Difference between (Senior) Finance Business Partner vs FP&A Manager?

Rank: Gorilla | 591

Currently working in Group FP&A, most of my interaction is with Heads of FP&A (Directors etc) & other Divisional FP&A managers or various Group managers/directors etc of corporate / HQ departments.

Sometimes on specific projects the Head of a Product Line/Project will loop in a Finance Business Partner for some support but i've never hard much interaction with them.

What are the main differences in your organization between these 2? With FP&A Managers presumably they then go on to become Senior Managers, Directors, VPs etc...

What about FBP? Do they then go back to FP&A type roles? More Controller type positions?

I've noticed that in job adverts FBP roles seem to pay slightly more. Any reason for this?

Many thanks for responses.

Comments (5)

 
Oct 31,2017

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Oct 31,2017

Finance Business Partners are essentially mini-CFOs of small business units.

To highlight, I'll use myself as an example:

  • Joined Comcast's Finance Rotational program out of undergrad.
  • Did finance roles in Sales, Marketing, Capital Investments, Supply Chain, and FP&A.
  • Currently Finance Manager of a key business unit within Comcast. I'm basically the business partner for our VP of Operations. In essence I'm like his CFO who advises him on how our sales are doing in a particular region, what our growth opportunities are, how we should execute upon them, what is our 5-year growth plan, and how we can boost our margins. Any time we have our annual budget presentation to the CEO, My VP and I travel to Philly and present our plan. He's the operational lead, I'm the finance counterpart.

Here is where Finance Business Partnering differs from FP&A:

In FP&A I was rolling up the numbers. I'd reach out to the various departments and ask them to fill out our budget templates and once I received their data, I'd consolidate, conduct various analysis, ask questions, and communicate it to corporate. This job, at least in my opinion, was much less in-tuned with what was happening on the front lines and more of an ivory tower role. The reason my FBP role pays more is because I'm responsible for so much more. On a daily basis, I interact with AP to make sure our vendors are getting paid on time, AR to ensure we are receiving cash as scheduled, Supply Chain to make sure our capital expenditures are on-track to be deployed, corporate finance to make sure they have the relevant details that they need, Sales to ensure our subscriber count in our region in on track as per forecast, etc, etc. Given this level of responsibility, FBP can lead to increasingly senior financial management roles. For example, our Current CFO went through this same path. After doing FP&A, he was an FBP, then a VP Finance, then Divisional CFO for our Southern Region, and now CFO of the company.

Hope that helps... Let me know if anything is unclear....

 
Best Response
Oct 31,2017

thank you very much for the reply. very informative especially since im in the same industry as you. would you say your role is more commercial than an FC? more business case type analysis?

i guess in my search for my next role i've been a bit averse to FBP type positions because there doesn't seem this natural "level up" in terms of titles...like how can you tell the level of a FBP other than what they are FBP off i guess (in terms of unit / expenditure item size)?

I've seen graduates be FBPs in my organization and simply move around every 1.5 years in diff positions...vs the natural progression of e.g. FP&A Analyst, Senior Analyst, Manager, Senior manager etc.....but i guess it would make sense if it went from FBP/SFBP to e.g. VP of business unit...but guess i just haven't seen that in my organization...

in your experience was there much diversion between career paths of people in FP&A vs FBP?

i guess my other main aversion to the role is that in my experience at our group function it is us who do all the main / interesting models which drive the decision making of the CFO...we never examine any models that divisions make and rather its been us who would make a model around a particular business decision then roll it out downwards...perhaps it works different in companies that are e.g. more based out of 1 country and have distinct business units instead? also our work is very broad and strategic in nature. We do have a Corporate FP&A function that sends out templates and consolidates & uploads numbers etc but thats not what we do - perhaps we are a bit different, i've found that a lot of other companies i look at seem to be more reporting in nature rather than business case analysis & strategic finance decision making based....

i would def. agree with the whole "ivory tower / out of touch" bit...pretty much in 75% of cases we wouldnt know whats driving what (unless its specific headwinds or e.g. customer
churn / bundling / tiering driving revenue etc) ...but at same time again...at least in my organisation its the FP&A guys who are the visible finance people....whenever we deal with Divisions its always the Head of FP&A or some VP of Strategic Finance / Business Planning etc...

in any case, thank you for your reply! very interesting :)

 
Oct 31,2017
moneytrail:

thank you very much for the reply. very informative especially since im in the same industry as you. would you say your role is more commercial than an FC? more business case type analysis?

