1. FP&A 101
1.1 What is FP&A?
FP&A or Financial Planning Analysis is a sector in Corporate Finance, together with Treasury, and Controller. It manages all operational and strategic tasks in the areas of business planning, management and control for an organization. It helps the CFO a lot, especially with financial management jobs.
In a company that is not too big, the director of a business can take charge of this part. However, as the company grows, investing in a full-time FP&A manager will bring many benefits in the long run.
1.2 FP&A Roles
To be able to forecast a company’s financial, an individual must have a comprehensive understanding of the company’s historical performance, as well as of the key assumptions and ongoing trends that could impact future performance. This takes a great knowledge of both accounting and business operations.
Consequently, the FP&A team needs to stay in close contact with other departments within the organization, including Sales, Marketing, Accounting, Treasury, Operations. It can also be considered as the central contact point between the company leaders and the operations teams.
1.3 FP&A Responsibilities
Budgeting and forecasting
The primary duty of the FP&A team is to connect senior management’s long term strategic plan to reality. The plan sets the company’s targets from 2-10 years in the future, with business elements that may include revenue, net income, strategic approach, etc. And there, FP&A works on the operational and financial plan that is in need to acquire the business targets.
Accordingly, they need to build a static annual budget and get it updated once a year. But as the static budgets get stale quickly, it is vital for the team to develop a rolling forecast. The FP&A then carries out variance analysis to compare the difference between the projected and actual numbers of the budget and the rolling forecast.
The talented FP&A crews can do more than just forecasting: They can give valuable advice on performance improvement, risk minimization, and opportunities acquisition both inside and outside the company.
The FP&A is ,therefore, assigned to create a monthly document that is reported directly to the CFO, and senior management team. It covers analysis of historical financial; variance explanations; a forecast with updated risks and opportunities; KPIs.
Overall, all FP&A functions can be categorized as below:
2. FP&A Career
2.1 Career Path
The FP&A career path starts at the analyst level and progresses to the director of FP&A:
- FP&A Analyst
- Senior FP&A Analyst
- FP&A Manager
- Director/VP, FP&A
Three or four Analysts are led by a Senior Analyst, who is in charge of a specific product. The Senior Analyst then reports to the FP&A Manager on their respective product.
It might take you 4-5 years to reach the Senior Analyst level, and then another 4-5 years to become a local FP&A Manager.
After the Director/VP level, most FP&A professionals have a tendency to stay within FP&A, either in their current organization or at other companies. At large companies, directors can progress internally by taking on responsibility for larger P&Ls.
Progress to the CFO position is clearly uncommon with only 1 vacancy available. Having said this, FP&A professionals are always considered potential for the position. Those looking for this kind of change regularly hope to turn to other key functions in the association, for example, a Controller, Business Development, Corporate Development and Operations. After this, they can get the well-rounded skill-sets to meet the requirements of the CFO position.
Considerably more uncommon is the chance to ascend to the CEO level.
Because of the profoundly analytical and curious nature of an individual who prevails in FP&A, many choose to start their own businesses in a wide range of industries.
Regardless of the path you will take at a later stage, remember to:
- Build and maintain the relationships with colleagues inside and outside your function
- Dedicate part of your time to developing people who can take over the job when you leave
Also, check which skills you are lacking to enhance your profile and work on those.
2.2 Salaries for FP&A
Compensation in the financial analysis field varies substantially between different industries and companies. Figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, in the securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investment sectors, for professional financial analysts, the salary is at $100,180 on average, higher than those working in insurance and related fields with only $76,860.
Bonuses are usually very dependent on the company’s sizes. And costs-of-living factor is also crucial in making adjustments for base salaries. For example, the big tech company in an expensive city will be more likely to offer higher compensation than a company in another less hybrid region.
Also, the financial and planning analyst’s ability to help the company achieve its business goal decides her compensation. Of course, this can potentially lead to problems if an analyst creates overly conservative growth strategies designed primarily to ensure that profit targets are merely hit rather than maximized.
It is projected that through the mid-2020s, we will see a growth of 20% in the number of vacancies available in the corporate finance industry.
At the meantime, here is a summary table of the FP&A positions and their respective salaries, and experiences.
FP&A Senior Analyst
Director (or VP) of FP&A
$50,000 to $70,000 including bonuses.
$65,000 to $85,000 including bonus.
$85,000 to $115,000 including bonuses.
$100,000 to $250,000 plus stock options and bonuses.
2.3 FP&A Work – life Balance
Generally speaking, FP&A jobbers have much better work-life balance when compared with those from investment banking or consulting. Their working hours span from 45 to 55 hours a week, with the peak of 70 hours when intensive working season comes (often quarter/ year-end close and planning sessions).
