A global symbol of excellence, the Certified Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis Professional (FPAC) designation establishes a set of core competencies for the corporate financial planning and analysis (FP&A) profession. It is the only credential that is specific to FP&A; it is forward-looking and assesses the ability to see the big picture.
AFP recently caught up with Adrien Hebert, FPAC, operations specialist at Appian in Australia, to discuss his decision to earn the FPAC, and how it has affected his life and career journey.
AFP: How did you get your start in FP&A?
Adrien: With a natural set of soft skills, I started off my career with a master’s degree in human resources. These skills helped me to liaise with different parts of a large organization, connecting teams and projects to produce business efficiencies. Over time, I became more and more interested in the company’s operations itself, which the flexibility in my role at SAP allowed me to explore. From this base, I moved into the FP&A sphere in my current role, where I am an operations specialist in the Services Branch of Appian, a low code platform company.
AFP: What are two or three core aspects of your day-to-day job?
Adrien: My work at Appian is mainly based around financial forecasting. On a day-to-day basis, I assess accuracy and risks of specific projects, liaising with project managers in charge of delivery and manage the information flow in our internal forecasting software. The finance and invoicing department will often rely on my work to draw up their activities.
This information gathered is relevant for managing the financial aspects of a project, but at a macro level it enables business decisions to be made at a higher level. I support the Asia Pacific region’s leaders to implement their business plan through sensitivity analysis, cost structure analysis or a deep dive into a specific issue. An example of this implementation includes pricing our consulting offer at the correct rate for customer and considering multiple long-term variants like indirect costs or currency fluctuation.
As part of the international strategic operations team, my work also contributes towards a variety of global reports (resource management, utilization, revenue risks and profitability) as I connect regularly with colleagues in Europe and the U.S.
AFP: What is something that you would like to do in the future in FP&A?
Adrien: I would love to add more value with predictive analysis in my work. Beyond straightforward financial forecasting, I am very interested in observing larger industry trends that can be turned into actionable insights for the business. In the Loire Valley region where I grew up, you often see vineyards with roses planted alongside grapevines because they can give an early warning of a fungus spreading among the vines. How can we replicate this at our level? It is a question I am hoping to answer someday.
AFP: Are there certain skills or training that help you in what you do now?
Adrien: As a French person, I would say learning English! Adult learning of a foreign language was not easy, but by spending time in the UK and U.S., I came to appreciate the international doors that open when you are bilingual, something which eventually led me to settle in Australia.
Having a background in business administration through my original degree, I have moved into the financial services sphere with a strong focus on the business decision-making process. While others might be more interested in the balance sheet, I have always thought that financial information was a tool to achieve other goals, not an end in itself.
Of course, advanced skills in Microsoft Excel are a daily essential, for which I am grateful that the FPAC covered in detail and helped me to plug any gaps in my skills base.
AFP: What skills are most important to you to add over the next couple of years?
Adrien: I would like to build on my project management skills, perhaps assisting on and eventually leading a project end-to-end. This area is where FP&A competencies can be leveraged towards larger initiatives. Often, operations teams are tasked with answering complex questions that will allow leadership to make their next move. Having more project management experience will enable me to bring that context to my own specialist advice provided.
AFP: What is the most critical FP&A issue you are facing today, and can you share your approach to it?
Adrien: The biggest issue I have had is connecting the information gathered from sales and delivery departments and translating it effectively to other areas of our business. Being concise and relevant to different audiences is a constant exercise in shifting perspectives, keeping me on my toes and focused on who I am talking to in each meeting.
AFP: Why did you decide to earn the FPAC credential?
Adrien: Having come from a different field, I lacked the 360 degrees view that someone with more formal training in accounts or finance could bring to my role. The FPAC appeared to be a structured and focused avenue of professional development, which would allow me to produce better outcomes for my team and build reports using standardized methodology. As an experienced professional, I needed something tailored for topics that are relevant for my level, not simply informal or introductory sessions.
AFP: How has the FPAC credential impacted your life/career?
Adrien: As someone who has migrated into this field from a different line of work, I found that my personal approach to the work was effective but lacked standardization. By completing the FPAC certification, I have gained a solid structure for my core activities, notably in the ease of translating my work into other parts of the business for recent reports.
Since I have only completed the credential recently, I believe that I am yet to feel the full effects of its impacts on my career. This is broadening my horizon in terms of potential opportunities for my career.
AFP: Would you recommend the FPAC to others? Why?
Adrien: I have had a positive experience and would certainly recommend the certification process to others. It has been refreshing to discover new aspects of my profession while strengthening existing skills. Throughout the learning process, I found the platform easy to use and the learning outcomes clearly defined. Overall, I have improved my capabilities and confidence in handling more responsibilities as an FP&A professional.