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Peer Review: What FP&A Pros Can Learn From Colleagues

  • By Neil Ainger
  • Published: 7/30/2015
Tim Green2According to Tim Green, head of financial planning and analysis (FP&A), group finance at London-based reinsurance broker Cooper Gay Swett & Crawford (CGSC), one of the best ways to advance a career in FP&A is to talk to your peers and learn from their experience. That is why he regularly attends the London FP&A Club.   

Green is always keen to find out how things are done in other countries and in sectors outside of the Lloyd’s of London insurance market and global reinsurance arena where he works.

“One of the most welcome aspects of the development of FP&A Clubs around the world – in Stockholm, Dubai, Amsterdam and elsewhere – is that they allow for a greater exchange of problems and solutions by peers around the globe, with the aim of advancing best practice,” he said.

In the same vein, Green’s thirst for knowledge led him to take the exam for AFP’s Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credential.   

AFP: Can you describe your career background and the type of work you do in FP&A?

Tim Green:
I am the head of FP&A, group finance, at the wholesale and reinsurance broker CGSC in London. I joined in 2008, initially as a financial analyst, before becoming CGSC’s FP&A head in April 2011.

My responsibilities include producing monthly and quarterly financial performance reports for the boardroom, and doing the annual budget and quarterly forecasting, helped by my two analysts. We also produce analysis packs with key performance indicators (KPIs), and other key drivers of the group, as well as carrying out regular divisional and country analysis reports on the reinsurance and underwriting market.

Our unit is part of the overall group finance team, working alongside financial accounts, operations and systems, all of which is headed up by the group financial controller. But we operate as a specific team focused on performance analysis.

I like this arrangement because during my three-year finance graduate program with UK medical manufacturer Smiths Group in 2002-2005, I did a year working in the group-wide FP&A department and liked this area of finance the most. I decided then and there that analysis would be the focus of my career. I stayed with them for one year as an assistant financial controller, before departing to join the healthcare firm Bupa as a management accountant. I joined CGSC in January 2008.

AFP: How did you find the AFP FP&A certification exam when you took it last year?

Green:
I completed the two exam papers in September 2014, after getting study leave from work to enable me to memorize the course material. The most challenging part of the course for me personally was the application of the practicalities. For instance, I found starting from scratch and creating net present value (NPV) or diluted earnings per share (EPS) calculations, including learning the Excel functions by heart, was a challenge. I couldn’t just rely on Excel help functions.

In regard to the theory I found that easy, as it was merely a revision of things I’ve learned over the years that I’ve worked in the FP&A field.

AFP: How did you hear about AFP’s FP&A certification program and why did you decide to pursue it?

Green:
I first heard about the AFP FP&A certification program after attending the London FP&A Club. I decided it was something I wanted to do after looking at the process and syllabus on the AFP website.

In terms of benefits, I expected it to add to my existing knowledge and show me some best practice techniques, which I can use in my daily work. It has done so. After working in the field for nearly a decade now it seemed the logical next step to take this qualification and advance my skillset.

I also wanted to get the certificate to encourage my team at CGSC to focus on their career development. I think it can be beneficial for both young and old professionals alike. It gives a grounding in the basics for those starting off, giving them confidence, while experienced practitioners can confirm best practice techniques and ensure they’re up-to-date with new developments in the field.  

AFP: What is your biggest FP&A challenge right now?  

Green:
A riskier and more globalized world poses the greatest challenge to the FP&A function. As practitioners we need to try to model these factors in order to help plan the best way forward for our companies, but it won’t be easy. FP&A professionals need a better understanding of how global factors, supranational regulations and more connected trade and financial supply chains impact company and industry specific dynamics. We also need to understand risk impacts on customers and suppliers as events unfold sometimes far away from ‘home’ bases.

Working at a global reinsurance and underwriting management firm, I see this global interconnectedness and intense focus on risk all the time but it is something that needs to be grasped by all corporates.

Learn more about AFP’s FP&A Certification here.
A longer version of this article will appear in the September edition of AFP Exchange.
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