Do you think being a financial manager is the best preparation for later becoming a CEO?
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Article from Bureau of labor
A bachelor?s degree in finance, accounting, or related field is the minimum academic preparation, but many employers increasingly seek graduates with a master?s degree and a strong analytical background.
The continuing need for skilled financial managers will spur average employment growth.
Nature of the Work
Almost every firm, government agency, and organization has one or more financial managers who oversee the preparation of financial reports, direct investment activities, and implement cash management strategies. As computers are increasingly used to record and organize data, many financial managers are spending more time developing strategies and implementing the long-term goals of their organization.
The duties of financial managers vary with their specific titles, which include chief financial officer, vice president of finance, controller, treasurer, credit manager, and cash manager. Chief financial officers (CFOs), for example, are the top financial executives of an organization. They oversee all financial and accounting functions and formulate and administer the organization?s overall financial plans and policies. In small firms, CFOs usually handle all financial management functions. In large firms, they direct these activities through other financial managers who head each financial department.
Controllers direct the preparation of financial reports that summarize and forecast the organization?s financial position, such as income statements, balance sheets, and analysis of future earnings or expenses. Controllers are also in charge of preparing special reports required by regulatory authorities. Often, controllers oversee the accounting, audit, and budget departments. Treasurers and finance officers direct the organization?s financial goals, objectives, and budgets. They oversee the investment of funds and manage associated risks, supervise cash management activities, execute capital-raising strategies to support a firm?s expansion, and deal with mergers and acquisitions.
Cash managers monitor and control the flow of cash receipts and disbursements to meet the business and investment needs of the firm. For example, cash flow projections are needed to determine whether loans must be obtained to meet cash requirements or whether surplus cash should be invested in interest-bearing instruments. Risk and insurance managers oversee programs to minimize risks and losses that may arise from financial transactions and business operations undertaken by the institution. They also manage the organization?s insurance budget. Credit managers oversee the firm?s issuance of credit. They establish credit rating criteria, determine credit ceilings, and monitor the collections of past due accounts. Managers specializing in international finance develop financial and accounting systems for the banking transactions of multinational organizations.
Financial institutions, such as commercial banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, and mortgage and finance companies, employ additional financial managers, often with the title Vice President. These executives oversee various functions, such as lending, trusts, mortgages, and investments, or programs, including sales, operations, or electronic financial services. They may be required to solicit business, authorize loans, and direct the investment of funds, always adhering to Federal and State laws and regulations.
Branch managers of financial institutions administer and manage all the functions of a branch office, which may include hiring personnel, approving loans and lines of credit, establishing a rapport with the community to attract business, and assisting customers with account problems. Financial managers who work for financial institutions must keep abreast of the rapidly growing array of financial services and products.
In addition to the general duties described above, all financial managers perform tasks unique to their organization or industry. For example, government financial managers must be experts on the government appropriations and budgeting processes, whereas health care financial managers must be knowledgeable about issues surrounding health care financing. Moreover, financial managers must be aware of special tax laws and regulations that affect their industry.
Areas in which financial managers are playing an increasingly important role involve mergers and consolidations and global expansion and financing. These developments require extensive specialized knowledge on the part of the financial manager to reduce risks and maximize profit. Financial managers are increasingly hired on a temporary basis to advise senior managers on these and other matters. In fact, some firms contract out all accounting and financial functions to companies that provide these services.
The role of financial manager, particularly in business, is changing in response to technological advances that have significantly reduced the amount of time it takes to produce financial reports. Financial managers now perform more data analysis and use it to offer ideas to senior managers on how to maximize profits. They often work on teams acting as business advisors to top management. Financial managers need to keep abreast of the latest computer technology in order to increase the efficiency of their firm?s financial operations.
Financial managers work in comfortable offices, often close to top managers and to departments that develop the financial data these managers need. They typically have direct access to state-of-the-art computer systems and information services. Financial managers commonly work long hours, often up to 50 or 60 per week. They are generally required to attend meetings of financial and economic associations and may travel to visit subsidiary firms or meet customers.
Financial managers held about 693,000 jobs in 1998. Although these managers are found in virtually every industry, more than a third were employed by services industries, including business, health, social, and management services. Nearly 3 out of 10 were employed by financial institutions, such as banks, savings institutions, finance companies, credit unions, insurance companies, securities dealers, and real estate firms.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
A bachelor?s degree in finance, accounting, economics, or business administration is the minimum academic preparation for financial managers. However, many employers increasingly seek graduates with a master?s degree, preferably in business administration, economics, finance, or risk management. These academic programs develop analytical skills and provide knowledge of the latest financial analysis methods and technology.
