Category: Financial Services & Banking

Finance and accounting leaders: A strategic force

by Jim EtlingRyan Morgan and Sydney Olszewski

Take a look at the world’s best organizations and you’ll find they have at least one thing in common: a world-class finance and accounting team. So why have leaders in this function historically been viewed as overhead? To those on the outside looking in, these individuals are just at their desks hunched over the books, budgeting, forecasting and staying distanced from organization-wide decision making. Finance and accounting is much more than that.

Take a minute to reflect on your company. Has growth been significant and consistent? Are your employees confident they’ll be paid on time? You have your finance and accounting team to thank for that.

As we continue to work with top finance and accounting talent across a variety of industries, we’ve noticed these individuals consistently embody a strategic force in their organizations. Here’s why:

  • Finance and accounting leaders can drive your organization’s most ambitious goals.
    • The myth: Finance and accounting leaders often shoot down ideas for innovative products, services or growth; they lack creativity.
    • The truth: Coming to this department for consultation is often the first step to getting projects off the ground, because they can back up new, transformative ideas with the important facts and data that keep an organization on a path to growth, instead of slipping in the other direction.
  • Finance and accounting professionals don’t always come from a traditional background.
    • The myth: Finance and accounting leaders all follow a similar career path, starting and finishing in the world of finance.
    • The truth: In today’s world, we’re seeing finance and accounting leaders come from unconventional backgrounds. Consultants and investment bankers are often transitioning into these roles, bringing with them the unique ability to provide data-backed strategic thinking. They hold a business-first mindset, which is a leading factor in their success.
  • Individuals outside the function want finance and accounting leaders to be recognized as the strategic force they are.
    • The myth: An organization’s leadership team can see the value their finance and accounting team brings to the table, but they’re fine with them being in the “back office.”
    • The truth: We’ve seen first-hand that executives want to change the way finance is viewed in their organization. They want it to be seen as a value-add function that creates business partnerships while aligning financial strategy to overall company strategy. In fact, the talent profile we’re being asked to find now versus three years ago has significantly shifted. Companies want to get creative with where their finance and accounting leaders come from.

The finance and accounting function is essential to any successful organization. It’s no longer just scorekeeping; it consists of strategic, consultative professionals who are critical to the success and growth of an organization.


Get in touch with Charles Aris Inc., the InterSearch Worldwide member firm in the USA with offices in Washington DC and Greensboro NC.

Matching top FP&A talent with organizational needs

One senior leader at a global private equity firm once admitted to us that the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) in its portfolio companies was a disaster. He went on to explain that he and his firm-level colleagues were frequently swooping in to patch things up before eventually seeing the same problems crop up a month later.

 Who can blame him? Finding the right talent is incredibly challenging, given the fast-paced marketplace and often-inadequate systems which do not fully enable the necessary extraction of information for FP&A professionals to properly perform the functions of their roles.

 Meeting your team’s FP&A needs is one of the most difficult yet important responsibilities in every organization. Even more challenging? There is no template on how exactly to address those needs. Variables include the size of the business; where the business exists in its life cycle; the types of products produced and / or services offered (B2B vs. B2C); and the general needs of the organization.

Understandably, those general needs have evolved over the years as companies sometimes struggle to keep up. To help, we have identified three types of FP&A pros:


This is how FP&A has always been considered, but don’t mistake “traditional” for outdated. Many companies still need a CPA who comes from the Big Four Public Accounting Firms (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC) and has a structured accounting background. This professional is needed to create spreadsheets and run macros to produce trend analysis, variance analysis and price-volume mix analysis. They essentially plan, monitor and report on revenue and expenses.

None of this seems cutting edge, but adequately satisfying those needs will result in meeting FP&A requirements in many companies. Businesses which are more mature and don’t have that “hockey-stick growth” don’t need a complex FP&A skill set, so a more traditional solution may be the most appropriate.


This is where most Charles Aris clients are today. Modern FP&A leaders not only have an accounting background (CPA) but a well-rounded business view (MBA) as well. They leverage more analytics and business intelligence technologies to provide quantitative / analytical support to decision-making. The modern approach takes the collective view of what needs to be done from a planning and analysis standpoint at the corporate level and incorporates each of the different business units.

Cutting edge

This individual has all the skill sets mentioned above and then some. In addition to being a CPA and MBA, the ideal professional is a computer and data scientist who leverages technology to create real-time analytics and dashboards and provides integrated and collaborative planning that spans the entire organization.


Finding the perfect FP&A candidate differs depending on the needs of each client organization. As the aforementioned private equity executive shared with us, matching the proper pool of talent with the right organization is a difficult task, but it can be done with expertise and experience behind the wheel.


by Ryan Morgan and David Portney

Charles Aris Inc.


charles aris, Executive Search, InterSearch, Top Talent

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