What Skills Do You Need to be a Finance Business Partner

By Sam Perry

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Most people I talk to want to change over to Finance Business Partner (FBP) roles. It's a sexy new title in finance, that usually moves Management Accountants away from the routine of month end responsibilities and allows them to focus on value-adding tasks.

They can work closely with a business unit to provide a link between operations and management, providing more commercial advice. Whether it be a cost-saving exercise, identifying new revenue streams or talking finance to non-finance people, FBPs draw out key information and deliver a clear and concise message. It's not just talking about previous numbers and what has happened previously, it's looking forward and providing strategic insights and clear recommendations.

What skills do you need to be a Finance Business Partner?

Ability to influence

To become an FBP, you will need to be able to talk finance with non-finance staff. Sounds simple right? Well, it isn’t always! An FBP will use the analysis to deliver insights to stakeholders across the business, to be used in key decision making. It's essentially looking at key data and painting a picture of what it means and the impact it has on the wider business.

Presentation

Presentation skills are essential for the modern day FBP and I'm not just talking about how good you are with PowerPoint! When analysing data, it needs to be presented in a more readable format so all teams -not just finance - can understand what the numbers are saying. Remember, not everyone's an Excel guru like you!

Stakeholder management

Stakeholder management is essential. You will need to speak up, challenge stakeholders and, when necessary, push back. You'll need to have the confidence to challenge the thoughts or beliefs of stakeholders when you feel it is necessary. You need to communicate effectively, and this doesn't mean you have to be salesy or have the "gift of the gab". It means you can create a clear message to non-finance staff and build relationships and trust with them.

Commercial mindset

FBP’s need to be commercially minded - just because you've identified a cost reduction, that doesn't necessarily mean it will benefit the wider business. If you're providing valuable insights from a finance perspective, it doesn't necessarily mean it will be valuable to operations, HR, sales or - most importantly - the customer.

Analytical skills

If you're a qualified accountant or studying towards a professional qualification, it stands to reason that you've already built good analytical skills. I’m not talking about your traditional analytical skills though, you need to be able to analyse trends and identify anomalies to be a good FBP.

Purpose-driven

In my opinion, you can’t be a good FBP if you're purely in it for the money. The role must be purpose driven and you should really want to add value to the business. Adding value doesn't just mean saving money, it can be anything from process or efficiency improvement, service level enhancement or identifying a new revenue stream.

Not your typical accountant

You need to be able to operate strategically, be commercially aware, understand how to align people strategies with business strategies and be fully aware of the impact of changing employment legislation with have on the business. 

Taking a step up into a Business Partner role

Most FBP roles are aimed at qualified accountants, but that doesn't mean you can't work towards it if you're still studying. There are plenty of part-qual FBP jobs around, but be aware when applying that most recruiters now see FBP as a ‘buzz word’ and use it in titles to attract people to apply.

Think about the above skills and see where your strengths lie, and what your areas for development are. You won't become an FBP overnight, but if you're thinking of the move then most of the above you can improve yourself.

 

About the author: Sam Perry is the leader of personal profile shared executive search team at https://refind.co.uk. You can follow him on twitter @refindsearch.

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