Moreover, different from consulting and investment banking services, there is no set time frame, or up and out policy.
2.4 Are You A Good Fit for FP&A?
Those who pursue a career in FP&A are unfailingly capable of playing around effectively with various data sources, and drawing valuable insights from them.
They are also outstanding problem solvers, deciphering financial puzzles of the company to formulate business growth potentials. In all sincerity, if you do not like Mathematics, or get tired of using Excel, you may want to consider an alternative career path.
On the other hand, if you are passionate about numbers, proficient in building financial models, conducting analysis, and forecasting, then maybe FP&A career and you are a good match!
3.1 Requirements To Join
With an increased job demand, formal education is often used as a selection criteria. Nowadays, entry-level roles in FP&A are generally open to Bachelors of finance, economics or management.
Young junior analysts are normally not expected to have strong work experience, but are certainly required to know how to use the tools such as MS office. Although automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning are the hot topics, FP&A reality in many companies is still linked to handling numerous Excel spreadsheets.
Getting to know which systems the company you would like to work for is using and familiarizing yourself with those can help you gain advantage compared to the other candidates for the role.
3.2 How To Prepare For A Career In FP&A?
Entry points and career ladder of a FP&A professional vary significantly. Let’s see what an individual can do to enhance his/her competitiveness during the recruitment process.
The roadmap to an Financial Planning and Analysis career can be broken down into 4 main categories:
- Resume/ Cover letter
- Internship/ Relevant accounting or finance experience
Sell yourself with a paper
As the entry level positions for FP&A are commonly open for fresh university graduates, the recruiters value 2 crucial factors in your resume.
- Your record of past achievements: They could be your GPA/ test scores, awards and honors, leadership experience, high-profile work experiences.
- Your genuine passion for accounting and finance: This can be shown through your chosen major, extra coursework, past internships, etc.
However, many of you out there still have not figured out a way to differentiate yourself from the heavy crowd with many common mistakes made. We are here to help. Check out our resume to make you shine with your dream employers.
Networking is always the can’t-go-without part of an individual on his way to a successful career.
You can network with the alumni of your university, the peers from your banking clubs. Go on LinkedIn to find professionals working in the field, send them invitations, connect with them and ask for help. The sooner you start networking, the better. Ideally it should be at least 6 – 12 months before the application begins.
Our comprehensive networking guide can help do wonders to your relationship settings. Please check it out!
Internship/ Relevant accounting or finance experience
The internship is a great way to showcase your commitment to the industry, as well as your competitive work skills.
- If you are a student, you should expose yourself to as much accounting and finance related scope of works as possible. These experiences would have you build the solid foundation for your dream job, and at the same time build up your competitive profile.
- If you are a graduate or a professional, you may want to seek a place in Big 4 Public Accounting or Fortune 500 Accounting/ Financial companies, stay for 1 – 3 year before got admitted into an FP & A position as an Analyst in the best scenario. But it’s more common that you take an MBA, and then after graduation, you enter the Financial and Planning Analysis division as a Senior Analyst.
This part is considered the toughest element of the recruitment process, as the recruiter now looks at you in a more detailed way. You and the company now also have the chance to understand each other better, to know whether you two are a match!
The interview process may include multiple rounds, depending on the company and your aimed position.
Through interviews, the employers want to know your knowledge, skills, and your commitment, obviously, with 3 types of financial planning and analysis questions: fit questions, technical questions, and behavioral questions.
You may want to prepare by:
- For technical questions: Brush up on your knowledge for accounting finance, and Excel skills
- Fit questions: Know your stories- your strengths/ weakness, your achievements, your failures, and the most important question- why FP&A or Corp Finance?
- And, remember what you have written in your resume and make sure you can talk about it without thinking.
4. What Are The Chances For Non-traditional FP&A Candidates?
Regardless of your non-traditional background, you still can make it into FP&A field if you know how to boost the competitiveness of your profile. Here are how you can do it:
Junior Level (Analysts and Senior Analysts)
Candidates without an accounting background will be more competitive by demonstrating an interest in FP&A by gaining a designation such as a CPA, CMA/CFM or FP&A Certification from the Association of Financial Professionals. Those switching careers out of investment banking are less common, although the financial modeling experience gained in IB is looked at positively.
Senior Level (Manager, Director/ VP)
Professionals seeking to transition into a senior role in FP&A will need to have significant experience in finance and managing corporate initiatives. If transitioning from consulting or banking, deep industry experience is required. For example, it is very unusual to see a generalist get hired in a senior position at a healthcare organization without experience in the healthcare industry.