What is Financial Planning and Analysis? (FP&A)


Financial Planning and Analysis, abbreviated as FP&A, is a team under the corporate finance umbrella of a company that is involved with tracking performance measures, forecasting, and analyzing potential opportunities for the firm to improve its operations and financial management.

Essentially, the FP&A team seeks to answer the following questions:

What do you need to know for FP&A?

2Financial Analysis
3Statistics and Inference
4A Willingness to be Wrong
5Strategy and Creativity


FP&A analysts need to understand how to measure performance before the more complex parts of the role can even be considered. Accordingly, the first requirement is a strong understanding of accounting rules.
There are numerous performance measures that are typically used rather than the standard financial statement line items, but a comfortability with accounting standards is required in order to speak the same language as the accounting team from whom much of the source information comes.

Financial Analysis

Core principles of the relationship between risk and reward as well as an intuitive understanding of capital budgeting and the required rate of return on projects are needed in order to bring meaning to the numbers.
In addition, a critical ability is that of building reasonable assumptions in order to forecast.

Statistics and Inference

Advanced analysts use statistical principles in order to use more data to build more defensible numbers as well as bring in scenario analysis to create models that show how sensitive forecasts are to various underlying assumptions

A Willingness to be Wrong

Perhaps unexpectedly, the best FP&A analysts have a mentality that appreciates and accepts being wrong in their analysis. The largest value that FP&A can bring to an organization is to bring clarity to the areas of the business that are the most uncertain. These areas often have no predictable correct answer because they are complex and are dependent on events that have not even occurred yet, but are highly influential. An aversion to error prevents one from tackling these issues to begin with or to provide estimations with the best available information for fear of being called out when their estimations inevitably do not perfectly match up with what actually occurs.
Thus FP&A analysts require a sense of maturity to accept that incorrect forecasts do not necessarily reflect poorly on their abilities. In addition, they also need a true understanding of the value they are providing. While they cannot eliminate all uncertainty, the estimates they provide help proactive action to be taken, which is often much more effective than waiting until after the fact and reacting to the situation at hand.

Strategy and Creativity

Inherently, the goal of FP&A is not just for financial management, but a source of operational improvement and recommendations for the best areas for investment. FP&A analysts must both uniquely understand the business and industry and provide unique insights that are not just quantitative in terms of "how much" but also "how" and "why".

I hope this was helpful as an introduction to Financial Planning and Analysis. For further information, please view this short Youtube video.

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