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What Will FP&A Look Like Five Years from Now?

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 11/10/2015
talentselectorIn the not-too-distant future, finance departments will be comprised primarily of non-finance staff.

“By 2020, your most essential talent will not be finance’ talent at all. Leading companies will look beyond CPAs and MBAs to hire statisticians, data scientists, behavioral scientists, economists, and even anthropologists,” said David Axson, managing director for CFO and enterprise value at Accenture Strategy.

Axson recently wrote that the digitizing of finance will dramatically change how finance is organized. “Say goodbye to today’s process-focused finance model,” Axson wrote. “Digital technologies are blowing it up. Traditional finance components—transaction processing; control and risk management; and reporting, analytics, and forecasting—are getting reconfigured.” In the process, he explains, finance is elevated to the insight engine for the business, composed of three essential elements: analytics competency centers, integrated business services and communication and control centers.

The impact on FP&A

“How will that change the face of FP&A?” asked this head of FP&A for one healthcare firm. The recently published FP&A Guide, Addressing the FP&A Talent Gap, already pointed out that CFOs generally feel that hiring FP&A professionals is harder than hiring any other types of finance professionals. The role of FP&A is to serve as the CFO’s right hand, to drive business change, and to ask the tough questions—which requires new competencies, including knowledge of operations, influencing abilities, business partnering and soft communication skills. A lack of these non-data related skills was identified by practitioners and experts as the biggest contributor to the talent gap.

The topic of FP&A talent management has a strong and increasingly important sense of urgency around it, with a focus on skills, competencies and even developing the right pipeline of qualified candidates, according to Philip Peck, vice president of Peloton, an enterprise performance management, business analytics and information management consulting firm.

While it may be harder to find the right talent, the digitization of finance, as Axson called it, spells good news for the FP&A profession. According to Axson, transactional tasks will move to integrated business services solutions that use robotics, which will automate or eliminate up to 40 percent of transaction accounting work by 2020. This shift means that finance staff can spend more time—more than 75 percent of their time, up from 25 percent today, according to Accenture analysis—on decision support, predictive analytics and performance management.

This turn of events will support FP&A in its mission to become the CFO’s second hand, and develop a more strategic role by identifying the right business partners that drive the right behavior and the desired financial results, enhancing enterprise performance.

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