A day in the life of a FP&A manager

The financial planning & analysis manager is in charge of business forecasting. He or she looks at the company’s finances with a critical eye - trying to spot data anomalies, trends, or deviations - and then introduces strategies for improvement.

In a small company, this role is often handled by the business owner, but as a company grows, a full-time FP&A control manager can be a valuable investment.

This is especially true if that person is also in charge of annual budgeting - although the controller sometimes owns this domain. Often, if a company has both an FP&A person and a controller, the former is in charge of management accounting, while the latter holds financial accounting.

The FP&A control manager’s general responsibilities include:

  • Creating systems and processes
  • Short-term cash flow analysis and forecasting
  • Analysis of internal controls
  • Anticipating questions about the company’s cash flow and financial projections, and providing preemptive answers to company higher-ups

So what does this look like on any given day?

The FP&A manager, like any manager, spends a lot of time answering emails, attending to phone calls, and participating in team meetings. Days can be long and varied, and 60-hour weeks are not uncommon.

For successful directors of FP&A, the future can be very bright, typically the most successful spend three to four years in the role before progressing.

“The natural career path for a director of FP&A would be to manage a larger P&L or become a finance director or commercial finance director before ultimately becoming a COO,” says Chris Stringer, manager of the banking & FS division at Robert Walters New York.

FP&A control managers are in charge of the profit & loss statement (the P&L) and they are also responsible for forecasting net income - the company’s bottom line. They are usually financial analysts who are adept at programs like Excel, Cognos, Hyperion and SAP. They are technically skilled and mathematically inclined.

But make no mistake: while it’s a numbers-oriented job, FP&A requires a surprising amount of communication skills. The FP&A manager must be able to clearly explain financial details and concepts in lay terms to busy executives. They must be able to supply every operational department with revenue and expense targets and inspire them to stay on task. And he or she must be able to supply the CFO with a clear projection of what is going to happen, financially, in the next quarter, year, and five years - accounting for things like one-time expenses and possible fluctuations in net sales.

FP&A requires a lot of data consolidation and variance analysis - the ability to think into the future and weigh the various possible scenarios, then bring all that theoretical information down to earth with tangible reports on key metrics. The ability to simplify esoteric financial information to benefit the company leadership and decision-making is the daily domain of the FP&A manager.  

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