FP&A Capacity Framework
Working in FP&A is one of the most dynamic & challenging careers in finance and business world. It appears that FP&A professionals wear multiple hats, performing tasks of a master of communication, a strategic leader, a resource allocator as well as a positive influencer. However, nowadays we experience lack of mature theories and models facilitating FP&A professionals’ development.
As a result of FP&A practice combined with MBA curriculum, an FP&A capacity framework was developed to facilitate:
- FP&A professionals understanding of the core, hard and soft skills essential for business partnering
- Identification of the individual knowledge-performance gap and defining the areas of improvement
- FP&A team development through the application of talent selection criteria.
The framework consists of 13 modules that fall into 3 sectors – core skills, hard skills and soft skills.
Core skills reflect the roles an FP&A professional plays in an organisation. Furthermore, they comprise the key financial knowledge & skills used in a daily practice. Module 12 extends far beyond work helping us rethink our health, our families and our spiritual growth. It is about finding the life balance for every business partner who, on the one hand, dedicates plenty of time and energy to developing their careers, and, on the other hand, securing the foundation of their work.
As everyone knows, the FP&A role is a mixture of hard skills and soft skills. A trust-based relationship helps us fit into the organisation while the quality of our business advice creates values. We summarise hard skills (5 modules) to demonstrate what other knowledge an FP&A professional should master and soft skills (5 modules) to explore what soft skills may contribute to success.
It is clear that these 13 blocks do not have the same priority, we rank the priorities and fill “more important” blocks in blue.
Financial skills mainly fall into 3 categories:
- Fundamental skills: including accounting, costing, reporting, internal control, audit, tax, economic laws, etc. Most FP&A professionals take various roles before they join this role such as audit, controllership, marketing, sales operation, etc.
- FP&A core skills: including the understanding of the system, business process, database; financial analysis; budgeting & forecast; finance modelling; an advanced user of Excel, PPT, etc.
- Other skills: including pricing, treasury and others facilitating business decisions.
Hardly anyone would argue that to become a true business partner one should have strategy & big picture, FP&A most important capabilities. Senior FP&A professionals always immerse widely and deeply in business with a high portion of time allocated for strategic analysis and planning.
Most business decisions should consider both financial and HR impact. For example, target setting always links with incentive discussion. Future Finance & HR business partners will share more similar capacities & knowledge to mutually build up integrated business solutions.
Leadership (Art of Influence)
Influence level decides the financial business partner level. One of good ways to gain influence level is to take an NGO (like church) leader and influence others positively without power.
Communication & Negotiation
Communication and negotiation are crucial and time-consuming soft skills. Just imagine how time-consuming it is to learn a foreign language and present in a logical & structured way. If there is a big gap in this section, take action as early as possible.
Coach has two meanings here. First is finance coach for business & supporting functions. Some FP&A professionals host finance seminars to develop business team’s finance acumen. This creates the culture of “take finance into every business decision” and at the same time helps these FP&A gain trust quickly. Second, an FP&A always takes the role of a personal coach for their business partners helping them achieve their potential.
This framework may also be applied as a development tool for FP&A professionals to identify knowledge - performance gap, analyse this gap and define the areas of improvement.
This example helps you sort out where the main gaps come from and develop an action plan to strengthen your weakness areas and further develop your strong points.
An FP&A development is just a start-up and the road ahead will be long with no ending. Financial organisations of tomorrow will be leaner and business driven. To achieve this, financial professionals should continuously develop not only in finance & business fields but also master influence skills, strategic thinking as well as work-life balance. Hope this sharing will cast light on your potential and boost your career.