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How the FP&A Certification Can Lead to Immediate Success

  • By Andrew Deichler
  • Published: 2/25/2015
When Todd Peterson, FP&A, financial analytics manager for AARP, came across the Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) Professional Certification, he was immediately intrigued. Recognizing the need for a common standard for FP&A, he realized that he wanted to be part of the inaugural class.
Smart move. Peterson ended up getting a promotion out of it.

Peterson began his career investigating insider trading for the securities regulator the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), now known as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). He first became involved in FP&A when a financial analyst position opened up at FINRA. “I was getting my MBA at the time, so it fit well,” he said.

In 2008, he moved on to become a senior financial analyst for Intelsat, the largest provider of satellite services in the world. Then in 2011, Peterson took a position as a senior financial analyst at AARP. This past year, shortly after earning his FP&A Certification, he was named financial analytics manager. “This position has had the most financial modeling and Big Data work that I’ve experienced,” he said. “We have quite a bit of members here, and we’re pulling information for them. It’s a big organization.”

AFP: How did you first come across the FP&A Certification, and what made you decide to take the exam?

Peterson:
I was actually looking for best practices in FP&A. That’s one thing I’ve seen that has been a little bit difficult to get information on through the different organizations I’ve worked for. So I came across [the FP&A Certification] in that process of looking for things.

I like the idea of a certification. I feel like FP&A work is more of an art than a science, a lot of times. I think that’s where you run into issues with it… one group is doing FP&A one way, one group is doing it another way and there’s really no one way of doing it. So I think this was a move in that direction, and I liked that idea.

AFP: How did you prepare for the exam and what was the exam process like?

Peterson:
Mainly, I just used the study materials that they had suggested. I read the books ahead of time. A lot of it, for me at least, was material I’d learned throughout the years of my experience. I had that level of knowledge going into it. But the study materials honed it down to the key concepts I needed for the test. I’ve always done relatively well on tests like that; standardized testing, etc.  

I took the first part of the exam in February [2014]. I was able to study for a couple months just to get an idea of what to expect. Then there was a month before the second part. The first part for me was a little bit surprising. Some of what was in the study materials was a little different on the test; some of the wording was different. I think the general concepts were the same; it was just getting used to different wording, different ways of thinking about the information.

I talked to a few folks who have the [Certified Treasury Professional (CTP)], just to get an idea from them of how difficult the tests were, thinking that maybe that would give me some gauge for it. The CTP is very well respected; treasurers who have it are looked upon highly. So I found that getting in on the ground floor of the [FP&A Certification], coming from AFP, could be a good thing.

AFP: Have your peers asked you about the FP&A Certification? Has your career changed at all since earning it?

Peterson:
A lot of people have asked me about it. Some of the treasury folks here have commented on it, since they have the CTP. FP&A folks have asked me about it; what it entails, etc. They’ve expressed some interest in it.

I will be presenting to the FP&A group at AARP, just to explain to them what the certification is, and share some of the information on what I studied and what the goal of the certification is. That will probably be the first exposure for the FP&A department. My group has already gotten it; I gave that information to them before I took the test—I think that justified them paying for it! (laughs)

Achieving the FP&A certification was also a key consideration in my promotion from senior financial analyst to financial analytics manager.

A longer version of this article will appear in the March edition of AFP Exchange.

Learn more about FP&A Certification here.
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