Experience may be more important than formal education for some financial manager positions?notably branch managers in banks. Banks typically fill branch manager positions by promoting experienced loan officers and other professionals who excel at their jobs. Other financial managers may enter the profession through formal management trainee programs offered by the company.
Continuing education is vital for financial managers, reflecting the growing complexity of global trade, shifting Federal and State laws and regulations, and a proliferation of new, complex financial instruments. Firms often provide opportunities for workers to broaden their knowledge and skills by encouraging employees to take graduate courses at colleges and universities or attending conferences related to their specialty. Financial management, banking, and credit union associations, often in cooperation with colleges and universities, sponsor numerous national and local training programs. Persons enrolled prepare extensively at home, then attend sessions on subjects such as accounting management, budget management, corporate cash management, financial analysis, international banking, and information systems. Many firms pay all or part of the costs for those who successfully complete courses. Although experience, ability, and leadership
are emphasized for promotion, advancement may be accelerated by this type of special study.
In some cases, financial managers may also broaden their skills and exhibit their competency in specialized fields by attaining professional certification. For example, the Association for Investment Management and Research confers the Chartered Financial Analyst designation on investment professionals who have a bachelor?s degree, pass three test levels, and meet work experience requirements. The National Association of Credit Management administers a three-part certification program for business credit professionals. Through a combination of experience and examinations, these financial managers pass through the level of Credit Business Associate, to Credit Business Fellow, and finally to Certified Credit Executive. The Treasury Management Association confers the Certified Cash Manager credential on those who have 2 years of relevant experience and pass an exam, and the Certified Treasury Executive designation on those who meet more extensive experience and continuing education requirements. More recently, the Association of Government Accountants has begun to offer the Certified Government Financial Manager certification to those who have the appropriate education and experience and who pass three examinations. Financial managers who specialize in accounting may earn the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designations. (See the Handbook statement on accountants and auditors.)
Candidates for financial management positions need a broad range of skills. Interpersonal skills are increasingly important because these jobs involve managing people and working as part of a team to solve problems. Financial managers must have excellent communication skills to explain complex financial data. Because financial managers work extensively with various departments in their firm, a broad overview of the business is essential.
Financial managers should be creative thinkers and problem solvers, applying their analytical skills to business. They must be comfortable with computer technology. As financial operations are increasingly affected by the global economy, they must have knowledge of international finance; even a foreign language may be important.
Because financial management is critical for efficient business operations, well-trained, experienced financial managers who display a strong grasp of the operations of various departments within their organization are prime candidates for promotion to top management positions. Some financial managers transfer to closely related positions in other industries. Those with extensive experience and access to sufficient capital may start their own consulting firms.
Job Outlook 
The outlook for financial managers is good
for those with the right skills. Expertise in accounting and finance is fundamental, and a master?s degree enhances one?s job prospects. Strong computer skills and knowledge of international finance are important, as are excellent communication skills as the job increasingly involves working on strategic planning teams. Mergers, acquisitions, and corporate downsizing will continue to adversely affect employment of financial managers, but growth of the economy and the need for financial expertise will keep the profession growing about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2008.
The banking industry, which employs the most financial managers, is expected to continue to consolidate and reduce the number of financial managers. Employment of bank branch managers, in particular, will grow very little or not at all as banks open fewer branches and promote electronic and Internet banking to cut costs. In contrast, the securities and commodities industry will hire more financial managers to handle increasingly complex financial transactions and manage investments. Financial managers are being hired throughout industry to manage assets and investments, handle mergers and acquisitions, raise capital, and assess global financial transactions. Risk managers, who assess risks for insurance and investment purposes, are in especially great demand.
Some financial managers may be hired on a temporary basis to see a company through a short-term crisis or to offer suggestions for boosting profits. Other companies may contract out all accounting and financial operations. Even in these cases, however, financial managers may be needed to oversee the contracts.
Computer technology has reduced the time and staff required to produce financial reports. As a result, forecasting earnings, profits, and costs, and generating ideas and creative ways to increase profitability will become the major role of corporate financial managers over the next decade. Financial managers who are familiar with computer software and applications that can assist them in this role will be needed.
Median annual earnings of financial managers were $55,070 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $38,240 and $83,800. The lowest 10 percent had earnings of less than $27,680, while the top 10 percent earned over $118,950. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest number of financial managers in 1997 are shown below.
