You probably know him as “The FP&A Guy.” For nearly 15 years Paul Barnhurst has been a leader, influencer and educator in the FP&A community.
In finance—particularly the FP&A sector—growing demands from the organization provide an opportunity for CPAs and finance professionals to bring on added value in a business partnering role.
In this role, a finance business partner is the trusted individual people go to for objective, well-measured views of the issues facing the organization. They work closely with their business clients to assist the organization in making key financial and business decisions.
Without these valuable insights, the financial impact on companies can be high due to unreliable data that can adversely influence decision-making.
But developing a successful finance business partnering model takes a great finance business partner. So, let's evaluate what traits someone in this role should have and how you can leverage those skills to develop your own model within your organization.
- An effective financial partner is courageous, confident, persistent, knowledgeable and analytical and works with organizations on the most business-critical financial issues.
- The four skills needed for developing a successful finance business partnering model include analytical, business, leadership and people.
- To be a successful finance partner, you should possess a distinct set of competencies such as strategic thinking, appreciation for technology and negotiation mastery—abilities to help you overcome barriers to gaining profitable partnerships.
The video below provides an overview to help you better understand a finance business partnering model and why your organization should consider adopting one. First, let's begin by looking at the traits of an effective finance business partner.
Traits of an Effective Finance Business Partner
According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants® (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, accountants are in a unique position to become effective finance business partners.
CPAs work with companies on the most business-critical issues they face. They understand the context of other non-financial functions and observe it through the lens of the finance department. This enables them to give measured and balanced opinions or recommendations.
There are specific traits needed to be a successful business partner, including:
- Courage: A successful finance business partner will be bold enough to speak up, challenge managers and hold people accountable for their responsibilities.
- Confidence: Business partners must be able to influence those they work with (colleagues and clients) and have skills in developing relationships. They must also have exceptional communication skills and relay messages to start discussions.
- Persistence: When the message doesn't get through the first time, it's essential to have a finance business partner with perseverance who will ensure effective collaboration.
- Knowledge: When looking for a finance business partner, it's essential to find one knowledgeable about the industry and business in which they are working or the sector of the organization.
- Analysis: Finance business partners must be able to tell the financial business story effectively and efficaciously by translating the numbers and analyzing the data.
4 Skills Needed for Developing an Effective Finance Business Partnering Model
So what is the high-level competency standard for an effective finance business partner and what core skills are necessary for developing a successful finance business partnering model?
1. Analytical Skills
CPAs and other finance professionals are proficient analysts. They must have the analytical skills to collect, source and accurately evaluate data. They must also stay informed of the new tools and methods used today.
2. Business Skills
In 2021, nearly 670,000 CPAs were working in the United States. They must have the aptitude to help their clients manage a successful business.
3. Leadership Skills
An organization's finance team must be able to take on leadership roles over specific financial aspects of the business. They must be able to give directions and delegate tasks as needed.
The CFO usually takes the lead and drives finance business partnering at the company. They must be at the forefront of leading associates. Also, they must observe how other business partners conduct business and what actions they take.
4. People Skills
Finance professionals work in a field centered around customer service. This means they should feel comfortable pinpointing issues, articulating solutions, giving directions and addressing concerns. All of which require advanced levels of people skills. They should know how to communicate effectively with colleagues as well as federal, state and local authorities.
Becoming a Successful Finance Business Partner
Finance business partners work with the company's C-suite members to set the organization's goals. They understand what drives value, key performance indicators (KPIs) and how to retrieve and analyze data for more effective decision making.
Source: FM Magazine
With these key competencies, finance business partners establish shared expectations, optimize data analytics and ensure resources align with common goals. Developing these competencies requires a clear strategy.
However, there are significant barriers that every successful finance business partnership faces regarding these competencies. These hurdles include:
- Resource capacity
- Business buy-ins
- Unclear partner roles
- Financial systems
To overcome these barriers, try refocusing your efforts on driving value and providing the best environment to successfully deliver this value. A simple, one-size-fits-all approach won't work.
You will need a proven methodology to support your key stakeholders, identify value drivers and define partner roles. If your strategy offers real value, this acts as a springboard for finance to take on further business partnering activities.