Editor's note: This article was originally posted at gtnews.com, an AFP company.
LONDON -- A new networking group and business best practice
forum was launched January 31 at the prestigious City Club of
London to support financial planning and analysis (FP&A)
professionals and aid their career development. News about AFP's
forthcoming FP&A certification program was also unveiled,
alongside the establishment of the London FP&A Club, which aims
to share case studies, contacts and knowledge about this growing
Supported by AFP, the
new London FP&A Club was officially launched by Larysa
Melnychuk, director of strategy and FP&A at the Novolar
Solutions consultancy and Club secretary, in collaboration with
Siva Shankar, director of Segro.
Melnychuk is a qualified management accountant and former group
FP&A director at the technology and services firm, Invensys.
She was also European head of financial planning and analysis at
Combined Insurance (ACE Group). She opened the proceedings
by asking the professional audience a pertinent question: "What is
A gathering of FP&A professionals, including Chris Winter, head of FP&A at
HJ Heinz, Ravi Kurani, budgeting and forecasting lead at Deutsche
Bank, and David Allen finance director at the UK government's
department for business, innovation and skills (BIS), considered
how best to describe the emergent new discipline.
FP&A has received a significant boost in recent years from
the development of cheap computing and so-called 'big data'
analytical techniques and tools that have enabled treasurers,
accountants and others to use predictive software to truly look
into the future. Cash management forecasting, visibility, real-time
reporting, accounting, the supply chain and other finance
functions, can all benefit from the advent of better FP&A
technologies, skills and knowledge, but as yet there is no common
definition of the discipline, or indeed any accredited FP&A
qualification, which was why a program to introduce this was also
According to Melnychuk: "FP&A can be described as the more
creative part of finance" and it has the potential to transform
treasuries, banks and other organizations around the world so that
they know what their exact balance sheet is at any given point of
the day, what it will be next week, next month and so on - not to
mention identifying future markets, niche audiences and other
useful information via harnessing the power of predictive
The objectives of the new London FP&A Club, as introduced by
Melnychuk, will be to:
- Share new ideas and best practice among FP&A
- Hear from thought leaders and follow professionals (not product
- Provide a networking forum
- Establish a LinkedIn discussion group and other online tools,
conferences and aids to encourage the development of a coordinated
FP&A community in London, and eventually elsewhere in Europe
and around the world (mirroring this movement in the U.S. where other
FP&A clubs have already been established).
The Principles of the London Club agreed upon at the
launch event were that it will be:
- Have an audience of senior FP&A professionals
- Regular monthly meetings are envisaged, with 15-20 senior
FP&A people in attendance
- Democratic selection of debate topics will be
To this latter point Melnychuk urged attendees to "get involved"
and to propose other venues where the Club could meet, volunteer to
speak, suggest non-vendor presentation topics and so
The next planned FP&A Club speech before the end of this
quarter will be given by Dr. Peter Bunce, a director of the Beyond
Budgeting Partnership (BBRT) and key supporter of the new
initiative, who will talk about the 'beyond budgeting' approach
that emphasizes future-gazing and predictive accounting and
finance. Future topics for the envisaged monthly meetings will
- How to set up rolling forecasts in your treasury or other
- Predictive analytics: how best to use the new 'big data'
- Driver-based modeling
- How to establish an independent review of FP&A
- Risk adjusted planning.
"We are open to your ideas too and would love to hear more
suggestions as the Club grows and attracts news members," said
Melnychuk in her concluding remarks.
FP&A Certification Plan Unveiled
The London FP&A Club is one of numerous such networking and
discussion forums already established across North America, with
many of them also supported by AFP, but this is the
first such gathering in Europe. Similar events are planned for
Berlin and other cities across the continent as interest in
FP&A is expected to grow in a post-crash environment where
predictive analytics can potentially help spot "black swans" and
In anticipation of this expected growth of the discipline, Brian
Kalish, director of the AFP Finance Practice, made the second
speech at the City Club of London venue, outlining the
AFP's already well advanced work on creating a new FP&A test
and certification to the London FP&A Club. The aim is to
establish a professional standard for the growing field.
Kalish has been holding FP&A roundtable events throughout
North America, where a key topic of discussion has been AFP's forthcoming FP&A Certification. The certification is currently under development
with a beta version of the certification test and FP&A program
and tools due to be revealed in March 2013, when pricing will also
be released. "As live" testing scenarios are also due to be run in
August of this year. All of this is in preparation for the first
real live exams in March 2014. There will also be FP&A events
held at Microsoft's prestigious Seattle campus headquarters in the
U.S. and elsewhere this year to help further develop the
certification plan and invite feedback.
The interactive and frank discussion of the AFP certification plans at the London FP&A Club involved Fabrice
Domange, senior vice president and head of FP&A in Europe,
Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) for the AIG Property Casualty
insurance unit, questioning why a long-established FP&A
professional such as himself needed a specific qualification for
the field? Domange admitted it was a good idea, helpful to
recruiters and could aid professional development and knowledge for
younger professionals, but he was understandably not keen to sit
exams after 20 years in the field himself or to go through
laborious "back to school" study sessions without a clear purpose.
It was a stance backed by Keren Oser, group FP&A manager at
Hydrodec Group Plc and a qualified accountant, who was formerly
employed by Barclays Bank.
In response, Kalish said that these views were perfectly valid
but that - like the London FP&A Club - the AFP was a
not-for-profit organization that just wanted to serve the
community. He also stressed that the beta exam procedures (and the
live version to follow) would not be set at such a difficult
advanced level that years of study would be required, nor would the
exam be so easy as to be meaningless. The professional development
and clear career progression benchmarks that Domange referenced
were also things worth fighting for in his opinion. "A survey of
5,000 FP&A practitioners has also been carried out by the AFP,"
added Kalish, "and this showed that there was a demand for
The debate about the certification plan continued as part of an informal question and answer session at the
Club, and indeed the conversation continued afterwards in the bar
of the City Club venue as attendees stayed behind to talk about the
formation of their new networking and professional group and of the
new FP&A certification plan.
According to Siva Shankar, director of Segro: "There is high
quality expertise in FP&A around the UK, and from now on, there
is a forum where this expertise can be brought together in one
place to share best practice," he said.
"This was a good networking forum and, because it is in its
infancy, you can influence how it will grow and the topics that
will be addressed, which is very attractive," added fellow
attendee, Hans Gobin, head of FP&A at the McCormick Europe
consultancy and formerly of BT.
It will be interesting to see how the Club, and indeed the
certification plan, develop over future years.
Kalish added, “I continue to be impressed with the amount of excitement and enthusiasm for the FP&A Certification and for all our efforts in the FP&A field. This is truly a global initiative and the response of the worldwide FP&A community only reinforces that impression.” If you would like to find out more about FP&A and the plans
for the Association for Financial
Professionals' certification plan please follow this link
for information about signing up to the AFP FP&A