In a world where businesses are feeling increasingly vulnerable about the commercial and financial risks they’re exposed to, the requirements of finance professionals are rapidly changing. Conventional finance roles used to focus on historical numbers and be reactive, but the industry now demands individuals who can look forward, provide strategic insights and drive performance.
With a more proactive input required, the finance “business partner” has become a buzzword and a sought-after role among finance professionals. What exactly does the position entail and what skills do you need to excel at it?
What is a finance business partner?
Simply put, business partners in finance are accountants who interact closely with other departments within an organisation. You may think this applies to a number of roles in the finance function and to a certain extent you’d be right. There often isn’t a single advertised “business partner” position, though many jobs will have business partnering elements.
Business partners provide real-time support and analysis, are a trusted advisor and add value when it comes to decision-making. The roles are varied and can include anything from improving cost management to identifying new revenue opportunities through trend analysis. Responsibilities typically include:
- Influencing day-to-day decisions and shaping strategy
- Being a ‘translator’ between finance and operations
- Influencing, managing and presenting to stakeholders
- Interpreting data and selecting the appropriate tools to manipulate and analyse it
Business partner skills
A combination of analytical, commercial and communication skills are at the heart of successful finance business partnering. The following skills go a long way:
A major part of your role will involve communicating with a non-finance audience, so you need to be able to do this in a concise, relevant and effective manner. Not everybody thinks numerically so it is important to be able to relay information in the broadest way possible so that audiences remain engaged.
Finance affects every area of a business, which means that you will need to forge strong relationships with everyone in the organisation. Your day-to-day role can include anything from presenting to key stakeholders or demonstrating how your financial data ties into business objectives to the CEO; to working with the sales team on key accounts or helping the marketing department prioritise their advertising spend.
Be able to drive change
In an increasingly fast-paced and changing world, a good finance business partner not only embraces change, they also know how to drive it, continuously looking at ways of improving business processes and therefore productivity.
Implementing change can be difficult from an IT perspective to employee resistance, so the challenge necessitates determination.
As an integral part of the business, you will often be juggling multiple projects at once. From ad-hoc requests and projects to your usual business deliverables, an ability to prioritise is a must.