What is a Finance Business Partner?
Finance business partners are accountants who work closely with a particular business unit creating a real and active partnership with both operations and management.
Their role is to provide 'real time' support and analysis, to be a trusted adviser and to add value that will assist in decision making.
Critical to their success is an ability to communicate their message, to understand their audience and deliver the information in a clear and user friendly manner.
It is this mix of analytical, commercial and communication skills which are at the heart of successful finance business partnering.
10 traits of effective finance business partners
Finance business partners actively influence day to day decisions, shaping strategy and the direction of the business
They are the interface or ‘translator’ between finance and operations
They are commercially aware, understanding and anticipating the needs of both operations and management
They have strong core business skills including influencing, stakeholder management and presentation skills
Successful finance business partnering is a way of thinking, at the heart of which is problem-solving
They interpret data, order and assess its value and then present the findings to the relevant stakeholders in a clear and concise way
They can draw on ‘big’ and ‘small’ data, selecting the appropriate tools to manipulate, analyse and interpret it in sophisticated, audience-appropriate ways
They must be able to form and stand over their opinions, have a well-developed sense of ethics and be prepared to stand up for these principles
They should be comfortable with risk and working with ambiguity
They learn from the past but are future orientated
"The expectation for finance to add greater value to the business is growing. Successful finance business partners are seen as leaders that can influence the decisions that a business makes to maximise shareholder value and return.”
Alan Flanagan, Deloittes
The role sees finance business partners interpreting the raw data and communicating this clearly especially to colleagues outside the finance function in marketing, sales, production; a role which puts them at the heart of the business. The task is to take the fragments of data, order them, assess their value and then present the findings to the relevant stakeholders in a meaningful way. The opportunity is to become the interface or ‘translator’ between the languages of finance and operations, to tell the story, to paint a compelling picture. Success in this role requires a mix of commercial acumen, analytical skills, and an ability to build relationships, to communicate effectively and to persuade.
People skills are critical. The effective finance business partner is adaptable and can deliver the information in a digestible way to their audience, with clarity and appropriate to specific audiences. This is especially important when the message is one the audience may not wish to hear, for example informing sales that they have overstated their margin. This is when the finance business partner must challenge, coach and motivate. In addition, successful finance business partners must also be able to identify and win over key stakeholders, to build relationships and persuade in order to achieve their objectives.