Thoughts From a Financial Analyst to the CFO

Finance teams

Thuy-Vy Mai, Head of Strategic Finance at Pigment, travels back in time to share thoughts from a budding FP&A analyst to the CFO.

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Thuy-Vy Mai
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Priyaanka Arora
March 27, 2023
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6
min

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Thoughts From a Financial Analyst to the CFO

Summary

Imagine for a moment traveling through time and space, meeting your own self from the past – now that's a trip!

Join me on this exciting journey as I catch up with Thuy-vy Mai, Head of Strategic Finance at Pigment. Thuy-vy will take us through her past experience as an FP&A Analyst, sharing the burning questions and thoughts she had for the CFO at that early stage of her career.

CFOs, glimpse into the mind of your future workforce and what it takes to nurture and retain A+ talent.

Let's take a step back in time together into the shoes of an FP&A analyst!

Meet Thuy-Vy Mai, Head of Strategic Finance at Pigment

Thuy-Vy wasn’t always sure she wanted a career in Finance.

But with each new class she took at university, it became clearer that it was the direction she was moving towards. She shares of her experience as a student:

“What drove me to Finance was that I’ve always been curious about how businesses work. And it’s great to understand businesses through numbers.”

Once she realized her passion for finance, Thuy-Vy set off on her path to build a career in Finance — starting with investment banking. While she quickly grew her experience, she still felt the need to dive deeper beyond the “generalist” world view she currently had.

“I was telling myself: I analyze the numbers and that’s great but how do you make those numbers? I wanted to better understand what was behind the numbers — and how to influence the organization with those numbers.”

Thuy-Vy wanted to learn as much as she could, as fast as possible. And FP&A was the perfect fit.

The best way to onboard a financial analyst

Thuy-Vy highlights the importance of curiosity in an analyst role; the intuitive understanding of how the components of the business — from Marketing to Revenue and Operations — are interconnected.

FP&A is the art of weaving disjointed pictures together to tell a comprehensive, meaningful story.

“FP&A is not a role where you just crunch numbers. You connect the numbers with the business.”

That being said, proper onboarding often determines the entire trajectory of a young professional’s career. Thuy-Vy reminisces about her early days onboarding into a financial analyst role:

“The two key elements of a great financial analyst onboarding are: nurturing financial skills with training and resources, and developing a sharp business acumen.”

Although the foundation requires agility with numbers to build financial models, learning the ins-and-outs of business is much harder and often neglected.

How can Finance leaders encourage early-career professionals to develop a deeper understanding of the business?

Thuy-Vy suggests sharing a plethora of resources — podcasts, books, webinars, articles — with junior analysts.

“Go out there, register for training about SaaS for Finance, read blog articles like the ones we have here at Pigment!”

It’s up to the CFO to create an atmosphere where learning is encouraged explicitly by allowing financial analysts the time and freedom to consume as much quality content as needed to excel at their roles.

Encouraging meaningful participation from all levels of the hierarchy

Thuy-Vy shares what junior talent doesn’t often know: the benefit of speaking up and exchanging ideas with peers, seniors, and leadership.

CFOs want financial analysts to go beyond what’s just outlined in their day-to-day task list, to be impactful with proactive ideas.

“Yes, sometimes hierarchy creates less opportunities for idea exchange. But it also depends on the environment. Junior employees can fear the impact of speaking up, but it’s the other way around — senior leaders are often receptive to new ideas.”

It goes without saying that this free flow of ideas is possible only if encouraged and implemented by the CFO.

“People feel valued and see their impact on the organization — and people do more when they feel appreciated. CFOs: build that momentum and ask for feedback and ideas.”

The ups and downs of being a financial analyst

When you’re a financial analyst, there’s always room to step up and take on additional responsibilities. However, ensuring a solid foundation of broad financial skills is key to this development and growth.

Thuy-Vy also touches on the need to experience variety in tasks taken on.

“If you keep doing the same things repeatedly, it’s not fun! But if you find ways to automate things, improve processes, it’s more fun and there’s a learning takeaway.”

Thuy-Vy reflects how in her time as an analyst, she would strive to automate functions which would allow her the time to build more robust models.

From the perspective of a financial analyst, the key benefit of automation is the time saved, which can then be dedicated to adding true value to the team and organization.

“When junior team members keep doing repetitive tasks, there’s a risk of turnover and burnout. CFOs: make sure the scope of the role is wide enough to allow people to do things that move the needle.”

In most cases, the next generation of finance professionals are much more exposed to a new wave of technology.

“At the end of the day, the CFO is leveling-up their teams with fresher perspectives and time saved on mundane tasks to focus on the value-add.”

Closing remarks: final thoughts from a financial analyst to the CFO

As we come to the end of our journey with Thuy-vy Mai, she leaves us with some final thoughts from a financial analyst to the CFO.

With her years of experience and knowledge, she has invaluable advice to guide CFOs through creating a rewarding experience for their teams.

“Have a clear career path so the analyst can have visibility and fairness in their career progression.”

Thuy-Vy urges CFOs to map out career paths to give their teams a sense of purpose and help retain them. She also touches on the trust and communication between the CFO and a financial analyst.

“If I had a magic wand as an early-career financial analyst, I would be able to share more about what I want — in terms of career progression, ideas, and feedback — I would tell my younger self to keep building good relationships with senior leaders.”

In her current leadership role, Thuy-Vy draws on this rich experience and ensures her team is exceedingly happy every day with meaning, clarity, and a sense of purpose in all that they do.

Interested in joining the Pigment team? Find your next dream opportunity here.

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