This interview was first published on afponline.org
After her round of meetings with financial planning and analysis professionals across the globe, Larysa Melnychuk, managing director of the London FP&A Club, returned with plenty of stories and insights about the challenges they face. Here, Melnychuk reflected on the biggest obstacles FP&A professionals face, and possible solutions to overcome them.
1. A shortage of FP&A talent
Finding FP&A finance talent can be incredibly difficult. No matter what market you are in, it can be quite a challenge to find FP&A professionals, as opposed to accounting, treasury or traditional finance professionals. “These people are different,” Melnychuk explained. “They combine strong analytical, business partnering and communication skills. Before the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credential, it never was defined how different they should be. It’s always quite a challenge to find people in this department.”
Melnychuk noted that in the meetings she’s had, companies are seeing the value in the FP&A Certification, but it is all fairly new to them. In Singapore for example, AFP’s Certified Corporate Treasury (CTP) credential is known, and Melnychuk believes the FP&A Certification will soon achieve the same level of recognition; it will simply take time. “But the demand is there, and the need is there,” she said.
2. A lack of continuous on-demand planning and forecasting
In current market conditions, forecasting can’t just be done on a quarterly or monthly basis. It should be a continuous/on-demand process. However, to make it possible, companies should have driver-based models and dedicated FP&A systems. This is currently a challenge—a lot of static models FP&A professionals are using make it impossible to plan/forecast on-demand.
3. A lack of flexible FP&A systems
Currently, traditional on-premises FP&A systems are not being utilized. The reasons are a lack of flexibility and too much dependence on the IT department. Many practitioners still use Excel for the majority of their duties and upload results of the Excel analytics into FP&A systems.
Fortunately, there have been many recent developments in the FP&A systems market. Cloud-based FP&A solutions are much more flexible and easy to manage. Many companies that have implemented modern FP&A systems have been able to transform their FP&A processes into more flexible and dynamic ones.
4. Budget cuts
Many finance departments are focusing on reducing the costs of finance itself. The result has been substantial restructuring in finance departments all over the world. “Routine finance jobs are being automated,” Melnychuk said. “There are now a lot of shared services and outsourcing to reduce costs.”
However, many companies have come to realize that it’s not a good idea to outsource FP&A. “So even if they are reducing the finance department, they still need to find good FP&A talent and keep it,” Melnychuk said. “This is the challenge. To be efficient, we need to reduce the cost. But if we reduce the cost too much, FP&A is not going to be effective.”
5. FP&A goes by many names
“FP&A” is still not a common term around the world. As stated in previous articles, the actual term for FP&A varies from region to region, often being referred to as “business control”, “control”, “financial planning and control (FP&C)”, etc. Therefore, professionals and organizations who use the term FP&A regularly would be wise to clarify what they are talking about. “I think we should translate this acronym as much as we can,” Melnychuk said. “It’s good to say ‘financial planning and analysis’ rather than just ‘FP&A’.”
In fact, one of Melnychuk’s contacts in Singapore, who works for a U.S.-based advertising company, informed her that she had never heard the term FP&A. “I was really surprised that she’d never even heard the term FP&A,” she said. “She works for a big American company that doesn’t call the function ‘FP&A’.” Even in the UK—where FP&A is a common term—some companies refer to the function differently. So no matter where you operate, it may be worthwhile to translate the acronym.