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How Marsh & McLennan Strategically Invests in Its Finance Team

  • By Ira Apfel
  • Published: 3/6/2018

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For Mark McGivney, this was a moment of opportunity.

The chief financial officer of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC) knew his finance colleagues were well trained, and he had confidence in their abilities. But rapid change in the field of finance—new technology, new risks, and new requirements—meant that more strategic, all-encompassing training would benefit his team.

The Marsh & McLennan finance team was also sensing this opportunity for professional development as well. “There were consistent requests across our organization for more training and development at every level,” McGivney said. “The challenge we faced, though, was how do we train a large organization across the world at an individual level and at scale?”

In response, the MMC Finance Academy was launched at the start of the year. MMC’s Finance Academy is a collaborative online learning and development platform that empowers more than 2,300 Marsh & McLennan finance colleagues to enhance their technical skills and leadership competencies. MMC’s Finance Academy is powered by Degreed, an education technology platform that enables finance staff to create a learning plan tailored to their needs, undergo the education and training, track their own progress, and share content and insights with one another.

“As a people business, we’re committed to making Marsh & McLennan a great place to work for our colleagues, and doing everything we can to equip them to make a difference,” McGivney said.

HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS

All 2,300 Marsh & McLennan finance colleagues worldwide can enter the Finance Academy. The platform offers access to high-quality resources and content in the areas of technical skills, business knowledge and soft skills such as improving presentation skills, team management and leadership. “In addition to training and content, we enlisted world-class partners such as the Association for Financial Professionals, who gave us access to their finance-specific content,” McGivney said.

MMC’s Finance Academy also introduced curated collections of content, called Pathways, which focus on specific areas of knowledge. For example, colleagues interested in learning about the controllership function can enter the controllership Pathway and access materials in different topic areas for this role. “We made Pathways accessible to the entire finance organization to make it easy for colleagues to enhance their existing knowledge or learn a skill in a new area,” said McGivney.

The ultimate goal of MMC’s Finance Academy is to create real-world, usable development plans tailored for every colleague in Marsh & McLennan’s finance organization. “In the past, a colleague would have a conversation with their manager and identify areas to improve upon, but then have few resources or follow-ups to support addressing these areas,” McGivney said.

Things are different this year. McGivney set a formal goal for all finance colleagues to hold a conversation with their direct manager and document a minimum of 12 hours of learning in the Degreed platform. “We’re also rolling out Skill Plans, which enable colleagues and their managers to assess their strength in particular skills,” he said. “Having access to this data is invaluable. It tells us what gaps currently exist across our finance organization, and what areas we should focus on for future development and talent acquisition.”

Next year Marsh & McLennan will require individual development plans in the Finance Academy platform for every colleague. “We can then hold colleagues and their managers accountable for making progress against them,” McGivney said. “Ultimately, responsibility for development rests as much with the individual as it does the organization.”

FLEXIBLE, DYNAMIC TRAINING

The power of a platform like MMC’s Finance Academy is the fact that it is so flexible and dynamic, McGivney said, “It will live and evolve as our organization changes and requirements of our colleagues change. We will constantly be adding and adjusting content, Pathways, or education requirements that meet what we view as requirements in a certain area.”

McGivney believes digital literacy will likely be one new requirement. “Like many professions and industries, we’re seeing technological advancements in natural language processing, robotics, blockchain and artificial intelligence—to list just a few—that have the potential to significantly impact businesses and the finance function,” he said. “We view these technological advancements as an augmentation of the opportunity we have to enhance the value the finance function delivers to the organization.”

To foster digital literacy, Marsh & McLennan’s Global Risk Center is partnering with AFP, on its MindShift educational initiative that helps finance professionals navigate the rapid pace of disruptive technology and the future of work. AFP MindShift applies knowledge from innovators and other experts to create practical, transformational applications of distributed ledger technology, robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning to help finance professionals overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities. “Through this collaboration, AFP will help educate and prepare our finance colleagues for the technologies that are—or will be—affecting the finance function and how they contribute to the strategic success of Marsh & McLennan,” McGivney said.

MMC’s Finance Academy is using several other AFP certification and training offerings. Eighty-five finance staff are studying to pass AFP’s two certification programs—one for FP&A professionals and one for treasury professionals. Meanwhile, Marsh & McLennan finance colleagues can take several online, on-demand AFP courses: FP&A Essentials, Painting with Numbers, Financial Analysis—Critical Thinking and Decision Making, and Financial Modeling. “AFP has been a tremendous partner through its educational offerings,” McGivney said. “Whether it’s MindShift, the certifications or online training, our colleagues will greatly benefit.”

CLOSING ADVICE

The MMC Finance Academy is a substantial investment in Marsh & McLennan’s finance team—and McGivney encourages other organizations to consider similar strategic development efforts for three reasons:

  • Status quo is a myth. “If you’re not growing and developing, you’re eroding. Investing in your people is one of the soundest investments you can make—everyone wants to contribute, everyone wants to do well.”
  • For an initiative like the Finance Academy, you need to have a long-term vision. “Where do you want your finance organization to be in two years? Five years? Ten years?”
  • Most importantly, though, just do it. “Long-term vision and commitment are important, but get to market with something 80 percent complete within one year as opposed to waiting two or three years for the perfect answer. A platform like Finance Academy will evolve constantly, so start somewhere sooner rather than later.”

McGivney believes it all comes down to this: Creative people want to work with other smart creative people. “They want to do work that matters. And they want the opportunity to make a difference. They also want to be with a successful organization that offers the opportunity for growth. If you can offer these things, you become a talent magnet,” he said. “We are fortunate at Marsh & McLennan Companies to be able to offer all of this and more.”

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Ready to invest in your team? See how AFP can help you create a custom program that takes your organization to the next level.

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