Job of the month: Finance business partner

Matt Rouse, associate director at recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, explains more about this key business-affecting position

Finance business partner roles are very popular because they are primarily concerned with driving a business forward. It’s an exciting position because you are involved in key decision-making and consequently have a real impact on the company.

In this role, you are normally based within a division of a large organisation and are looking at ways to drive revenue. You are involved in new initiatives,
investment appraisals, investigate the feasibility of new revenue streams and generally offer financial support to commercial decision-makers.

Specifically, you may be required to provide commercial support and analysis around new products and services. Most of your work will be project-based, looking at specific client pitches and business strategies.

Where these roles exist in smaller companies, people may work closely with the CEO/director. A job I recruited for recently involved assisting these very senior stakeholders with the formulation of business strategic and operational plans and investigating new revenue streams.

Although the role is quite project-based as you move from looking at one business initiative to the next, there will always be an element of reporting involved because it is a commercial role.

The extent and exact nature of this depends on the size of the organisation and the type of role. But any reporting will still not be as frequent and routine as it would be for, say, a financial analyst.

If you’re thinking about moving your career in this direction, it’s a good idea to get involved with additional projects wherever possible in your current role.

All the time you should be thinking, “How is what I’m doing adding value to my CV?”. Your CV should then outline exactly how you’ve affected your business.

Because the role is so popular, competition is tough. It was really hard to secure one of these positions during the recession when companies focused on cost-cutting rather than forward-thinking business initiatives.

But, encouragingly, we have seen more finance business partner roles come to the market in the past six months or so, particularly in big FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies looking to grow.

CIMA-qualified accountants are at an advantage because they have trained in industry and generally have experience of working very closely with a specific business unit. This provides them with an
understanding of how businesses make key decisions on a local level, which is something employers look for when recruiting for this role.

Although newly qualified accountants are considered, if you have two to three years’ post-qualified experience as a management accountant or finance manager, you are an ideal candidate. Finance analysts and business analysts are also well suited to it.

To be successful in securing a finance business partner position, you will need to have the ability to communicate with and explain financial concepts to non-finance people, influence key decision-makers and to think long term. If you can demonstrate experience of all this on your CV, you’re well placed to secure one of these roles.

Given they work very close to the business, finance business partners have great prospects for the future. A divisional finance director role is a natural next step, and beyond that there’s nothing to stop you becoming group finance director in time. It’s not unheard of for these people to ultimately then move into a managing director role, as they work very closely on a day-to-day basis with each other.

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