I'm thinking about pursuing a career in corporate FP&A and I was wondering what senior positions FP&A may lead to at the company. People on WSO like to shit on this stuff because it's not as high-profile and more vanilla than i-banking/consulting, but for those that are good and successfully able to navigate the corporate ladder, what senior positions can FP&A analysts eventually hold?
Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) Jobs and Salaries
While there is not as much talk about FP&A roles on this site, it can be a very desirable career path. Our users share great details about the career trajectory and the payscale below. Our users also shared that FP&A can lead to CFO level positions if you have a background in accounting as well.
User @Dr Joe" shared a detailed post on the subject:
I started in corporate FP&A (F100, financial sector) about a year ago. In my experience, these jobs have growth prospects, but it takes a very long time to progress. For example, I think typical path might be:
(title - min salary, max salary, bonus, average time for top 10% of performers to progress to next step, average time for the next 40% to progress, standard deviation of time to progress (using analyst to sr analyst as baseline))
(note that remaining 50% do not progress at each stage - this is important, think about it - lots of sr analysts with 20 years of service)
Analyst - 50, 63, 5-10, 2, 4, baseline standard deviation (BSD)
Sr Analyst - 65, 75, 7-12, 2, 5, 1.5 BSD
Manager - 75, 90, 10-20, 2, 4, 1 BSD
Director - 85, 120, 10-30, 2, 8, 2 BSD (lots of people get stuck here)
AVP - 130, 200, 40-80, 2, 5, 1 BSD (if you got here, you are probably thought to have leadership potential by upper management)
VP - 200, 400, would guess 60-200 for bonus, don't know the rest.
Note that the above is for FP&A. I myself got promoted to corporate strategy 6 months in, where the growth is significantly better - it is basically assumed you are in that top 10% by virtue of being there, but of course you have to produce, and hours get worse too.
You have to stand out to move on from FP&A - the surest way of doing this is simply working 60+ hours a week. People will look at you like you are crazy if you do this, but make sure you are generating good work. Never say no to a project, no matter how simple or boring or bitch-work-ish or how busy you are. Ask people for projects, and if you don't get any, make up projects for yourself. "Wouldn't it be nice if ___" and go and make the ___, or study the _____ and write up a report and send it out to those who could benefit. If you want to get into strategy, think strategically and come up with things to study on your own, and hope that someone notices and/or uses your work. If working 60hrs and your job takes 40, you should have plenty of time to do this.
I should add that in order to be in the top 10% (and follow track described above) you would likely need to be doing most of the things mentioned above.
Becoming a CFO after FP&A
Past the professional point described by User @Dr Joe", is the CFO level position. However, it is not easy to just become a CFO. User @fpna" shared their experience in FP&A and how they'd approach their career differently a second time.
I am 10 years into FP&A and at the director level. I have an MBA but no CPA (working on it now). Not having a CPA is definitely holding me back from moving on b/c you see more positions for VP of Finance than VP of FP&A. VP of Finance positions want you to manage FP&A and all of the accounting, tax, treasury, internal audit, etc, functions. Without a CPA or big 4 experience will definitely hold you back from the CFO spot. Pre-Enron and SOX days, FP&A was probably a pretty good route to CFO. You work with all the senior leaders and get a good grasp on all aspects of your business.
If I could do over, I'd get my CPA and work in public accounting for a few years and then go back for an MBA. And then jump to corporate FP&A with CFO as the end goal. However, FP&A can drive you crazy. Endless board slides, variance analysis, months of budget season, and so on. I cringe now when I read an FP&A job posting. You definitely have to make the time investment in moving up the corporate ladder. Any sort of top-10 MBA, consulting background, etc might move you up faster initially and then things will even out.
User @_bird_" went on to explain some misconceptions that exist about becoming a CFO:
I think there are misconceptions about what CFOs actually do. It will obviously vary from company to company, but in my experience, CFOs are spending equal, if not more time on tasks related to accounting, financial reporting, internal controls, audit, SEC reporting, etc, etc, than they are on strategy, financing considerations, cash management, and review/analysis. Basically, most CFOs are simply the top accountant in the organization. This might not have been true in the past, but since SOX, it is pretty much a sure thing that the CFO will be a CPA. but as is the case with everything, there are exceptions to the norm.
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