Jim Kaitz, President and Chief Executive Officer, AFP
A June 7 article in the Wall Street Journal questioning the value of a professional designation to a CFO’s success misses the point entirely. The article reflects the traditional role of the CFO through the eyes of accounting but overlooks how drastically the CFO role is changing. In order to drive profitable growth in their organization, the CFO role has shifted its focus from looking backwards at the financial books to:
- Interpreting numbers instead of reporting them
- Scouting for business opportunities
- Leveraging big data to support strategic decision making
- Acting as a business partner to the CEO and board of directors.
According to the KPMG Global CEO Survey 'The view from the top,’ 85 percent of CEOs say applying financial data to achieve profitable growth is the greatest strategic value a CFO can bring to an organization. It goes on to say, “Strengthening the alignment between financial planning and corporate strategy will likely be one of the CFO’s top five priorities going forward.”
Those are not traditional accounting skills. But the skills found in qualified FP&A professionals align with this new CFO role -- they possess the forward-looking mindset of business partners with the interpretive communication skills of trusted advisors.
In FP&A, professionals must develop communication and influencing/business partnership skills earlier in their careers, according to Michael Trzupek, vice president finance at Providence Health & Services, an $18-billion healthcare group. An FP&A background is much more pertinent to today’s CFO. “In FP&A, you work with business leaders throughout the organization and you have to look at the world through their eyes and adapt to it. You have to have enough emotional IQ to understand you have to approach three leaders in three different ways earlier in your career,” he said.
So while accounting certifications may be less relevant, there’s one designation that has become increasingly critical for finance leaders as they seek that top job: AFP’s Certified Corporate FP&A Professional designation. It’s the only global and independent validation of the number skills that count the most: the ability to transform data sets into projections, models and frameworks that support strategic decision-making. FP&A certified professionals have the forward-looking mindsets of business partners, and the interpretive communication skills of trusted advisors.