Finance manager roles are always popular with both business analysts and management accountants looking to take a step up in their careers and have more of a direct impact on a business.
Nick Louca, Accounting & Finance Manager at Robert Walters, New York, discusses the skill set necessary to secure a position as a finance manager and what to expect once in the role.
Commercial acumen is essential. You need to act as business partner and have the capability to work very closely alongside the business to develop the business strategy by, for example, checking on the validity of business proposals. However the finance element still goes hand in hand with the commercial and as a finance manager you can expect to continue to work on month end, P&L and balance sheet reconciliation.
As well as having strong technical skills, people skills are also key - you need to be a strong communicator to take responsibility for managing a team, and have the ability to build strong working relationships. You also need to be assertive and have the strength to push back to the business when required. Most finance managers will spend the first week of the month on month-end accounts, with the rest of the time spent on analysis, variance analysis and reviewing figures from management accountants. However, being able to present this information to management is probably the most important aspect of the role.
The finance manager role tends to vary according to the size and type of business. In larger businesses, finance managers are normally responsible for one segment or product line, which is perfect for anyone looking for a move into their first management role. In smaller businesses, finance managers can expect to be much closer to the board in a more hands-on role. If you work in a large FMCG business you can expect to be undertaking weekly analysis rather than monthly or quarterly reporting.
To be successful when applying for a finance manager position, you will need to demonstrate natural progression throughout your career, prove you have experience developing business strategies and mentoring more junior colleagues. You will also need a solid CV. Employers generally look for stability, favoring professionals who have not changed jobs too frequently throughout their career. This generally means that the ideal candidate tends to have two to four years post-qualified experience, or one to three years if they have been working in a FTSE company. Crucially, businesses look for more than just an analyst; they want someone who can act on business performance. Strong MS Excel and Cognos Modelling skills are also a big plus.
In terms of career progression, many finance managers progress to a financial controller role - and subsequently a senior financial controller - before becoming finance director.
Looking to make the next move in your finance career? Find out more about it takes to become a controller.