Angeliki Kasi, the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) manager for Europe at formula manufacturer Mead Johnson, knows that the scope of her job differs slightly from one country to another, depending upon how the FP&A role is defined.
It’s fascinating to see how perceptions of the evolving FP&A role differ across national boundaries, she says. “In the Netherlands, the term ‘business control’ is more widely used than FP&A—although both refer to similar concepts and finance functions,” she adds. “This tends to emphasize the budgeting and financial reporting aspects of the FP&A role.”
The forecasting and data analysis elements of FP&A are still, however, “in high demand among employers—there is increasing recognition for these aspects of the job.”
Kasi hopes European firms will emphasize this aspect of the job as part of a gradual move towards FP&A being recognized as a standalone discipline. This is one reason why she is sitting for the AFP FP&A certification exam, which she believes may help her find the formula for success as a dedicated FP&A professional.
AFP: How is FP&A perceived in your country and what cultural differences have you noticed from one country to the next? Is the term ‘FP&A’ known and used?
Angeliki Kasi: Business control—as we commonly refer to FP&A in the Netherlands—is garnering more attention in the Dutch market. The position is currently in high demand among employers. However, due to the fact that it is an evolving finance function, with new technology driving the predictive and analytical power of the job, I have noticed that the description of the function differs slightly from one country to the next.
In Europe, business control, or FP&A—whatever you choose to call it—is often still not seen as a separate discipline. Many times it is grouped under financial controller responsibilities.
AFP: Do you have a separate FP&A department at Mead Johnson Nutrition, or is the function just part of your finance department? How does FP&A fit into the reporting line at your corporate?
Kasi: We have a separate FP&A department at a global and a regional level. I am the head of the FP&A team dedicated to European operations, while another team looks after global operations.
I report directly to my regional European finance director, but also work closely with the over-arching global FP&A team. In this capacity, I primarily manage coordination, guidance and direction to the European business units, helping them with the preparation of budget, projections and five-year strategic plans.
AFP: How is the Amsterdam FP&A Club serving the purpose of recognizing and communicating FP&A best practice in your country? What works well and what more would you like to see?
Kasi: The Amsterdam FP&A Club is still relatively new. Its first meeting only took place last May. For that reason it’s still too early to judge how useful or otherwise it could ultimately be. I’ve enjoyed being in at the start of it and like meeting my peers in a good networking environment. We just need yet more people to come, thereby increasing the knowledge-sharing.
Participant numbers have been increasing over time and there is positive momentum for our third meeting planned for February 25. I like the ability the Amsterdam FP&A Club provides to share best practice and exchange ideas, so I will be returning. I like the opportunity it gives me to network in a relaxed environment.
I am also excited about the 2015 FP&A Leadership Summit, which is coming to the Sofitel Grand Amsterdam Hotel on May 19-20. This should present another good networking opportunity and is an example of what more I’d like to see being done to advance the FP&A profession.
Global heads of FP&A are expected to fly into Amsterdam to share their knowledge. For us locals that is quite some opportunity—more events like this would be welcome.
AFP: What do you think of AFP’s FP&A Certification program?
Kasi: It’s a great initiative. It will strengthen the education of younger FP&A specialists and help them with their career progression. At the same time, the certification will formalize and add validity to skills already possessed by older professionals. It fills a gap as a standalone certificate dedicated specifically to FP&A, rather than a module added on to an existing university course.
All in all, the certification will help raise awareness around the FP&A discipline on a global level, which should be welcomed. It reinforces the growing importance of FP&A to businesses.
AFP: You are in the process of taking the AFP FP&A exam. How are you finding it?
Kasi: I found out about the AFP FP&A Certification through the FP&A Club in Amsterdam about six months ago. At the start of this year I decided to take the exam and recently completed part one of the course. I am due to take the second part of the multiple choice exam in late March.
I’ve already passed part one and found the questions to be relatively easy. I think the AFP e-learning system I used helped. An example of the type of questions asked was: ‘What is the effect of increasing interest rates on foreign currency exchange rates among trading partners?’ and I had to calculate break-even volumes and revenues under multiple choice scenarios.
I found it an interesting exam and am looking forward to part two, which I’m told will be more practical. It will cover topics around analyzing information, building financial projections and using appropriate technology and software.
Angeliki Kasi is financial planning and analysis (FP&A) manager for Europe at Mead Johnson Nutrition, a major manufacturer of infant formula worldwide.
Neil Ainger is a freelance contributor to AFP.