FP&A exit ops?

couronne's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 16

I'm thinking of next steps...

I'm a 29yo female. I've done an FDLP program in an F10 firm + 4 yrs FP&A analyst. I'm in a role that I picked up last summer to create an FP&A department in a subsidiary acquisition going from private to public. It seemed like a creative type role. I was hoping to blow it out of the park and snag the FP&A manager/director role at the subsidiary. I pulled some all nighters to deliver and really took ownership of the FP&A function here. 8 months into the role, a new CFO waltzed in and is bringing his buddy from his last firm. Not having rapport with him, I didn't feel confident enough to press for the role.

I'm not exactly CFO material... I work hard and work makes up most of what I consider to be my life, but I'm too creative to fit that corporate finance leadership type. I am at a loss as to what I should do for my career path (short and long term). I've been interviewing to get a feel of the market, but nothing really catches my eye. What types of next steps are good career maneuvers for FP&A professionals?

I think my lack of geographic mobility complicates things... I purchased rental properties and would hate to manage them remotely. I'm in a decent market but it's definitely not NY, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, etc. I've worked solely in industries that build a tangible product. I feel like I'm getting stale in a firm with no upward mobility. For someone ambitious as me, it's downright depressing!

I've considered consulting for a finance solution like Hyperion, maybe go into finance software sales or an FP&A manager role... curious to know your thoughts.

Comments (15)

Mar 21, 2019
couronne:

I'm thinking of next steps...

I'm a 29yo female. I've done an FDLP program in an F10 firm + 4 yrs FP&A analyst. I'm in a role that I picked up last summer to create an FP&A department in a subsidiary acquisition going from private to public. It seemed like a creative type role. I was hoping to blow it out of the park and snag the FP&A manager/director role at the subsidiary. I pulled some all nighters to deliver and really took ownership of the FP&A function here. 8 months into the role, a new CFO waltzed in and is bringing his buddy from his last firm. Not having rapport with him, I didn't feel confident enough to press for the role.

I'm not exactly CFO material... I work hard and work makes up most of what I consider to be my life, but I'm too creative to fit that corporate finance leadership type. I am at a loss as to what I should do for my career path (short and long term). I've been interviewing to get a feel of the market, but nothing really catches my eye. What types of next steps are good career maneuvers for FP&A professionals?

I think my lack of geographic mobility complicates things... I purchased rental properties and would hate to manage them remotely. I'm in a decent market but it's definitely not NY, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, etc. I've worked solely in industries that build a tangible product. I feel like I'm getting stale in a firm with no upward mobility. For someone ambitious as me, it's downright depressing!

I've considered consulting for a finance solution like Hyperion, maybe go into finance software sales or an FP&A manager role... curious to know your thoughts.

Have you considered going to a startup? A lot of companies would love the fact that you built out an FP&A department. That's highly relevant to many firms as they transition to being more mature companies.

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Mar 22, 2019

Thanks, I actually haven't considered this. I do like the aspect of not having people to report to. I enjoy the independence, (and power). I was concerned how the short duration would look on my resume though.

Mar 22, 2019

I haven't considered a startup. I'll have to look into that. That does seem like something I'd enjoy... would at least be easier to implement change in a new culture than bring an FP&A function to a company that has gotten by for decades without one.

How do you recommend I explore this career path?

Mar 22, 2019

Interested to see responses to this one, I'm a little bit earlier in the career though

Mar 22, 2019

What are your strengths in the current FP&A role? If you can list a few, that'll help to identify the smoother transition to something different.

I've been in FP&A role for 7 years. I find the traditional FP&A responsibilities boring but my bosses let me do different things as long as I get my job done so I have a few strengths that I can leverage for exit opportunity if I decide to leave.

Project Management: I am involved in a lot of projects related to IT, systems, data, etc., so I have transferable skills to go into PM roles.

Strategy: I do some strategy related analysis and presentations for the senior leadership. It might be hard to break into large companies but I could aim for hybrid roles at smaller ones.

Data Analytics: This is the area that I'm currently working on right now. I have access to a lot of different data so I'm working to prove how it could help our sales and operations. You can use a lot of creativity in the field.

Mar 22, 2019

Sure. Appreciate you doing this.

I came into a firm that was doing relatively well financially, with no finance department whatsoever. I am a mere analyst but I report directly to a CFO (there were 3 so far in my short stint here... looks like my current one may finally stay?). There was no strategic business plans, no financial reporting or consolidation software, no BI tools, etc. I worked with the leadership team to create a 5 year and 1 year plan that ties into the KPIs that support the parent company's investment thesis. I am leading a software purchase project in order to get better reporting out. I'm working with a BI architect to create a DataMart. I'm also leading kaizen events to create a sales and operations forecasting process that ties into our demand forecast. In addition to all this, I submit a monthly forecast to the parent company for each of our P&Ls. I also publish an internal letter with FP&A analytics like price, volume, mix, cost productivity, inflation, variance analysis etc. and basically tell the story of our performance, with any relevant risks or opportunities to our last forecast, prior year, and plan. We have sold one of our businesses since I've been here and are looking to buy another, so there's some M&A involved as well. I'm more of a need to know basis though. I'm currently restating our income statement, BS, etc. to match our parent company mapping, requiring a lot of SQL coding to do myself.

