Accounting and Finance

Attention to Talent: Financial Planning & Analysis

Liam Hassell - July 17, 2019

While attention to detail is an attribute that underpins any accounting and finance function, it’s attention to talent that must be a core attribute of any Hiring Manager. This blog will look at different functions within the modern finance team to explore how they’ve changed, what’s trending and most importantly, what you must be aware of as a hiring manager in trying to engage these candidates.

Todays’ focus is Financial Planning & Analysis

Everyone wants to secure commercially focused, business partnering and ‘tech savvy’ finance professionals. Think of a brief you’ve provided HR or agency recently that didn’t contain at least one of these three buzz words, no matter the role in finance.

These, however, are real and of immense importance when it comes to those tasked with understanding business performance and informing the decision makers who create and implement strategy.

Imagine a role that helps shape decisions at the highest levels. Sounds sexy, right? Then why is it so many businesses seem to be struggling with securing these candidates?

Let me explain.

Close your eyes and picture an FP&A function. It probably sits in a large A-grade office space, with an FP&A Director, reporting directly to the CFO, backed by a team of analysts. Am I right? Ten years ago, this probably would have been the case. FP&A was a function seemingly reserved for the top end of town. To have the luxury of not only producing monthly accounts, meeting your statutory obligations, but having the ability to really dive into performance with advanced intelligence tools, you had to be a reasonably large, often multinational and certainly profitable, employer.

This is simply no longer the case.

The increased prevalence of affordable, Cloud & SAAS based business intelligence tools are opening doors left, right and centre for small to medium enterprises; allowing them to adopt a far more sophisticated approach to planning and analysis. When navigating this landscape previously, FP&A was relegated to a largely Excel based platform as robust and as limited as the individual who built it, added to it, and broke it!

Today, BI tools like PowerBI, Qlikview and Tableau (among many others) are affording SME’s the opportunity to do much more, for less and this is very enticing to good candidates.

Imagine a small retail operation with maybe, five stores. Historically they’ve had what is essentially a bookkeeping function focused on nuts & bolts accounting. Now imagine the gold mine of data they are sitting on across hundreds of SKUs and thousands of weekly POS scans. The consumer insights a good FP&A candidate may provide are enormous. The impact they could have on inventory planning, demand forecasting, cost savings, promotional campaigns and marketing spent are potentially limitless. When a private owner/operators gut feel performance can be extrapolated into tangible, quantifiable data, real decisions can be made, measured and tracked. This simple equation is being realised by more and more SME’s and facilitated by the availability and affordability of powerful BI tools.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a candidate with two competing offers.

One sits within a large, well oiled machine with all the bells and whistles, regular, well running reporting and a candidate is needed because there’s a resignation and the function exists (and is still onshore).

The second offer sits with our small retail business where the function is greenfield, the role largely one the candidate can tailor to themselves, the tools are for them to determine and implement and every run they score for the business is an achievement to add to their resume. They can directly effect change and influence decisions at the highest level and, as often is the case as the sole FP&A person, they are far from being a cog in a corporate wheel.

Suddenly it’s easier to see the attraction of good FP&A candidates to the SME space. There is a very real appetite here to secure talented FP&A candidates and the real opportunity for candidates to be propelled into broader roles faster.

A good FP&A candidate by nature will be inquisitive and a problem solver. What is the attraction (beyond dollars) for a good problem solver to join a larger organisation where they inherit tools, run established reports and occasionally troubleshoot?

SME’s are increasingly attracting these candidates by presenting the challenge of an underdeveloped environment, the ability to take ownership of a function and presenting a shopping list of projects, problems and untapped data. This message is also usually delivered with great enthusiasm by a leadership team on board who seek change and are ready to embrace an evolution within their finance function.

The bottom line is that the FP&A space is more competitive then ever and more opportunities exist in non-traditional environments for good candidates. Only this week, I met an FP&A Leader who had left an iconic Australian business at a senior level to join two entrepreneurial 30-year-olds running a start-up ecommerce business with good fundamentals and potential! The attraction for him – the massive opportunity within his grasp to project manage significant system implementations, establish sound business processes and realise revenue through efficiencies, reducing cost, revenue opportunities and tapping into underutilised data.

FP&A is a space where selling the challenge is at least equally appealing to an attractive financial offer. With the increasing avenues of employment for a strong commercial candidate, it’s critical that all businesses can clearly articulate the pathway to success in their roles, including all challenges and potential achievements. Selling a well-oiled machine with robust, but out of date BI tools may inhibit attracting the best candidates to the role alone. Bringing to the forefront aspects of the culture, it’s people and other benefits becomes incredibly important.

How has FP&A changed in your business? What challenges have you faced in trying to hire candidates? Have you lost candidates to what you thought were ‘questionable’ moves?

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