The financial planning and analysis (FP&A) role is quickly evolving. No longer relegated to the back office crunching numbers, FP&A has been established as the ship’s trusted navigation deck with such tools at its disposal as rolling forecasts and deep analytics.
“We don’t lack for data to make better decisions. On the contrary, one of the challenges FP&A faces today is what to do with all the data and analysis within our grasp,” said Brian Kalish, FP&A, executive director, Global FP&A Practice, for AFP.
According to Kalish, Murphy and many other experts, based on the upcoming FP&A Guide: Addressing the FP&A Talent Gap, there are 10 critical skills FP&A professionals must possess.
- Foundational finance skills
- Specialized finance skills
- Cross-business and business acumen skills
- Interpersonal and soft skills
- The ability to understand the business models(s) of the organization and its link to strategy
- The talent to be an educator and raise financial awareness in the organization
- Intellectual curiosity and innovative thinking
- Performing deep dives but never losing the big picture
- Building consensus
- Technical skills.
A combination of these skills and the right experience makes FP&A professionals more attractive job candidates. CFOs are particularly interested in candidates who bring operating finance experience to the table. “They’re looking for people who have been very close to business unit managers and CFOs, supporting and driving business results in a much more operational way, vs. somebody who spent his or her career at the HQ mainly aggregating and consolidating information without delivering insight and impact,” said Phil Murphy, a consultant at Spencer Stuart’s financial officer practice.
Indeed, according to Murphy, somebody may work at a “blue-chip” company with a flashy FP&A title but be less impressive than someone without that title who has operating finance experience and can point to specific ways he or she has driven improved performance.