Security brokers and dealers
Computer and data processing
Management and public relations
Local government, excluding education and hospitals
According to a 1999 survey by Robert Half International, a staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, salaries of assistant controllers and treasurers varied from $42,700 in the smallest firms to $84,000 in the largest firms; corporate controllers earned between $47,500 and $141,000; and chief financial officers and treasurers earned from $65,000 to $319,200. Salaries are generally 10 percent higher for those with a graduate degree or Certified Public Accountant or Certified Management Accountant designation.
The results of the Treasury Management Association?s 1999 compensation survey are presented in table 1. The earnings listed in the table represent total compensation, including bonuses and deferred compensation.
Table 1. Average earnings for selected financial managers, 1999
Vice president of finance $165,400
Chief financial officer 150,100
Assistant treasurer 96,500
Director treasury/finance 93,200
Assistant controller 75,900
Senior analyst 63,000
Cash manager 56,600
SOURCE: Treasury Management Association
Large organizations often pay more than small ones, and salary levels can also vary by the type of industry and location. Many financial managers in private industry receive additional compensation in the form of bonuses, which also vary substantially by size of firm. Deferred compensation in the form of stock options is also becoming more common.
Financial managers combine formal education with experience in one or more areas of finance, such as asset management, lending, credit operations, securities investment, or insurance risk and loss control. Workers in other occupations requiring similar training and skills include accountants and auditors, budget officers, credit analysts, loan officers, insurance consultants, portfolio managers, pension consultants, real estate advisors, securities analysts, and underwriters.
Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Links to non-BLS Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
For information about financial management careers, contact:
American Bankers Association, 1120 Connecticut Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20036. Internet: http://www.aba.com
Financial Management Association International, College of Business Administration, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620-5500. Internet: http://www.fma.org
Financial Executives Institute, 10 Madison Ave., P.O. Box 1938, Morristown, NJ 07962-1938. Internet: http://www.fei.org
For information about financial careers in business credit management; the Credit Business Associate, Credit Business Fellow, and Certified Credit Executive programs; and institutions offering graduate courses in credit and financial management, contact:
National Association of Credit Management, Credit Research Foundation, 8840 Columbia 100 Parkway, Columbia, MD 21045-2158. Internet: http://www.nacm.org
For information about careers in treasury and financial management and the Certified Cash Manager and Certified Treasury Executive programs, contact:
Association for Financial Professionals, 7315 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 600 West, Bethesda, MD 20814. Internet: http://www.afponline.org
For information about the Chartered Financial Analyst program, contact:
Association for Investment Management and Research, P.O. Box 3668, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Internet: http://www.aimr.org
For information about the Certified Government Financial Manager designation, contact:
Association for Government Accountants, 2208 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301-1314. Internet: http://www.agacgfm.org
An industry employing financial managers that appears in the 2000-01 Career Guide to Industries: Banking
O*NET Codes: 13002A and 13002B
Financial managers who want to distinguish themselves and their organizations need to demonstrate their leadership
ability. Because financial managers sometimes overlook the need for leadership
skills, cultivating mentors who can teach them specific leadership
skills, such as improved communications and entrepreneurship, may be necessary.
Health-care financial managers can sharpen their leadership
skills by distinguishing between leadership
and management, adopting a new mentoring model, evaluating the usefulness of new management techniques, understanding the connection between technology and leadership
, looking for the solution beyond the problem, and being seen and heard within the organization.
Copyright Healthcare Financial Management Association Apr 2000
The increase in for-profit hospitals and consolidations, more stringent regulatory requirements, and declining reimbursement have increased the overall expectations of healthcare executives regarding the performance of their senior financial managers. Most financial managers recognize that educational credentials and experience in the healthcare industry are necessary to advance their careers. They also need technical skills to produce computer-generated financial reports for the healthcare organization.
More than technical expertise, however, today's senior financial managers need to demonstrate leadership
skills to effect strategic and behavioral change. Some of the strategies healthcare financial managers can use to polish their leadership
skills include distinguishing between leadership
and management, employing a new mentoring model, seeing new management methods as more than fads, understanding the connection between technology and leadership
, looking for the solution beyond the problem, and participating within the organization.
Distinguish between leadership
and management. Although the skills required for leadership
and management overlap to some extent, there also are distinctions. As shown in Exhibit 1, page 51, management tends to be task-oriented, whereas good leadership
tends to emphasize the motivational aspects of accomplishing tasks and reaching goals. Because their jobs are technical in nature, many healthcare financial managers focus on developing their management skills, leaving the inspirational and consensus-building role that characterizes leadership
to others. Demonstrating leadership
, however, would help them achieve success for their department and the organization as a whole.