I like a challenge and love that I am able to juggle different hats here. I just am doubting if this is what I want to continue doing, especially with the lack of mentioned opportunities. I am tired of being the top performer, getting no title and marginally better increase in pay than my peers (not much of a wage increase btw top, mediocre and poor performers). I feel like I keep padding my boss' resumes. In previous roles, my last 3 bosses that I've worked for have gotten promoted around 6 months of my hire date... and somehow I find myself in the same role over a year later, with a lot of pats on my back and an expanded role. To be fair, I don't think I am financial leadership material either. LOL I'm just trying to find a place where I fit. I do interview rather terribly since I don't find much pride in my "accomplishments". I'm very self critical, which is likely why I'm a high performer. But I it doesn't translate well when I need to pretend I actually take pride in what I've done. I'll have to do a lot of work to create a selling pitch if I want to exit out of an analytical role. And perhaps I'm out of line here... I kind of expect to blow things out of the park, work about double the hours of my peers, and land a promotion within 2 years. Maybe my expectations are too high? Is it really such a jump from FP&A analyst to FP&A manager? I have a few peers with less experience under their belts as FP&A managers, and one with exact same experience as a Senior FP&A manager at the F10 company that I left. Granted maybe they possess some soft quality that I don't, luck, or just an available vacancy? I think I'll reach out to my most successful peer to pick his brain.

I am good with systems (can pick up coding fairly quickly, need no systems training on something new, excel expert, etc). I love public speaking/presentations (despite getting anxiety during it... it's just a thrill). I love creating visuals to represent data (like waterfall charts, etc). I love creating forecasts and drilling down to investigate performance. When I cut everything down to what FP&A does, I mean I love every bit of it, but I'm not sure where this road takes me. I don't see a promotion within the department happening any time soon. I am very analytical, but I would love to be more than an analyst at some point. I do hate that the CFO loves to take my work, and exclude me from meetings and present it himself. I'm used to presenting my own stuff with the leadership team... He also doesn't copy me on my own reports that he distributes. I guess I feel like I'm doing the grunt work, without the best parts of the role. He goes as far as to exclude me from operational meetings that impact company performance, so I have to get the updates from him. I'm used to always being in the room with key decision makers, in more of a supporting role. Maybe I've been coddled by the leadership teams too much in my past and expect "non-standard" treatment. I mean you would think FP&A should be able to sit in on a sales forecasting call... How else am I supposed to understand our revenue? Is this not standard practice everywhere?

What has your career path in FP&A looked like? And if you exit, what would your reasons be?

Sorry I'm running on 3 hours of sleep and ranted quite a bit... I had a tenant problem to deal with last night.

Mar 25, 2019

Based on what I just read, I think you have a great set of skills (knowledge, work ethics, etc.) that are transferable to different roles. If you like FP&A, I think it's best to stay in FP&A roles...sometimes grass is not always greener on the other side. I've met many people in similar situations like you (frustrated with lack of growth opportunity and recognition) and it's very common in corporate environment. So, I want to give you my honest analysis...hope you don't get offended.

My biggest fear has always been the lack of career progression. So, when I started my first job out of college, I tried to learn about the ways of moving up. Along the way, I read about how Asian Americans struggle to move up in corporate ladder although they work hard and are qualified to get promoted. There are many reasons...but one main reason was...because of the cultural views, they believe that working hard is enough to earn the promotion and they don't express their desire to get promoted. Therefore, management thinks that he/she is happy with the role and the promotions go to those who express their desire (loudly and frequently). As an Asian American myself, I try to avoid that situation and it has benefitted me so far. I've also seen similar situations with my female colleagues at work. Women tend to be less aggressive about pushing for promotions (especially when they work for a male manager). So, here're some questions for you to think about. First, what is it that you want? Is it more money? (you mentioned the marginally better pay raise than peers) Is it promotion? Or is it both? (don't assume that promotion = pay raise). Secondly, if you know what you want, then have you expressed that to your leadership/bosses? And how often?

From my own personal experience, I've probably asked for more promotion opportunities and raises than anyone else in my department. And, I've got a lot of "No" and "Yes"...but guess what? I've got more "Yes" than anybody else also. A mentor used to tell me that "Asking doesn't hurt...worst thing they can do is say No". I also consider this a soft skill. You have to know who, what, when, where, how to ask for a raise/promotion. If you ask at the wrong place and wrong time, your chance of getting what you want is slim.

