FP&A professionals are often introduced as subject matter expert. Does this mean FP&A is a specialist? In this brief article, I hope to explore the role of FP&A and attempt to answer the question “Is FP&A a generalist or a specialist?”
Collaboration and support
- provides insights through the use of Big Data
- helps puts performance in financial context
- serves a trusted partner to the business
As a support function, FP&A can be more of a generalist rather than a specialist. FP&A has expertise in financial planning, conducting analysis and providing insights. However financial planning requires inputs form the business partners – sales, operations, human resources and even within the finance function – treasury and tax to name a few.
FP&A serve as a conduit for different parts of the organisation to come together to deliver corporate goals. FP&A are normally structured within an organisation’s finance team. Finance leaders are increasingly expecting FP&A to behave in a collaborative manner. This means not working in silos but engage every part of the organisation to promote performance improvement – financially and operationally.
Focus on specific areas
FP&A is expected to have a broad view of the business and engage specialists for their input. It is not about going deep. In larger organisations, there are specialist teams that deal with data architecture, specific areas of the analytics such as churn or utilisation. FP&A is expected in these situations to bring in their contributions as drivers when preparing projections. This may not be the case in smaller FP&A teams where resources are restricted.
The training that finance professional undertakes prepares them as general practitioners. They may later decide to focus on a particular area and further their development.
FP&A professionals who support particular areas of the business will have specialist knowledge of the drivers and inner workings of that area – an FP&A in supply chain management is more likely to have more insights into the supplier distribution channel versus an FP&A who only supports revenue functions. It is important to remember that FP&A is expected to be collaborative. Therefore the FP&A supporting revenue functions is expected to work with their operational counterparts to ensure that there is sufficient support to deliver the revenue target.
A helicopter view
A generalist FP&A is usually more resourceful as they tend not to focus on just a single aspect. They stand back and take in the inputs from different areas of the business. They assimilate and evaluate. This helps decision makers to develop more succinct decisions that take into account of the impact on different parts of the organisation.
FP&A stands at the precipice and takes a helicopter view of what is around. This allows FP&A to evaluate opportunities while considering the available capabilities. They work closely with the CEO and the CFO to develop a strategic path for the business. They do not side with anyone – it is about what is right for the company as opposed to what is right just for a particular department.
Even when an FP&A supports a particular of business, s/he also needs to consider the implication of their line of business in relation to the rest of the organisation. FP&A works as a team. They share ideas and promote standardisation. They promote best practices. FP&A is about collaboration. This leads them to be generalists.
However, we must not forget that FP&A is also a specialist in a different way. They make use of their accounting and finance knowledge to put initiatives in the financial context. They use this specialist knowledge to ensure that initiatives can be supported by the finance organisation and are compliant with the relevant rules and regulations.
So, is FP&A a generalist or a specialist? I believe it can be a mixture of both. However, FP&A is by no means jack of all trade – it is important to seek specialist knowledge when the situation calls for it.
Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Warranty Group. The Warranty Group is part of Assurant.
The article was first published in Unit 4 Prevero Blog