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Are Finance Business Partners only for big companies?

By Andy Burrows

There is a common frustration among Finance Business Partners.

Many of them almost feel as if they have been mis-sold the role.

They were promised that they’d be close to the business, as writers like me keep saying we must be in Finance. They were promised involvement in important discussions and strategic decisions. They were promised freedom from mundane number crunching.

And yet one of the biggest complaints from Finance Business Partners is that they still seem to spend too much time compiling reports, checking numbers, drilling down, building forecasts, and writing commentaries. And they hardly have any time left to spend with the non-finance colleagues they’re supposed to be partnering with.

And, to be clear, I’m talking about the way that Finance Business Partners feel about their jobs, not the way that others may criticise them.

So, for instance, this is a question that was sent to me during a recent Finance careers event:

“I am...

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Finance isn't just a cost centre... but how do you convince management?

By Andy Burrows

One thing I’ve realised recently is that, in the minds of Finance professionals, the questions over the place and value of the Finance function are closely linked with questions about their careers.

I don’t know why it suddenly dawned on me. It’s kind of obvious when I think about it!

Perhaps it’s just that when I asked a little while ago what questions people had about Finance careers, I didn’t expect to get questions like this one:

“How can you convince top management that the Finance department is not just a cost centre, but way more?”

There were other questions similar to that, but I’ll write about those perhaps in other articles.

Being merely a cost is a career dead-end

Clearly, if we are just seen as costs in the business, then that’s a bit of a dead-end in terms of careers.

The thing any business wants to do with costs is to reduce them. So, if Finance is just a cost, then the only thing you’d want to...

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When to move to a new company or sector in your Finance career

career finance skills Jun 26, 2020

By Andy Burrows

When you’re progressing through your career in Finance, outside of public practice, should you stick to one company, or even one industry sector? Or should you move around? Does it matter?

It’s a question I’ve come across a lot. At a recent Finance Career Growth Masterclass, run by Supercharged Finance, it was one of the most common questions people had.

And the answer is not straightforward. I almost always end up saying, “well, yes and no,” at some point!

Yes, it does matter from one point of view. But it doesn’t from another.

Yes, you should move around in some circumstances. But it’s good to stay put at other times.

And, actually, I think it’s good to have the humility to acknowledge that these choices are not always fully within our control. The important thing is to have an intentional way of looking at it. But I would recommend trying not to get stressed over it if it doesn’t work out exactly the way you...

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'Qualified by experience' is not enough for a Finance leadership career

By Andy Burrows

When people ask me about careers in Finance, one of the questions that comes up regularly is whether you have to be a qualified accountant to get a good Finance role.

So, I thought I’d share the advice I normally give.

Of course, these are my own personal opinions based on over 25 years in the Finance and Accounting profession, having been on both sides of the recruitment equation many times.

I’d love to hear your own perspective, so please comment wherever there is opportunity.

Every country is different

And I’d better start with a caveat up front.

I’m based in the UK, and therefore my experience is mainly drawn from the UK, where there are three main accounting professional bodies – the ICAEW, ACCA and CIMA. The most common route into Finance and Accounting here starts with passing exams set by one of those three bodies. When you pass them all, you are ‘qualified’ and you are allowed to use letters after your name...

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How to get into a strategic role in Finance

accountant career cfo finance Jun 12, 2020

By Andy Burrows

When I ran our Finance Career Growth Masterclass a little while ago, I asked people to send me their Finance career questions. I then did my best to answer those from my experience.

And there were some great questions, and some common themes came out.

So, I thought it would be good to share those with you, along with my thoughts in answering them. So, this is the first in a little series looking at various career questions relating to Finance.

The first one I want to talk about is how to get into a more strategic role in Finance.

But first, I just want to quickly make a brief point.

My answers to the questions are my own personal opinions based on more than 25 years of experience in the Finance and Accounting profession, in many different roles, in businesses of varying size, complexity, sector and geographical diversity.