You are what I'd call a great do'er. I'm sure you already know this...management loves great do'ers because they make life easy for the executives. Sometimes, those great do'ers get trapped by the management...so don't get trapped. It also sounds like your department is a great stepping stone for the CFOs who want bigger and better roles. Most CFOs are ambitious and that's how they get there...yes, they'll take your work and make themselves look good at meetings...and yes, they'll communicate with you on need-to-know basis. So the best thing is to ignore what they do/don't do and just focus on yourself. Not all CFOs are like that but it's rare to find the ones that care about you and your career.

Your expectations are not high. You deserve to be a manager/director level. You have the tangibles but you'll have to develop the soft skills to get there. It's tough to transition from being a great do'er to a great leader...but it's doable. Whether you decide to stay at your current place or not, it'll be valuable for your career. So, try to work on the soft skills that you are not good at. Start with the interview skills. Self-critical is good...just don't bring it to the interview. Be proud of your accomplishments and practice telling those success stories If I were to hire someone for a manager role, I will want someone who comes into the interview with a lot of confidence in their abilities and what they've done. Yes, it's like a sales pitch so if you know someone in sales, learn from them. I personally interview with companies from time to time with no intention of taking the job...just to refresh my interview skills.

The last thing is to know your work environment. It's always good to be aware of who does what and who goes where. That way, you can learn from them to get where you want. Even if you do everything that you are supposed to...there's nothing you can do if the opportunity is not there. It's like gambling...learn when to bet and when to quit.

To summarize, I don't think you'll have an issue finding an exit opportunity. But I'm afraid that you'll feel the same way in the new role. So, start with the list of what you want and ask your bosses. They'll tell you something for sure. Based on their answer, you'll have to decide whether you should stay or go.

My career path has been...FP&A Analyst->FP&A Sr. Analyst->Audit Sr. Mgr->FP&A Project Mgr->FP&A Sr. Mgr->FP&A Director. I'm 30 and I just finished my 2nd year in director role. I want to be a CFO one day so if I don't see the clear path here, I'll exit. When I joined audit (3rd job), I realized that it was a position with no clear path and no room for growth, so I took a step down to get back on the clear path.

Mar 22, 2019

If youve got a new boss and theres no rapport I would jump ship too. I was about to jump at my current employer because my immediate supervisor is a difficult personality, but they hired a new VP over our area who Ive got an awesome rapport with so Im going to see where it goes for a little.

There are a ton of FP&A roles, so I would try for a manager role unless you are super technical and think you can bring value in technocal consulting.

Mar 22, 2019

Is it hard to break into a manager role with no direct managerial experience? And if I stay in FP&A, become a manager. What's the next step? CFO? Or, another exit opp?

I don't think that I'm the standard CFO material, but I also don't want to pigeonhole myself into some niche career. Being fairly young, it's too early to do that! Unless of course, there's a high earning potential where if i work hard it translates into something more than a 2% salary increase higher than my peers.

I too had some thoughts like what if this new FP&A manager/director they hire is awesome and will champion me? My new CFO is totally the type that will never let me shine... And from experience, great performance rarely translates into a promotion in the department. Somehow my boss' receive that lol

Mar 22, 2019

It depends on the company Im sure. In my company its hard to make manager period. There are some SFAs that have been here for a long time, but frankly they arent rock stars.

I would say having previous managerial experience is probably the least important characteristic and just a "nice to have". If you are technologically competent, have good social skills and have solid finance experience to point to I think youre better equipped than most managers. Most of the managers or above in my organization have pretty poor social skills and are strong technical/finance types since that is what is valued at this particular org. Managerial/social skill weaknesses are what hold them back from making VP probably.

Mar 25, 2019

I have had a few recruiters reach out to me (currently an Analyst) for manager roles, so i think it is possible and more about the skills you bring to the table vs direct title progression.

Apr 17, 2019

A great exit op would be a manager of investor relations or senior investor relations analyst! They really like FP&A professionals as we are involved heavily in financial modeling and create board packages, know the financials inside and out + can develop a strategy and know the drivers of the business and what investors want to see or would to know.

Jan 10, 2020

I've seen finance people move into the following roles at CPG companies: category management, consumer insights, sales, brand management (after doing PT mba), customer marketing. Bottom line, there's rarely a hiring manager who isn't looking for someone who is smart with an analytical background -- anyone can be taught the role, it's not rocket science. You just need to think about what you're most interested in then network internally to craft a plan for how you can make the move. Offer to pick up small projects or help on a team with certain tasks to get your feet wet, prove yourself, and it may be easier than you think to make the switch between functions. You'll likely need to lateral, or even move down a title, but if it's what you really want to do long-term it shouldn't matter all that much. Be sure to be transparent with your boss.

Jan 24, 2020
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