Finance Business Partnering, FP&A Business Partnering, Business Finance etc. All separate ways of finding the perfect recipe for how Finance can help the business add value. In the past, we have discussed the topic of “Finance Business Partner (FBP)” from almost every possible angle. What it is, what skills you need to become one, how their mind works, what to do on your first day, whom you support more specifically, how to become great at it, why we need to transform the term, what it should be transformed into and much more. Despite all this discussion we have never actually discussed how to become an FBP hence now it’s time to start that discussion.
So, tell me what I need now that you’re making such a big deal out of it!
To become an FBP further develop yourself in the role, it’s important to look at pre-requisites as well as what you can do to continuously improve.
I’d list the pre-requisites as follows:
- Experience from various finance roles such as an accountant, financial analyst or controller
- Knowledge of the business or industry
- Purpose-driven i.e. wanting to do more than merely collect a paycheck
- Have a wide range of soft skills not common to finance professionals
You can always expand on above and I hope we can discuss it further but for now it suffices to say that you will find it hard to live up to these demands straight out of school so you need to find a stepping stone towards the FBP role. Once you’re in the role though what do you do to become an even better FBP?
Continuous improvement could be done as follows:
- Spend some extended time working in the function you support outside your FBP role to move from knowledge of the business to actually understanding it.
- There’s no certification or qualification you can get for working as an FBP going back to this previous article and what you need to continuously work on is also the soft skills rather than the hard skills. That means you could attend courses in presentation techniques, negotiation skills, stakeholder management etc. The only hard skill that you really need to improve on is problem-solving.
- While some might say it’s fluffy I’d argue a successful FBP is also someone that keeps working on themselves and their reason for doing what they are doing. Being purpose-driven means that you need to constantly challenge yourself if you’re enjoying doing what you’re doing. Would you still do it if someone cut your salary by ten grand or if you were offered a lot more money to work with something completely different? So, keep asking yourself the tough right questions i.e. “Am I happy today?”, “What motivates me getting up in the morning?” etc. Essentially you need to identify your deepest values and see how they fit with the work you do as an FBP.
There’s not a lot of Finance involved here?
Being a successful FBP you use your analytical skills every day to gather insights on business developments that you can share with your stakeholders. However, your analytical skills are not what will make you successful as this could just as well be done by a financial analyst. What makes you successful is your soft skills and ability to turn results of your analysis into insights that ultimately lead to better business decisions. Hence, prior to becoming an FBP, it’s really assumed you have all the hardcore financial skills so you can deploy a different development focus. Becoming an FBP is not the hard part. Becoming a good one is what’s hard because it requires something different than classic finance skills.
For those who follow my blog regularly it can’t come as a surprise that I am a huge fan of finance business partnering and if this is the first time you’re reading it because you have an interest in the topic, I hope you will find it a fantastic opportunity to engage with like-minded professionals about how Finance can help the business add value. Now tell me what qualified you to become a finance business partner?