link strategic and operational planning. It must focus on high-quality analytics and predictive planning to analyze multiple scenarios and make smart decisions more quickly than ever before. Information delivered quickly, flexibly, in a format most relevant to the issues at hand, is more important than ever. FP&A also has the ability to measure how well Accounting and Operations are collaborating and supporting the company’s long-term goals. An optimized FP&A group, with the direction of executive leadership, has close ties with Accounting and Operations and applies their expertise to facilitate a collaborative business environment.
The definition of FP&A
FP&A generally includes several discrete processes. While these systems can be managed separately, their ownership requires a common skill set. This includes an understanding of accounting, finance theory, data sources and definitions, modeling, creative problem solving and the economics of the business. The processes typically owned by FP&A include: – Budgeting – Forecasting – Strategic Planning – Management Reporting – Financial Analysis – Capital Planning – Business Modeling (e.g., new ventures and investments)
The Skill Sets of FP&A
Ability to communicate with and gather information from business partners - ability to coordinate FP&A tasks with the corporate calendar or the assigned deadline - Ability to prepare reports and/or make presentations - Ability to build budgets, forecasts, annual plans and so on - Ability to receive, analyze, integrate and consolidate assumptions and data from business units - The knowledge of finance principles and processes - Ability to synthesize information to create conclusions, alternatives and recommendations - Technical aptitude - Candidates should have the ability to solve problems utilizing technology- Knowledge of spreadsheet and database structures and functions - ability to perform variance analysis and reporting - Ability to define, incorporate and report on financial and/or non-financial key performance indicators - Intelligence, natural curiosity, and a desire to learn.