Ann-Marie Rice, director EMEA and APAC at AFP, discussed the talent gap in financial planning and analysis (FP&A) during a session at the Global FP&A Budgeting & Control Summit in Frankfurt, Germany. She described how continued education, including certification, helps address skill gaps, attract the best-in-class talent, drive transformation and build for the future.
Rice provided AFP with the view from the summit.
AFP: What is the general sentiment about the FP&A talent gap across Europe the Middle East and Asia?
Ann-Marie Rice: There’s a strong awareness and appreciation that as the strategic importance of FP&A increases within organizations, so does the need for the absolute right talent. The value add that best-in-class FP&A talent can bring to, for example, profit growth, is significant, so investment in professional development to attract and retain great talent is at the forefront of many finance leaders’ agendas.
A large number of finance leaders are also leveraging professional development as a support mechanism and catalyst for successful finance transformation. Others are using it to raise core competency standards and build successions plans. Investment in training and professional development is no longer seen as a luxury, rather a necessity—a building block for strategic success.
AFP: What are the significant problems senior finance leaders are experiencing in attracting and retaining talent?
Rice: Identifying and retaining top talent remains arguably a CFO’s most prominent and frustrating challenge. A 2012 APQC benchmark survey revealed that 64 percent of executive level respondents find that the FP&A position is the hardest to fill. The demand for skilled and experienced FP&A professionals is growing exponentially, but the talent pool remains somewhat limited. There’s a premium on skills beyond those traditionally valued by finance.
We’re in the midst of an evolution that’s changing the face of finance, an evolution that’s being driven by disruptive, innovative technology and people who can manage and drive this transition. It’s a very exciting time to be in finance and the skillset checklist has changed irrevocably over the last five years. Millennials in particular have a real desire to feel valued, visualize a clear career path and grow professionally. Let’s not also underestimate Generation X expectations, those with solid years of practical experience and a deep understanding of traditional finance competencies who are making, or have made, the transition to FP&A and are bringing real leadership to the function; they too want to be supported with the appropriate development commitment from employers.
Another consideration is the cost of replacing FP&A talent, which far exceeds that of implementing a staff development program that positions their business as more attractive than competitors. So from an organizational view, failure to develop a culture of continued education, in whatever form that education may take, can hamper talent retention and make your business less attractive than others operating within your industry sector.
AFP: What are FP&A executives doing to improve the skills of the staff they have? How important is continuing education for FP&A staff members?
Rice: A pleasantly surprising number of senior executives are ahead of the curve; they understand and respect how important their people are and the value continued education brings to their teams. I’m working with a number of organizations around the world who place great importance on implementing forward-looking development plans that include a range of training and earning the FP&A Certification to address skill gaps, improve collaborative thinking and incentivize their teams not just today but for three to five years ahead. Our first priority here are AFP is to craft programs that include world leading, expert instructors who offer strategies, tools and methodologies to help our partners meet these expectations and needs.
AFP: What do people think of the FP&A certification? Is it something they're starting to look for when hiring new employees?
Rice: The response to our FP&A Certification launch, over two years ago, has been fantastic. The finance industry has welcomed the accreditation as the ‘must have’ for FP&A professionals, especially those in leadership roles or making the move from traditional finance. One size doesn’t fit all; some organizations are using our programs as an onboarding tool, others to incentivize key talent, and many as a prerequisite to occupying an FP&A role or to build FP&A academies and centers of excellence.
AFP foresaw the explosion in FP&A strategic value creation when we started to develop the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional accreditation over six years ago, taking almost four years to build the body of knowledge and online learning system, etc. Finance transformation was building momentum, but most organizations relied on traditional accounting qualifications as the recruiting benchmark. This has changed over the last two to three years. While executives continue to view accountancy qualifications as a guide to FP&A talent selection, additional skills vital to successful FP&A, such as effective communication, business partnering, improving the quality of information, refining data, valuing projects, building revenue projections, reaching strategic conclusions and making recommendations are the new essentials and form the bedrock of the FP&A Certification program curriculum.
Learn more about the FP&A Certification here.