How to Get a Finance Manager Job
Working in the financial sector can be an excellent career choice in terms of remuneration, self-fulfillment, and productivity. One of the main financial job types available is that of a finance manager. As the job title suggests, a finance manager’s primary role is to manage a company’s finances. This requires a rigorous understanding of financial concepts and theory. Financial managers create financial reports to track every transaction made by the firm, guide investment activities, and help realize the long-term financial health of their organizations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 681,700 finance manager jobs in 2020. This number is projected to grow at an impressive 17 percent between 2020 and 2030, a much higher job growth rate than the 8 percent average for other occupations.
It’s not just financial services organizations like asset management and investment banking firms that require finance managers; these roles are required across industries and professions. Most other industries, including manufacturing, fashion, healthcare, tech, and marketing, need finance managers. Even public sector and non-profit organizations regularly employ finance managers.
It is no surprise that just like in other industries, digitalization and rapid tech innovation will continue to transform the nature of such finance jobs, requiring individuals in these roles to stay constantly updated on developments in the sector. For example, process automation (RPA) is a technology that has considerably streamlined middle and back-office operations. Process automation is used for accounts receivables and payables, accounting, financial recording, reporting and treasury processes, and more. Such technological innovation can lead to positive disruption in the finance manager role by reducing the number of menial jobs they undertake, allowing them to allocate more time to strategic finance and managerial work.
While the ever-evolving nature of finance roles may initially seem daunting, these jobs can also be personally rewarding. According to a Deloitte survey of 1600 finance executives, the state of the financial services industry is that of “buoyed optimism.” Executives across most financial services sectors, including but not limited to banking and capital markets, commercial real estate, insurance, and asset management, show signs of optimism regarding improved growth prospects in 2022.
What does a financial manager do?
Sometimes referred to as the Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) or the accounting manager, the primary function of a finance manager is to make financial decisions and overlook the financial operations of the company. This can include raising funds, taking investment decisions, and organizing financial reporting, among other functions. This role is crucial for most firms as the financial manager’s decisions directly impact a company’s profitability and long-term financial health.
Depending on the company’s size, it is common for financial managers to lead a team. The manager overlooks the various tasks of junior team members, ranging from financial reporting to financial analysis, and uses them to make informed financial decisions. Additionally, finance managers communicate with multiple stakeholders, such as senior management, board members, business partners and heads of business verticals, to gather data and update them on the firm’s financial standing.
It’s important to remember that as a finance manager, there might be considerable variation in your responsibilities depending on the company and industry in which you work. For example, as a finance manager in a government agency, your primary job could be financial reporting and budgeting, which leans more towards accounting. However, as a finance manager in a large multinational corporation, you might have to help with raising capital or with business planning decisions such as acquiring other companies.
Similarly, depending on the specific requirements of your job and industry, there are many titles a finance manager can hold. You should ensure that your key skills align with the specific requirements of the job you are considering.
Here are some of the most common titles that finance managers hold:
- Controllers – Controllers are an integral part of corporate finance and help with financial reporting. Typically, this role leans towards accounting and includes preparing income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Controllers also forecast their firm’s cash flows to analyze its profitability and financial standing in the future. Additionally, they help oversee auditing, budgeting, and financial due diligence. Their job is to ensure the reporting of all financial data according to the highest standards and ethics, enabling other stakeholders to use these reports and forecasts as guides for resource allocation decisions.
- Treasurers – Also known as finance officers, their primary job is to monitor and steer their firm’s budget to ensure they meet the company’s financial goals. Treasurers also oversee how funds are generated and used, managing investments and raising capital by issuing stocks and bonds, depending on the organization’s needs. They also manage mergers (when two companies combine) and acquisitions (when one company buys another) related activities by developing and executing strategic financial plans.
- Cash Managers – As the name suggests, cash managers oversee the cash flows of their firms to ensure enough liquidity for company operations to run smoothly. They also make forecasts by monitoring cash shortages and surpluses so that management can make contingency plans.
- Credit Managers – They closely monitor their company’s liabilities and assets. For example, they oversee the debt taken on by their organization, as well as the amount lent to other people or firms. Other functions include setting credit-rating standards and determining credit limits.
- Risk Managers – This is perhaps one of the most technical types of a finance manager role and requires considerable financial knowledge. Risk managers aim to reduce financial uncertainty and minimize or offset the risks undertaken by their firms. For example, they use hedging strategies to mitigate foreign exchange risks or commodity risks. Managing risk effectively is one of the most critical factors for the long-term financial stability of a company.
- Insurance Managers – They manage insurance to protect their company against various risks such as on-the-job accidents or costs imposed by lawsuits. They might also insure the firm against investment risks through hedging strategies. Their primary function is to reduce losses and enhance financial stability.
