On 28th January 2020, more than 35 senior finance professionals gathered in the heart of Geneva to discuss “Best Practices in FP&A Storytelling”. This was followed two days later by a similar event by the Zurich FP&A Board.
This was the 11th meeting of the Geneva FP&A Board which proved to offer a unique opportunity to finance professionals in Switzerland to discuss and learn about emerging trends in the profession.
The session was led by Tijana Balotic Truong and after a short introduction of the FP&A Board, we started the meeting with a short survey of what it takes to make effective use of FP&A Storytelling. Key thoughts were that Storytelling in a FP&A Context needs to be:
- Simple yet Strategic – distilling a complex reality down to an easy to follow narrative but one which ties back to the overall company strategy and direction
- Bring Insights & Intelligence that only FP&A people can bring to the table – otherwise numbers can easily be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
- Bring Clarity & Transparency – if using storytelling does not help bring clarity to the audience then it could prove a distraction and is probably not beneficial
Then we had a group discussion on the effectiveness of Storytelling in FP&A. The conclusions were as follows:
- Use storytelling effectively. There are several different methods to develop a narrative and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work: “storytelling has guidelines, not hard rules”.
- Tailor the message. We need to bear in mind that in general the more senior the audience, the crisper and more focused the message needs to be. We need to realise that “Less is more” so focus only on what is important. The same story used for the CEO may not be appropriate for lower levels of the organisation.
- Use the power of visualisation. Christophe Carli, VP Finance at Honeywell, shared his experience of when visualisation tools have really helped to make an FP&A story more compelling. One tip was that when it comes to discovering the latest visualisation tools and techniques, innovation is more likely to come from younger (GenZ) finance team members, who are more connected to the latest trends, rather from corporate IT departments.
Case Study from the field
Then we had a practical case study presented by Moussa Cissoko, Head of Finance for RUAG Space, who shared his experience of portfolio reinvention by optimising the pricing process for contract tendering. One of his key learnings when undertaking such a complex project across several teams and sites is to keep teams as small as possible in order to make sure you advance the project as quickly as possible. He also reinforced the importance of having top management support (CEO/CFO) in order to progress the project and create a compelling narrative for the organisation to drive change.
There was a huge amount of passion from the members in the room to participate with their experiences and feedback. This means we chose to skip the usual group work session in small teams and instead we moved straight to the networking drinks to allow people to continue the discussions over a nice glass of wine.
The next FP&A board meeting is scheduled in Geneva for May 12th 2020, so look out on the FP&A Board website for details of how to sign up.