McKinsey lays out what makes ‘next level’ FP&A teams

Good morning,

“We see that CFOs are being asked to wear multiple hats,” Michele Tam, a senior expert at McKinsey & Company in the Chicago office, told me. “We often say that the role of the CFO is sometimes 10 roles in one.”

Yesterday, in a Fortune LinkedIn Live session, presented by Workday, Tam discussed with me how highly-effective financial planning and analysis (FP&A) teams, traditionally known for budgeting, forecasting, and analysis functions, play a major role in CFOs being able to take on challenges as their role evolves. “I think the CFO role is actually getting much more complex,” Tam says.

“It’s not just being the finance leader; it is oftentimes being a CEO’s right-hand person to bounce ideas off of,” she explains. In addition, CFOs have increasing responsibilities associated with navigating the board and the audit committee, and generally managing risk across the enterprise, not just within the financial organization, she says. 

I contacted some CFOs to ask: what do you need from your FP&A team?  

“Laying out clearly what is working and what is not,” Harmit Singh, EVP and CFO at Levi Strauss & Co, told me. Since speed and agility are vital in changing times, “breaking the paradigm on fixed annual plans and moving to rolling forecasts,” is key, he says. As organizations are facing so many different crises, FP&A teams need to have the ability to develop scenarios and then adapt accordingly, Singh says. It’s also helpful to have talent that knows the ins and outs of the business, he says.

“Finance leaders today have to understand the entire business and act as strategic counsel, as well as business partners,” Gina Mastantuono, CFO at ServiceNow, a digital workflow company, told me. “I like to call them enterprise-level leaders.“

She continues, “That’s especially true with FP&A roles—a high-performing FP&A team can bridge where strategy meets execution by driving discipline, coupled with a value-add mindset. That way, FP&A leaders use their experience to help the entire business hit their goals faster.”

What McKinsey research refers to as “next level FP&A teams” are a part of shaping strategy, Tam says. “FP&A teams need to leverage the data and analysis that they can bring uniquely, to be able to help build the case for some of the big strategic moves that an organization can take,” she says.

These teams work with IT to create “data lakes” or warehouses for general-ledger financial data, Tam says. They work in agile, data management systems “set up in such a way that allows you to be able to gather data from multiple places, sometimes multiple systems,” she says. 

Automating tasks in the finance function in areas such as support planning and forecasting will also help FP&A teams to become more strategic, Tam says. 

So, harnessing data to make quick decisions, automation, and providing room for strategic thinking can empower an FP&A professional. With that empowerment, areas they will have a greater focus on going forward include insight generation, deep analysis, problem solving, and business partnership, Tam says.

“It then becomes important for CFOs to think about, do you hire for those skill sets?” she says. “Or can you grow some of those skill sets by investing and developing capabilities amongst your existing teams, especially in this current war for talent.” You can view our complete discussion here.

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Quick note:

Join us today at 11 a.m. ET for our virtual event, The Emerging CFO: Sounding the Alarm: CFOs Tackle Inflation and Interest Rates. Speakers include Nicole Carrillo, CAO at LoanDepot, Pascal Desroches, CFO at AT&T, and John Diez, CFO at RyderYou can register here.

Big deal

About 70% of Americans view inflation as a very big problem for the country, followed by the affordability of health care (55%), a report by Pew Research Center found. In comparison, just 19% of Americans currently rate the coronavirus outbreak as a very big problem for the country, compared to 58% in June 2020. "The public views inflation as the top problem facing the United States—and no other concern comes close," according to Pew. The findings are based on a survey conducted April 25-May 1 among 5,074 U.S. adults.

Going deeper

The Key to Retaining Young Workers? Better Onboarding, a report in Harvard Business Review, is based on new research from interviews with workforce development specialists focusing on young workers. The authors of the report provide 10 ways companies can improve onboarding experiences, such as communicating opportunities for career progression.


Liz Brittain was named CFO at Foursquare, a technology company, effective May 16. She brings more than 30 years of experience to the role. Prior to joining Foursquare, Brittain most recently served as CFO at HackerOne, where she led financial and business operations at the security start-up. Before that, Brittain was CFO of Base CRM, where she helped navigate the company’s sale to Zendesk in 2018. Earlier, as VP of financial planning and analysis at Fusion, she helped orchestrate the company’s IPO. Brittain is also an associate of the Institute of Management Accountants, UK.

Laurie Stelzer was named CFO at Mirati Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: MRTX), a clinical-stage targeted oncology company, effective May 16. Stelzer joins the company most recently from Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where she served as EVP and CFO since 2020. Prior to joining Arena, she was the CFO at Halozyme Therapeutics. Stelzer has also held senior management roles at Shire Plc.


"Right now we are seeing [tech] stocks trade at single-digit multiples on EBITDA and low double digits on earnings, which is kind of unheard of from what we have seen the last decade for tech. Our belief is we are not done with the pressure on tech."

— Jefferies tech analyst Brent Thill said on Yahoo Finance Live.

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