What are the qualifications of a financial manager?
Before we dive into the necessary qualifications for a finance manager role, it is vital to understand the essential skills required in a good finance manager. Finance managers need the right mix of technical and interpersonal skills to succeed at their jobs. In particular, these skills include:
- Technical Knowledge – Whether you work as a controller, risk or credit manager, or treasurer, each role involves its respective technical knowledge. Financial managers also need to be comfortable with numbers since a key component of the job is working with data, i.e., reporting and analyzing financial data in programs like Microsoft Excel. In addition, every finance professional should have basic knowledge of financial theory and concepts. This may include familiarity with financial reporting, an ability to analyze financial statements, and an understanding of capital markets.
- Communication Skills – Finance managers never work in isolation. They constantly have to coordinate between different business verticals and communicate with senior management to gather information and generate insights. Since most people in a company are unlikely to understand complex financial concepts, finance managers must be able to explain their findings to others, making both verbal and written communication a critical aspect of the job.
- Leadership Skills – It is highly likely that managers lead a finance team of analysts or other junior employees. Allocating work, organizing tasks, and providing a conducive work environment are parts of a finance manager’s job. Finance managers should also be good at cross-functional collaboration as their budgets and forecasts directly impact other verticals.
There are various ways to develop the skills required to become a competitive candidate for a finance manager position. The most straightforward approach is getting a finance degree. However, if your education does not focus directly on finance and business, you can consider earning external certifications and building work experience. Consider the following ways to prepare for a career as a finance manager:
- Get a Bachelor’s Degree – Finance managers typically require a Bachelor’s degree to successfully establish themselves in the industry. The most direct method of embarking on this career is to get an undergraduate degree in finance/accounting, economics, business, or other related fields. Formal education equips one with the technical financial knowledge as well as the quantitative and analytical skills required to succeed as a finance manager. However, even if your degree is not explicitly in finance or economics, you can develop the required knowledge and skills through work experience. For example, it is not uncommon for engineers to pivot to finance careers and take on finance manager roles.
- Consider an MBA – It’s no secret that finance is a highly competitive industry. While getting started is tough, it’s even more challenging to reach a managerial position in finance. A Master’s level education in business and finance can help make your profile more competitive. Additionally, a finance specialization in the MBA program can help you gain the technical skills required for financial management while also honing your soft skills, including financial leadership and communication.
- Get a Certification – While this is not a requirement, getting a certification can considerably enhance your profile, especially if your formal education is not in finance, economics, or a related field. Certifications are also an opportunity to specialize or keep yourself updated on new developments in the field. Popular certifications include but aren’t limited to Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Financial Risk Manager (FRM), and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certifications.
What is the average salary of a financial manager?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for financial managers was $131,710 in May 2021, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $77,040 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000. Most finance managers work full time, with some working more than 40 hours per week. The highest-paid finance managers worked in the management of companies and enterprises with a whopping $158,820 average annual wage in May 2021. This is closely followed by those in the professional, scientific, and technical services industry ($158,770). The next best industries for finance managers are manufacturing and finance, and insurance, with these industries paying an average wage of $131,710 annually. Finance managers earn the least in the government sector ($123,010).
The average annual wage for finance managers in Virginia is above $153,500, much higher than the national average. Virginia also has more than 15,920 job openings for this role, higher than most other regions in the country. Northern Virginia is adjacent to Washington D.C., which offers one of the highest mean annual wages in the country at $174,220. Given this confluence of factors, living in northern Virginia will provide you with significant employment opportunities for a finance manager role, backed by an annual wage that is higher than the national average. In this favorable job market, taking on a finance manager role in Northern Virginia can jumpstart your career.
How can someone become a financial manager?
To become an FP&A fmanager, you will have to develop your profile to stand out from the intense competition. The most strategic way to embark on this career is to combine an educational degree (at least at the undergraduate level, if not a Master’s degree) with several years of experience. Most people start their finance careers in an analyst position and make their way up to a finance manager role. Getting an MBA can improve your chances of eventually getting promoted to a managerial position, given the program’s focus on leadership and communication skills. However, even if you do not have a degree in finance, economics, or other related fields, you can combine finance experience and external certifications to help you earn a finance manager position. Many finance managers go on to become senior finance managers and even the director of finance or CFO.
Location, nature of the job market, and other external factors can also impact your career as a finance manager. For example, Virginia and D.C. offer excellent employment and wage prospects for finance managers, which are conducive to your long-term growth in this role. You can use WorkInNorthernVirginia’s Find a Job tool, which has a dedicated portal for financial services. Whether you’re preparing in advance for this career or currently seeking financial manager positions in this area, you can leverage this tool to find a job posting that best suits your profile and needs.