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Working Cross-Functionally: A Must for Finance Pros

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 1/22/2016
gthompFor today’s financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professional, working cross-functionally is a key part of the job. Just ask Gaileon Thompson, CTP, FP&A, senior vice president/group manager, business planning and analysis for Citibank’s Global Consumer Technology division and chairwoman of the FP&A Advisory Council.

In her current role at Citibank, Thompson collaborates with global, cross-functional teams to translate the strategic, global technology vision into an operational model that leverages data-based analytics to drive decisions. Most recently, she has worked to implement new leading-edge reporting in support of Citi’s key strategic technology programs to ensure on-time, on-budget delivery of global technology solutions.

Citi launched the business planning and analysis group within the last couple of years in response to realizing that it needed more resources focused on analytics to support its consumer technology business. “Our team works closely with our business intelligence unit to build a global enterprise database, which enables us to perform analysis that provides real-time views into performance,” Thompson said. “Benchmarking and decision support are also critical components of the value we bring to our business partners.”

Her career progression, through several finance and FP&A roles, was more about evolving and growing with the financial services industry than charting a specific course forward. “If you’re fixated on achieving a certain role, say becoming the CFO of your organization, you may not notice opportunities that open along the way that can offer just as much, if not more, career potential,” Thompson said. As a result, she has worked inside and outside of finance, in areas like technology, product development and vendor management, and has developed varied and integrated competencies along the way.

“When you adopt a more cross-functional approach to your career, you need to stop periodically and reassess where you are to ensure that you are still heading in the right direction,” said Thompson. Last year, when AFP’s FP&A Certification launched, she knew it would solidify her expertise in this ever-changing industry and put her at the forefront. “Seeing an organization like AFP recognize this body of work and officially carve out FP&A as a specialty energized me,” she said. “The FP&A credential provides a definitive structure to financial professionals such as myself to encapsulate our expertise and passion for our work.”

She spent four months studying, and earned the credential the first year AFP offered it. It was not easy, but the effort was worthwhile. “The body of knowledge for the FP&A credential helped to reinforce the skills I have acquired in my career, as well as provide new best practices that I immediately applied to my work,” Thompson said. “It helps you to rise above the daily grind and give you a better perspective on what else you can do to add value and drive the right business decisions.” She added: “To me, it’s not just about being successful personally, but also applying fresh new ways to approach challenges, thinking strategically, and being more proactive to help the business be successful. It’s great seeing the program come to life,” she said. “There’s a big opportunity to promote the value of FP&A and how we as FP&A professionals can contribute to the growth of any business unit.”

Her favorite part of the job is creating new ways of analyzing the business that were previously not possible. Using advanced driver-based analytics, she and her team are now able to share insights with management within days, long before the month-end closing process is complete, which means they can take corrective action and stay agile. “That ability to look forward and work strategically with the business is the most exciting part of the job,” Thompson said.

“The complexities of a large, global organization create a number of challenges, but can also create the greatest opportunities,” she added. “When we deliver new insights that span an organization our size, it’s a win-win for the business and FP&A.”

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