How to transition from Accountancy to Financial Planning & Analysis

By Rachel Poon – Consultant, Finance & Accountancy Recruitment, Links International Hong Kong

As a recruiter in Hong Kong specialising in the Finance & Accountancy field, one of the most frequently heard comments from Accountants is their desire to move into a Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) role. So, I went out there and spoke to hiring managers about this trend.

I spoke with senior management professionals specialising in FP&A and Business Planning across various industries, including telecommunications, media, and FMCG. They shared some insights on what they look for in candidates and ways to transition into more of a specialist role in financial analysis.

All of the senior professionals I spoke with told me that having ‘business sense’ is the number one factor in considering an FP&A candidate. While Excel and analysis skills are crucial – a given, actually – they shared that they are usually unable to consider candidates who have an apparent lack of business acumen and interest in the market, despite their analytical skills.

One of the Senior Managers mentioned that he looks for candidates who are able to think outside the box, and those who show they are genuinely curious about the industry and market they are in, or seeking to be a part of. As interviewers, we both agree that this becomes very obvious through general discussion during an interview and there’s no way around it – you have to be prepared!

Another senior professional mentioned that FP&A is an ever-changing field, simply because of the shifting market, trends and new tools that are available for analysts. On the other hand, many organisations are going through transformations, hence it is important for Financial Analysts to adapt and always be learning. If you are aspiring to become a specialist in the FP&A field, be ready to be a part of project teams and to keep expanding your skills and broaden your horizon. Employers are looking for those who have demonstrated resilience and commitment, especially since this is a dynamic field.

Transitioning into the Field

So how do you become a Financial Analyst with your experience more focused on Accounting? While it can be challenging, here are some steps you can consider:

  • Brush up on your Excel and analysis skills.
  • Be interested in business and the market you’re in! If you are serious about taking up a role that drives the business, you are expected to readily possess market knowledge and have opinions of your own. In most interviews for FP&A positions, other than an Excel test, you will also be discussing various aspects of the industry with the hiring manager. They may not be looking for a right or wrong answer, but would like to understand how you arrived at your opinion, and whether you have genuine interest in a commercial role.
  • Leverage your other experiences. The senior professionals I spoke to admitted that, unfortunately, hiring managers in the Hong Kong market do prefer candidates who already possess skills and industry experience for the role that they are applying for. Whilst you may wish to change job functions and industries, you may need to prioritise, broaden your horizon and leverage your industry knowledge to transition into an FP&A role.

What has your experience been like in search of a career or candidate in FP&A? What challenges have you faced, or even what surprises have you found along the way?

If you’re looking to move into Financial Planning & Analysis, or if you are looking for more advice about how we can help you reach that next stage in your career, please do not hesitate to contact us.