AFP recently spoke with Jake Bailey, III, FP&A, controller and director of finance for Tana Exploration, on his experience taking the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional exam. His story is a testament to the value of the certification, as less than a year after earning it, he was heading up finance for an oil and gas company. AFP: What made you decide that you wanted to sit for the FP&A exam?
I found out about it on a Google search; I was looking for some kind of certification. I obviously knew about the CPA, the CFP and the CFA. The CFA, to me, is geared too much toward market security, so it was more for an investment banker. That’s not what I do. The CFP is for the individual; to me, it seemed to be more about managing a personal portfolio than corporate FP&A.
FP&A is exactly what I do. I have an accounting background but I’ve spent my time doing cost analysis, budgeting, forecasting and metrics. Those are the things I was interested in—how I can internally drive a business forward, instead of how I invest properly. FP&A still has an investment piece—project decision making—but it’s more from the perspective of: I work for the company; what are the best investments we can make with our capital?
That’s why I decided to take the FP&A exam. It was a perfect fit. It was exactly what I was looking for.AFP: Was studying for the exam a difficult process for you, or was it mostly things you already knew and maybe just needed to refresh?
I was in my final semester of my MBA program. So for me, it was like a complete review of the MBA program. If I could take a test of what we learned in the MBA program, that would have been it. It literally touched on every class from project management to ethics to finance to accounting. That made it easier for me to study. It probably took me maybe about two hours per section. So I really think it only took me about 40 to 60 hours to review and take it. But I had that caveat of already being in study mode; within the past 18 months, I had already taken all those different courses in my MBA program.
As far as the content goes, I tell everyone that buying the review materials was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. One, because it really did help me on the test, and two, it had knowledge in there that I never thought about. I actually have the books in my office and I have some cheat sheets up on my wall made from the study materials. It’s not something you don’t know; it’s just not something you’ve thought through. There’s very practical information that I immediately applied to my work day. AFP: So the study materials have actually been applicable to your job responsibilities. How has earning the certification directly impacted on your career?
I earned the certification in June 2014. At that time I was doing mostly accounting and all of the financial reporting for my previous company. After being acquired and quadrupling in size, we immediately brought in a controller to do the accounting and I switched to full-time budgeting and forecasting. I was building models for S&P and Moody’s, so we could get rated to refinance for $525 million. It was basically corporate restructuring. I got to do all of that type of work—I don’t know if I was given the opportunity because I had the FP&A certification, but I do know that the certification gives me the confidence that I’m proficient in cost analysis, budgeting, forecasting and metrics. And that level of confidence allows me to do my work.
I started my job search later, after I had finished my MBA. I ended up at Tana Exploration as the controller and director of finance, where I run the entire finance department. The FP&A propelled me immediately to the top of the finance chain.