What is a financial planner and analyst?
Financial planning and analysis professionals sit alongside accountants in the engine room of enterprise finance, but they work at either end of the finance spectrum. FP&As set the tone of financial planning and are intimately involved in financial risk assessment and measurement, forecasting and budget trends.
They’re the eyes and ears of a company’s CFO, and are integral in helping build future-proof financial strategies. Whilst accountants deal in the present and past accounts, FP&As look to the future by: mitigating risk and looking for opportunity through strategic financial knowledge and placement; matching actuals against plans; and providing evidence-based advice to inform management of how money is being spent, invested and saved.
FP&As are especially important in public companies, where information, financial reports and financial plans that inform shareholders are based on the information and data collected and communicated by FP&As.
To meet the minimum requirements to enter an FPAC/FP&A course programme, you must have a bachelor’s or equivalent degree OR be currently enrolled in an undergraduate programme with a finance related major (finance, accounting, economics or business). You will also be expected to understand the professional conduct required of the role, and have a solid understanding of the AFP Standards of Ethical Conduct.
There are a range of supported certifications candidates will need to consider for a role as an FP&A.
Eligibility for a position as an FP&A is supported by having one or more of the following certifications:
- Certified General Accountant (CGA),
- Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM),
- Certified Internal Auditor (CIA),
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA),
- Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA),
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA),
- Certified Treasury Professional (CTP),
- Chartered Accountant (CA),
- Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA),
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA),
- Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA),
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW)
- Chartered Accountant (ACA), Professional Business Accountant (PBA) Canada.
The essence of an FP&A is that all of the analytic and market knowledge is for a definite audience – that is a decision maker. Whether that’s internally (your CFO) or externally (involved stakeholders or board), your work will be viewed and judged as essential building blocks of future financial health.
Therefore, work experience relevant to an FP&A is slightly varied, and can include any experience in a role including the following responsibilities: financial analysis, budgeting, forecasting, financial modelling and corporate financial planning and strategic planning.
Alternatively, there are other paths a financial professional can take to pivot to FP&A:
- Candidates with two years of FTE college/university teaching experience in budgeting,
- Financial modelling,
- Corporate financial planning,
- Strategic planning or
- Financial analysis
The path to a successful career as an FP&A starts with preparing the ground for the first step on your journey – that of an FP&A Analyst.
An internship within a financial firm or department that has elements of financial analysis, accounting or financial modelling will stand any candidate in good stead. In theory, the same channels of internship and training that supports a career into accounting are appropriate to become an FP&A.
What skills are needed to succeed as an FP&A?
The proximity of an FP&A professional at any stage in their career to CFOs and business decision makers requires a healthy amount of commercial acumen.
By that, we mean you have to factor in the compound effect financial decisions and planning has on the wide array of commercial and branding elements attached to the business. Due to FP&As being essential and central parts of every financial team, commerciality in this sense covers almost every industry, both public and private, and you need to distil and convert sometimes complex financial data sets into communicable and understandable packages of information for non-financial decision makers.
One of the core responsibilities for an FP&A professional is risk assessment, both financial and organisational. This involves predicting, and where possible mitigating, risks and potential financial insecurities in strategy, alongside:
- impact assessment;
- trend analysis;
- business analysis;
- scenario planning;
- predictive analysis;
- maturity modelling;
- case study creation;
- behavioural finance;
- collaborative planning and
- improving forecasting quality
This assessment, in whatever form it takes, has to be clearly communicated to any and every stakeholder, and any further project management has to avoid project sprawl. Specificity of goals, and the outcomes required, are essential.
Much like the wider financial world of work, FP&A professionals have to balance commercial acumen with a detail-oriented analytical brain. FP&As, like accountants, have to deal with vast data sets of numbers. They have to disseminate and decipher trends and futures from both accounting data and wider industry or market data. There is always a state of “what if?” with FP&As – they have to constantly think of risk mitigation throughout their analytic processes and they have to monitor changes to the financial and commercial environment to better inform their stakeholders.
The quality of FP&A work is judged by the outcomes sought and actioned on. Due to the high amount of predictive modelling done in the role, and the wide array of people this data and analysis affects, it comes as no surprise that a major challenge to an FP&A’s daily routine is stakeholder management, and making sure the right information is getting to the right people.
This section could almost be called “uncertainty management”. FP&As have to be savvy to the changing nature of an industry across all commercial avenues, from innovation in product, design and delivery, to financial investment and industry innovation. FP&As then have to be confident and competent enough to suggest new avenues of financial management and approach to meet the demands of changing trends to their stakeholders, be their managers, non-financial stakeholders or public board members.
Finally, FP&As work tirelessly to make sure wider strategic goals are being met, providing context and market awareness to guide business progress. This includes manpower management and resource allocation with a keen focus on continuity of service, provision or product.
Find out more about life as an FP&A Analyst and other details by following the below links:
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