You may think I’m wrong. You may even think my advice is way off. If so, I want to hear your perspective. Wherever I refer to this article in...

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To be a happy and effective CFO, take care of yourself!

By Andy Burrows

Probably the most important thing to recognise as you develop in your career (and in your life) is that continued progress takes continued effort.

It’s not one-dimensional, either. Many people think – and I’m applying this to Finance people, but it can equally apply to anyone – that continued development is just a case of learning more stuff. We learn accounting, pass accounting exams, and then we progress in our careers by learning more stuff about accounting. Wrong!

Or, worse, we believe that once we’ve got the qualification then it’s just a case of accumulating years and automatically going on up the ladder. Nope! It doesn’t happen like that!

No, to be “the best version of you” you need to attend to four dimensions. And I’ll come on to those in a minute.

And the other element that is important in personal and career development is intentionality. Making effort, even if balanced in the four dimensions,...

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Synergies are not cost savings for the best CFOs

By Andy Burrows

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in public practice in England in 1995, I went to manage a Finance department of 16 people in one of the smaller divisions of a big bank.

It was my first experience of management, which was one of the reasons I took the job. I wanted to learn new skills.

Fortunately for me, at that time the bank was revamping its performance management processes and putting everyone from team leaders to senior executives through new management and leadership training.

And that made me reflect quite deeply on what it meant to manage people and lead teams right from the start of my management career.

One of things I quickly realised was that managers and leaders shouldn’t see themselves as delivering personally. It’s the team that delivers together, not the manager alone.

What that meant for me was that, whilst I had my own individual responsibilities, those responsibilities were secondary to ensuring the required output of my team....

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Everyone's a winner with good Finance business partnering

By Andy Burrows

We’re accustomed, I think, to talking about a “Win/Win situation” as some scenario where everyone involved in a deal ends up happy with what they got out of it.

I haven’t got time to justify (and shouldn’t need to anyway) why “Win/Win” is the best outcome to aim for in any relational situation.

But one thing is certain. You don’t get Win/Win situations without having a Win/Win mindset.

And when we think of what Finance business partners, CFOs and Finance leaders should be aiming at, it must involve situations where everyone ends as a winner, certainly where the business is concerned.

For instance, as an example scenario, sales managers might feel they have gained some great insight from Finance that will enable them to convert more leads, whilst in the same interaction the Finance manager feels they’ve got sales managers to better manage risk.

These are the kind of interactions we in Finance want with our...

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Great CFOs listen without prejudice

By Andy Burrows

Communication skills, from lots of viewpoints, are not only something that CFOs benefit from. They’re skills for life, and skills for leadership.

That’s the same with any of the “personal effectiveness” skills I’ve written about in my previous few articles. I’ve directed them towards Finance business partners and CFOs, because those are the people who I hang around with most, professionally.

But, in reality, when we talk about “gravitas” or “maturity”, or even “credibility” or “presence” – i.e. the kinds of things that make people listen to you and take you seriously as an adult, rather than a young upstart, all seem to come back to some version of the few things I’m describing as “personal effectiveness”.

So, let’s have a think about communication skills.

Four types of communication

And let’s narrow it down further. There are four types of...

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Relationship building skills for Finance business partnering

By Andy Burrows

Today, I want to talk about relationship-building skills as a Finance business partner. And I want you to come away with tangible ideas as to how you can improve the way you build relationships.

If you’ve followed this loose series from the beginning, where I pointed out that Finance business partner is the new best route to a CFO role, you’ll know that I mapped out the three skills areas that are common throughout the continuum from Finance business partner to CFO.

And what I’ve done then is to focus in on one really important area of behavioural skills that I believe is the key to all the rest – “personal effectiveness”. And I’ve spent the last three articles expanding on the foundations.

And you may have found it quite weird that I started with skills that are very much individual personal skills. I mean, Finance business partnering is fundamentally all about dealing with other people. And so, you might expect that...

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