Which skills are crucial for FP&A professionals? What distinguishes exceptional FP&A analysts from their counterparts? The worth of a proficient FP&A expert lies in their capacity to offer insightful perspectives, establish connections between departments, and challenge established norms, if necessary.
The position demands more than mere numerical proficiency or familiarity with Excel or Google Sheets. It entails improving cooperation, furnishing everyone in an organization with relevant context to attain success, and guiding data-informed judgments.
Achieving these objectives necessitates exceptional communication skills, proactive initiative, comprehensive vision, and additional aptitudes.
Four Essential Soft Skills for FP&A Professionals
This article explores the critical soft skills that every FP&A professional must possess to excel in their role.
1) Strategic Thinking
To maximize their worth to their company, FP&A professionals should strive for strategic thinking that considers the objectives of every department beyond finance. Their job is not just presenting numbers and analyzing historical data, but identifying issues, opportunities, and blockers for a company’s growth.
As Kate Bueker, CFO of, Hubspot says: “Your job isn’t actually calculating a number anymore. The job is about figuring out what numbers are really important. What are they saying about the business?”
While drilling deeper is still important, being too occupied with details can hinder seeing the bigger picture. FP&A professionals should not spend most of their time manually copying data or on repetitive tasks that can be automated. Strategic thinking must also translate into business skills, including the ability to think about problems from a business perspective, their impact, and potential solutions.
The art of storytelling is a crucial ability for FP&A professionals, yet it is an incredibly challenging skill to perfect. A skilled storyteller has the ability to modify their story according to the audience they are addressing. When presenting their findings to the CFO, an FP&A specialist should utilize a technical approach, providing detailed financial analysis to support their argument.
Moreover, they must be capable of simplifying their message when communicating with junior members of the team. In this case, they must act as teachers, elucidating the reason for a particular occurrence and the resulting consequences.
Lastly, an excellent FP&A storyteller must be able to adjust their narrative for non-finance personnel. Although a CEO may not be interested in every detail, they will anticipate a recommendation on the most suitable course of action. Therefore, it is best to avoid using acronyms, abbreviations, or terminology that is only understood by finance professionals. Non-finance executives expect FP&A specialists to be brief and equip them with essential data to make informed decisions.
These requirements make mastering storytelling an arduous task. It necessitates the ability to communicate issues at various levels and persuade the audience effectively.
FP&A professionals prioritize solving problems rather than stopping at the first hurdle and failing to understand underlying issues. While finance departments are often criticized for identifying problems but not offering solutions, excellent FP&A professionals proactively suggest solutions and persevere until they find the necessary answers.
They are not afraid to delve deeper or ask challenging questions when needed because they recognize that their job is to recommend spending cuts and identify growth prospects, requiring them to have all the available information. At this stage, creative problem-solving skills are critical. Every FP&A specialist should be accustomed to thinking beyond the norm, whether it entails seeing the bigger picture, approaching the situation from a non-financial perspective, or pinpointing connections between factors that have gone unnoticed.
Being objective is a prerequisite for every FP&A professional, less of a soft skill, and more of a requirement for staying unbiased and data-driven.
FP&A leaders should always search for the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it gets, flag issues ahead of time, and proactively search for solutions rather than allocating blame. Their solutions should address underlying causes rather than fixing symptoms.
FP&A professionals must avoid workplace politics and use data to back up their recommendations.