How important is the CPA designation for roles in FP&A at a F500? Currently staffed at a major retail client (think Gap/Levi's/Abercrombie) and am truly interested in working in FP&A. I feel that the FP&A track is well designed to one day position me for C-Level roles at a F500. Obviously my head is in the skys, but the Consulting --> Senior Financial Analyst --> FP&A Analyst --> FP&A Associate --> MBA? --> VP FP&A/Corp Controller? --> Director of FP&A/CFO seems feasible. I like the nature of the work, and from what I've gathered in my limited work experience, it seems as if most people start families and don't put in effort outside of the 9-5 grind once you hit a certain peak.
But on to my original question, how important is the CP&A designation for these types of roles?
Do I Need a CPA to Be in FP & A?
In FP&A roles, our users shared that having an accounting background and / or a CPA is very useful and, in some cases, required. However, some users shared that you can move up the ranks without a CPA degree; however, it is easier to advance with that certification.
I just started this role and can tell you that everyone in my immediate group has an accounting/CPA background. I am the ONLY person that was a finance major.
With that said, one CPA in my group was telling me how she thought getting the CPA was a waste of time since it does not help any in this role. We basically see how much money our trade group made and how much money they lost, where did the margins come from and are these margins sustainable with current market trends...it's really not rocket science but you definitely need to know accounting at the basic level.
I would say if you know someone within a company or if you know a headhunter well and can get him/her to vouch for you for an F&PA position then that's good but otherwise I don't think it's worth it to go for your CPA just to land an F&PA gig. Many of our top level executives don't have CPA's. If you really want to do F&PA at a major company, I would apply for a finance position within that company then eventually move into the F&PA position after a year or so.
I think that you will find that the majority of people working in FP&A have a Big 4 backround and thus have a CPA. I currently work at a Big 4 firm in a major market (audit), so obviously I interact with a lot of FP&A groups. All the public companies I have worked on have had FP&A groups backed with ex-big4. One of the main jobs of people in FP&A is to provide the auditors with all the needed data and to be able to explain their internal accounting - obviously big4 experience helps in that regard.
That being said, I have heard of people joining that group w/o prior audit experience.
User @808 shared that a CPA is a must have to move up in the industry:
You need the CPA. Yes, it is very possible to move up without it, but why would you want to handicap yourself like that? There is still a path to the top given your goals, but it's a relatively narrow path. If you have the CPA, you have a lot more breathing room to lateral. You don't know what future opportunities will come up, so the CPA is a good bet.
Another factor to consider is that headhunters love the CPA. It signals to them that they can make money on you, so they are much more likely to put in extra effort to get you into the F500 FP&A jobs you want.
For a great role at a well-known company, the CPA is basically a must. Also, you will find that most fp&a roles are accounting focused or involve the consolidation of financials and then some variance analysis. Nothing wrong with those positions, but if you want a more interesting and dynamic fp&a role that auditors/big 4 accountants typically wouldn't be considered for, then you need to make sure that your resume makes you look like the best of the best in your field, and that means having the CPA.
Check out another thread on FP&A and the need for an accounting background on WSO.
What is FP&A?
Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) is the process of collecting and analyzing data on the company's long term financial plan and strategy.
You can check out a video about being an FP&A professional below.
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