Earning any certification is going to have its merits. But financial planning and analysis (FP&A) is still a relatively new field in the corporate world. There isn’t even consistency around what it is actually called—for example, it’s commonly referred to as “business control” and “financial planning and control (FP&C)” in different regions of the world. Therefore, earning a certification in this new and developing profession can help you stand out from the crowd, as well as build out your own FP&A function.
Bill Sayer, FP&A, finance manager for Voya Financial, was awarded the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credential after working extensively with AFP on building the beta exam. Not long after, the 10-year FP&A veteran was looking for a new position. Not only did the certification help him land the job—he was actually asked about it during the interview—it gave him even more confidence during his job search. “It was really nice to have that on my resume to really clarify that I knew what I was talking about in terms of FP&A,” he said.
Additionally, after earning the certification, Sayer felt like he had a much greater understanding of what FP&A was. This allowed him to better evaluate jobs in the market, because many FP&A positions tend not to be very well defined. “If an employer knows about the certification, that’s something I put at a premium,” he said.
The FP&A Certification has also helped Sayer stand out on the job. He was recently selected to lead a project to improve the skills and output of the FP&A team. The certification was the primary reason why. “It showed that I know what I’m talking about, I met the standard, and I understand what FP&A should be,” he said.
Building out FP&A
Sayer has been actively promoting the FP&A certification within his team. Many of them are currently in the process of earning their MBAs, but may pursue the FP&A certification thereafter.
As we’ve heard before, sitting for the FP&A Exam shortly after earning an MBA isn’t a bad idea because you’re already in study mode and the content is very similar. “I took it right after I earned my MBA,” said Jonathan Crane, FP&A, senior manager for Hamilton Company. “There are a lot of crossovers. It was like I almost didn’t need to study.”
Crane began his career as an accountant before determining that he wanted to make the jump to analysis. However, at the time, his organization didn’t actually have an FP&A department. “It was just a little side deal off of cost accounting,” he said. “But then we got a new CFO who wanted to implement a real FP&A function. He said, ‘Why don’t you learn about it and figure out how to do it here?’ So I searched and found out about the certification.”
In what is perhaps a credit to AFP’s own efforts to become a leader in this space, Crane noted that when one researches FP&A on the web, the majority of information that comes up immediately is all about the certification. “You search for FP&A, and that’s the main thing that pops up,” he said. “So I started reading the guides and just tried to figure out how we could do this at our company.”
Crane even attended the AFP Annual Conference, since it was the only major conference he could find that had a full FP&A track of sessions. “I went to another conference, and there were like 300 people,” he said. That’s a far cry from the 6,000-plus practitioners that regularly attend AFP’s annual event.
Furthermore, other certifications, conferences and learning programs tend to focus too much on accounting, Crane added. “We had accountants; I didn’t need to focus on the accounting piece,” he said. “AFP was the only place I saw that focused on the full picture.”
After taking and passing the exam, Crane spoke with his CFO and they decided to bring on more employees and see about pursuing the certification for them. “As we hire them, we see if they’re interested in doing it,” he said. “It’s not a requirement, but we offer it to them; the company will pay for it. We have two more analysts we’ve hired that will do it soon.”
Added Crane: “The certification helped us build this whole department within our company. So for me, I was able to grow as I was helping develop the department.”
The deadline to submit your application for the next FP&A Certification testing window is Friday, June 16. Submit your application here.