FP&A and the “Growth Mindset”

FP&A and the “Growth Mindset”

By Paul Barnhurst, Director of FP&A at Solera, Inc.

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In today’s world of constant change, one thing that is necessary to survive and thrive in the Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) professional is a “Growth Mindset”. The term “Growth Mindset” was coined by Carolyn Dweck and “…refers to a person’s ability to learn and develop skills, regardless of natural ability, through determination and hard work.” For me “Growth Mindset” is being willing to learn, grow, and change every day.

Over the last three years, I have come to rely on the “Growth Mindset” a lot as I have operated in an environment of constant change, with five different roles at my company in three years.  This has required a high degree of flexibility and a willingness to constantly learn and grow my FP&A skills to properly support the business.

Many certifications and schooling opportunities exist for upgrading our FP&A abilities, and these opportunities continue to increase. We will focus on some of the formal programs and degrees available that allow one to upskills their abilities and demonstrate a "Growth Mindset”. Listed below are some of the different educational opportunities available today that can help us upskill ourselves as we strive to become better FP&A practitioners.

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)/Chartered Accountant
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Data Science
  • Certified Corporate FP&A Professional from Association for Financial Professionals
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Financial Modeling Certification from Financial Modeling Institute (FMI)
  • Financial Planning & Analysis Certification from Corporate Finance Institute

We will briefly discuss each of these and some of the pros and cons of the various certifications available. The above list is not comprehensive nor is it necessary to earn any of these certifications/degrees to be successful in FP&A.  However, each of the above-listed programs is a way to demonstrate a “Growth Mindset” and to develop and improve on skills that are important in the FP&A profession.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)/Chartered Accountant: The formal certificate in accounting is a great way to start a career in accounting which often leads to a career in FP&A.  Historically many FP&A professionals have come from accounting because accounting provides a great understanding of the financial picture and performance of a company.  Many job postings today list CPA as one of the skills/requirements for an FP&A job because it demonstrates proficiency in accounting.  If I was to start my career over I would more than likely earn a CPA for the solid accounting foundation and opportunities it provides.

Master of Business Administration (MBA):  Obtaining an MBA is another way to gain skills that will help FP&A professionals.  While most programs do not have classes focused on FP&A per se one gains a strong background in strategy, accounting, finance and analytics all necessary FP&A skills. Over time the MBA route has become more common in FP&A as the profession has gone from being heavily about Financial Planning and Reporting (FP&R) to Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)

Master of Data Science:  Some may wonder why I included a Data Science degree for FP&A professionals, as the degree teaches very little about finance and accounting.  As financial planning continues to develop and move forward understanding predictive and prescriptive analytics and being able to work with large data sets becomes more important.  Many organizations are looking to become more mature in their analytical capabilities and this requires data scientists.  Last year I hired my first data scientist this year and having someone who can help analyze large data sets has been invaluable.  For a great read on analytics in FP&A l I highly recommend: “FP&A Analytics Maturity Model” by Larysa Melnychuk.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA):  The Chartered Financial Analyst certification is typically viewed as the professional certification for those who are looking to work on wall street.  The certification consists of three levels and requires candidates demonstrate proficiency in areas such as ethics, accounting, Quantitative methods, financial statements, economics, and security analysis.  The reason I list this degree is because some companies look for FP&A professionals with the CFA, especially companies who do a lot of acquisitions.  This certification may not have a lot of direct application for FP&A but from time to time one will see it as a desired requirement for an FP&A job and it is another way to upskill yourself and show you possess a “Growth Mindset”

Certified Corporate FP&A Professional from Association for Financial Professionals: The Certified Corporate FP&A Professional is the first item on this list fully focused on the FP&A profession. The Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) offers this certification and I would recommend it to anyone 100% committed to a career in FP&A looking for formal certification.  The program has helped bring standards to the field and will give employers a higher level of confidence in your FP&A abilities. This is a certification that is on my list to earn in the future and for more information on the certification and its requirements I recommend going to https://www.afponline.org/certification.

Financial Modeling Certification from Financial Modeling Institute (FMI):  This certification is relatively new as it has only been around for a few years.  The program consists of three levels of certification and these are Level 1 – Advanced Financial Modeler, Level 2 – Chartered Financial Modeler, Level 3 Master Financial Modeler.  This certification is focused on helping you master the skills to build 3-way financial models.  It is very focused on financial modeling and being proficient at building 3-way financial models in excel.  If upgrading your modeling skills is something you want to do, then I highly recommend this certification.  I am currently registered to take Level 1 of this program in FY20 as I decided financial modeling was one a development area for me personally.  More information can be found on the FMI Institute website.

Financial Planning & Analysis Certification from Corporate Finance Institute: The Corporate Finance Institute is an online website dedicated to providing education and certification to finance professionals.  The programs were originally designed to focus on careers in investment banking and have expanded to include programs specifically for FP&A professionals.   While this program is not at the level of the Certified Corporate FP&A professional program offered by the AFP it is one way to develop skills to become a better FP&A professional.  For more information on the FP&A certificate offered by the CFI click on the attached link: CFI FP&A Certification


The above list of educational programs and certifications is not designed to be comprehensive but to give one a general idea of some of the degrees and certifications available to people who work as FP&A professionals.  My hope is that after reading this article you will commit yourself to developing a “Growth Mindset” and finding ways to upskill yourself.  This does not mean completing one of the above-listed programs, but it does mean one is constantly looking for ways to develop and grow as an FP&A professional.

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