@moneytrail, no problem man. Glad to be of help.

I'd definitely say my role is much more commercial oriented than a financial controller. I've done a stint as an FC and that role was much more supply chain oriented (i.e. mainly concerned with cutting costs and delivering cost savings YOY). In my life as an FC, I hardly interacted with the commercial side of things. Only had to reach out to them during our annual planning sessions in order to gauge how much demand we'd be expected to be able to have capacity for.

moneytrail:

i guess in my search for my next role i've been a bit averse to FBP type positions because there doesn't seem this natural "level up" in terms of titles...like how can you tell the level of a FBP other than what they are FBP off i guess (in terms of unit / expenditure item size)?

I've seen graduates be FBPs in my organization and simply move around every 1.5 years in diff positions...vs the natural progression of e.g. FP&A Analyst, Senior Analyst, Manager, Senior manager etc.....but i guess it would make sense if it went from FBP/SFBP to e.g. VP of business unit...but guess i just haven't seen that in my organization...

I can understand why you'd have a hesitation to go into an FBP role, especially after having been in that "ivory tower" role that I alluded to earlier. My advice to you would be to be cognizant of the fact that if you one day have aspirations of being a CFO level role (either at one of the business units of your company or at a smaller company altogether), you'll be needing that kind of FBP experience.

In terms of knowing what level FBP you are, I think it does vary from organization to organization, but typically, you can tell by the titles which usually go: FBP, Sr FBP, Director, Sr. Director, VP, CFO. Again, it varies from org to org, but there is a clear hierarchy to it and it's usually tied to the size of the P&L that you are managing.

moneytrail:

in your experience was there much diversion between career paths of people in FP&A vs FBP?

It all usually depends on the long term career goals of the individual as well as the size of the company they are currently in. Based off what I have seen, there are two paths and they usually go like this:

Fin analyst (business unit A) > Sr. Fin Analyst (business unit B) > Fin Controller (supply chain) > FBP (business unit C)

At this point, the paths diverge and people usually continue down the path of being business partners, or they decided they'd rather go corporate and see the company from a 50,000 foot high view.

If you choose the former, then the path looks like:

FBP (business unit C) > Sr. FBP (business unit c) > Director FBP (business unit C) > VP/CFO (business unit C)

If you choose the latter, then the path looks like:

FBP (business unit C) > Manager FP&A (corporate) > Sr Manager FP&A (corporate) > Director/VP FP&A

Both will come with increased salaries and respect/power. For me, the way I'd choose my path would be entirely dependent upon whether "Business Unit C" is large enough within the organization to warrant me spending my career there. Sometimes it is, and if so, you definitely should. Case in point, the Divisional CFO of Lexus has a great shot at becoming the CFO of the entire Toyota organization one day as opposed to the VP of FP&A at Toyota...

moneytrail:

i guess my other main aversion to the role is that in my experience at our group function it is us who do all the main / interesting models which drive the decision making of the CFO...we never examine any models that divisions make and rather its been us who would make a model around a particular business decision then roll it out downwards...perhaps it works different in companies that are e.g. more based out of 1 country and have distinct business units instead? also our work is very broad and strategic in nature. We do have a Corporate FP&A function that sends out templates and consolidates & uploads numbers etc but thats not what we do - perhaps we are a bit different, i've found that a lot of other companies i look at seem to be more reporting in nature rather than business case analysis & strategic finance decision making based....

i would def. agree with the whole "ivory tower / out of touch" bit...pretty much in 75% of cases we wouldnt know whats driving what (unless its specific headwinds or e.g. customer
churn / bundling / tiering driving revenue etc) ...but at same time again...at least in my organisation its the FP&A guys who are the visible finance people....whenever we deal with Divisions its always the Head of FP&A or some VP of Strategic Finance / Business Planning etc...

in any case, thank you for your reply! very interesting :)

Yeah it definitely does vary from organization to organization. But I think you pointed out the key distinction between the two roles when you said "pretty much in 75% of cases we wouldnt know whats driving what". To me, that's the reason why I shied away from moving to FP&A because I want to be on the front lines. To your point, when the Corporate FP&A people in my company have a questions regarding my particular business unit, I have a FP&A analyst that deals with their questions. That analyst might come to me for help in structuring his response to Coporate, but largely, I don't talk 1-1 with those guys cause I have an FP&A analyst to help me with that.

 
Oct 31,2017