As summer comes to an end, a late summer ramp up can be anticipated, especially for Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) talent.
It is often this time of year when the head of Finance or Human Resources starts looking for talent for a critical hire. The talent in demand are individuals with a sharp, analytical mind to crunch large amounts of financial or operational data to uncover key, applicable insights.
One great hire can help an organization identify new opportunities in the marketplace, grow revenue, or identify risk, as well as play an essential role in important budget and forecast work for the coming year.
Financial Analysts can be considered as the underappreciated “difference makers” in an organization, providing the analyses and forecasts that underpin your important business decisions.
Hiring an Effective Financial Analyst
When you are interviewing a Financial Analyst, ask these questions in the following 3 areas to ensure you bring a highly effective Financial Analyst on board:
Functional Expertise and Understanding of the Big Picture
Much more than just an order taker, a top-notch Financial Analyst is a value-add for both the company and the CFO, producing analyses that the CFO and other executives can use to grow and improve the business.
“The number one thing I look for,” states Shawn Edwards, CFO & COO of Metrostudy, a business intelligence and analytics service, “is the ability to crunch numbers without my intervention. Do they understand the greater business objective? Will they follow through?”
Make sure your prospective Analyst thoroughly understands their responsibilities and has the ability to present information effectively by asking the following questions:
- Can you perform important financial analysis with minimal direct supervision?
- Can you scale the information presented based on the needs of each audience?
- Will your work be accurate and reliable, so much so that multi-million-dollar decisions can be based on your forecasts?
As the reports they create will eventually land on the desks of CFO, President, Board Member, and other executives, the Analyst must have a complete grasp on all the actionable items each person is looking for.
Skilled Data Cruncher and Solution-Oriented Approach
Excellent Financial Analysts can bring tremendous value to an organization through their technical knowledge. Be sure to inquire about a candidate’s software and technical analysis skills.
In order to find out if they can do the required number crunching you need them to do, ask the following questions:
- Can they work with large data sets and do very advanced work on Excel?
- Can they think outside of the numbers they see on the screen?
A good Financial Analyst should have the accounting knowledge to be able to dive into the financial statements to better understand the numbers. They need to understand why the transactions have been made, and then use those answers to properly build projections for the company.
The Analyst also needs to have the business acumen to take the “30,000-foot view” of what’s going on. What is the purpose of this particular analysis? How will it ultimately serve the company’s goals?
As Edwards states, “A good Financial Analyst provides solutions, not just questions. They define the issue or problem and then suggest solutions in terms of ‘option 1’ or ‘option 2.’ It’s this type of critical thinking that really adds value to the CFO and the company.”
Business Partner with Communication Skills
How do you take the knowledge and technical skills and put all of it together? The final piece of the puzzle: people and communication skills.
An important question to ask yourself when interviewing is, “Is the Analyst articulate?” Ask questions that address the following:
- Will they have the confidence and conviction that their projections are accurate?
- How will they react when an outside private equity firm gives them three minutes to present their findings – and then grills them on the details, with sometimes millions of dollars on the line?
- Are they self-starters who will be proactive about getting the information they need?
- Do they work well with others?
- Can you count on them to fact check their work against multiple sources, running reports six different ways to ensure their conclusions are sound?
“Ultimately,” explains Edwards, “you’re looking for someone who can be a business partner. If they understand the business and can crunch the numbers, make rock-solid forecasts, provide solutions and communicate it all so that it’s easy to grasp – this is the high-value person you want.”
How Eastridge Can Help
Eastridge’s Finance & Accounting Recruiting Division can deliver you the top talent that you need. We provide access to the best Financial Planning & Analysis talent in the marketplace, specifically for your industry and company culture.
In a market with virtually zero unemployment for a degreed finance professional, we have the insider knowledge on who the best FP&A professionals are and who is willing to move to join a great organization.