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. A forward-looking credential, it is the only one that is specific to FP&A and which assesses professionals’ ability to see the big picture.
AFP recently caught up with Kamlesh Bhojwani, FPAC, senior director and head of Finance, Facilities & Finance Shared Services at AMH’s Global Capability Center (GCC) in India, to discuss his decision to earn the FPAC, and how it has affected his life and career journey.
AFP: How did you begin your finance career?
Bhojwani: Academically, I’m trained as a CPA — they call it a chartered accountant in India. I worked in internal audit of a large multinational bank and, within a few years, I realized it was not something I would enjoy doing over the long haul. I moved on to an accounting firm, similar to the big four, and this firm had an outsourcing vertical through which we would help small to mid-sized companies, typically subsidiaries of multinational companies, who wanted to set up shop in India. We would help them form the legal entity, and then take care of their entire finance function. I did that for almost nine years, grew through the ranks, understood how that business really works, and gained experience interacting with people from multiple geographies.
AFP: How did you transition to FP&A?
Bhojwani: I moved from the outsourced to the in-house side of the table as a finance controller for three-plus years, during which I dug deeply into finance operations. Then, the head of FP&A in the U.S. reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining his team. I told him I didn’t have any formal training or experience in FP&A, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do justice to it, but if he was willing to take a chance on me, I'd be more than happy to be part of this team.
He said the best way to transition from accounting to FP&A is while you're part of a particular company, and you've seen all the possible areas of the company. He also said that the work would be very unstructured, not the usual FP&A work, and that my accounting background and a willingness to learn was all that was required of this role. It turned out that there was a lot of ad-hoc analysis. I worked with operational leaders to help them determine KPIs and operational metrics. They were looking at various acquisitions, so I worked with the CFO's office, helping him to set up the financial models on various M&A deals.
AFP: Why did you decide to pursue the FP&A certification?
Immediately after joining the FP&A team, I became anxious over the fact that I didn’t have any formal qualifications. I worried about how these people really viewed me. So, I ran a search of the courses available out there, and the program offered by AFP seemed most authentic and credible; it had very good content. I studied for four to five months and earned the qualification.
The FPAC has really helped me with a lot of things along the way. The first being that my credibility went up; everybody felt like, “Okay, this guy serious about working in FP&A.” Second, the course content was relevant. It was practical, not theoretical. I give a lot of credit to AFP for creating a program of study that is very, very topical and very, very practical. Anybody who is serious about FP&A should take this.
AFP: How is the FPAC helpful for accountants transitioning to FP&A?
For accountants who are coming into FP&A, this course will definitely help. But more than the course, I think it's the mindset that accountants typically come with that would require a change. Accountants typically are so used to working in a siloed way, and they are very uncomfortable dealing with ambiguity. They need perfection. FP&A is all about looking into the future, projecting things out, taking a leap of faith, so there's a big change in mindset that needs to happen.
This course teaches the nuts and bolts of FP&A. It beautifully covers a lot of concepts, and at the same time, there are topics that talk about stakeholder management, articulating what you've done, how to deal with senior management when you're presenting. Those skills would also help accountants to change the way they work.
AFP: When you look at your career, what skills do you think are most important for you to add over the next couple of years?
I’d like to delve deeper into the operations side of business. I've always been keenly interested in understanding business — the business drivers, operations and metrics — because they drive the numbers. They’re what makes the needle move.
FP&A was the bridge that got me to this point because when I got into FP&A, my interactions with business started with operations leaders. I started thinking as they do about the business, asking what their challenges are, and how do they translate their goals into actions, into actionable insights. I had never been exposed to that kind of thinking; I was always dealing with numbers within financial reporting. In accounting, all you think about is your numbers. You don't care about what is really driving these numbers at the end of the day. FP&A became that bridge between finance and operations.
AFP: Thinking of either your younger self or other people who are just starting out, what advice would you give to them?
If I was starting out today, I would be thinking very differently from the way I do now. Digital-first thinking doesn't come naturally to me because of the way I’ve been trained over the years. But if I were starting out today, I’d be thinking about how I could leverage technology to any particular task.
Second, you're there for business and not the other way around. From what I’ve seen in various organizations and forums, finance professionals want to remain siloed. They want to think only about what they do, whereas what we do is only an output of what business has done at the end of the day. Think about the business first, think about how you can enable the business to succeed.
And third is at a philosophical level: Be so good that they cannot ignore you.
AFP: What goals do you have or how do you think you'll be able to help the FP&A profession through the FP&A Advisory Council?
One is helping people just coming to the profession through graduation or transition to achieve the mindset of being partner to the business. Second is getting more and more involved in operations to understand the business better. Third, there could be a lot of mentorship opportunities. All the people who have mentored me over the years have really led to my success, they helped me get to where I am today. I've learned from them to send the elevator back.