In particular, healthcare financial managers need to adopt a proactive leadership
stance rather than react to change after their facilities are negatively affected by it. With the implementation of the ambulatory payment classification (APC) system, for example, healthcare financial managers should take the lead in assessing their coinsurance billing practices and their entire billing systems and processes. Waiting to see what will happen means deferring leadership
to those outside the finance department.
Moreover, the Federal government's emphasis on regulatory compliance for the Medicare and Medicaid programs calls for teamwork and harmonious personal relations, particularly in the finance department. Financial managers need to assert leadership
by creating a positive atmosphere in which employees feel free to inform management of compliance issues they believe should be addressed.
The ability to inspire loyalty also is more important than ever, due in part to the regulatory climate. Leaders who inspire loyalty can motivate employees to discuss their concerns internally first rather than report them to an outside agency. Employee loyalty has eroded in recent years in many industries, making employee turnover a significant problem in a thriving economy Employees recognize good leadership
skills, however, and are more inclined to remain with an employer and maintain a cohesive work team if they respect their manager's leadership
Legislation continues to affect the payment healthcare organizations receive and operational changes they must implement. Healthcare financial managers realize that implementation of privacy standards mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, for example, will be costly and operationally challenging. Good
management recognizes that change is imperative, but only good leadership
can effect change.
Employ a new mentoring model. Because employees tend to change jobs more frequently than they did in the past, less emphasis is being placed on traditional mentoring, whereby a seasoned manager would instruct a junior manager over time. A new approach to selecting a mentor that financial managers should consider adopting emphasizes specific skills acquisition over more generalized experience. To guide their selection of a mentor who will help them enhance their leadership
skills under this new model, healthcare financial managers should take the following steps:
Determine their own strengths and weaknesses. Financial managers should identify specific leadership
skills they wish to develop. These skills could range from public relations to information technology.
Identify individuals who have skills they want to develop. There may be many individuals in the financial manager's organization who have the desired skills and are willing to share their expertise. The CEO is a likely mentor, but marketers, public relations directors, physicians, and board members also may have a wide range of skills--particularly interpersonal and communications skills--that are important to developing as a leader. Develop relationships. Most people are flattered when others wish to learn from them and respond well to sincere solicitations of advice and expertise. Mentoring sessions can include informal lunchtime discussions; reviews of prepared material, including impact statements regarding various pending changes in payment and outlines for future presentations to industry groups; discussions of personnel issues, such as how to evaluate, motivate, and reward department members; and attendance at presentations by the mentor. It is particularly important to network with peers at HFMA programs and at meetings of other industry groups, where industry leaders are accessible and prepared to share their knowledge.
See new management methods as more than fads. Management methods come and go. New management methods, such as zero-based budgeting, management by objectives, continuous quality improvement, quality circles, and business process reengineering, often amount to mere fads that managers implement without eliciting their true value to the organization. A leader, however, knows how to recognize methods or aspects of methods that support the organization's progress, implement these programs, and discard programs that are not useful. Healthcare financial managers should not have unreasonably high or low expectations of new management methods or discard old methods simply because new ones have come along.
For example, many financial managers bought highlevel software programs to compute the impact of APCs on their facilities. Healthcare financial managers, however, cannot rely solely on software programs to obtain needed information. They also need to assess APC impact by initiating a detailed claims audit and a thorough review of office billing procedures.
Understand the connection between technology and leadership
. Although healthcare financial managers do not have to be experts in information systems, telecommunications, or the Internet, they do need to understand the capabilities of these technologies and how the technologies should be applied to their organization. Computers will be handling an increasing amount of the work in healthcare finance, but healthcare financial managers need to know how to use the data that are generated to support the organization's strategic goals.
Look for the solution beyond the problem. Financial managers are trained to ensure that the organization's financial goals are met. This function can appear daunting when resources are limited, and financial managers are used to championing conservative financial positions. Leaders, however, view challenges as opportunities. To emerge as organization leaders, financial managers need to become greater risk takers. For example, several years ago the government proposed new rules on "hospitals within hospitals" (a wing or floor of a hospital licensed as a different hospital, often to secure cost-based payment for long-term patients). Many healthcare executives closed their facilities before the final rules were released. Other financial managers, however, spearheaded efforts to maintain their status. These efforts were rewarded when the new law grandfathered some facilities, allowing them to operate as before.
Participate. Healthcare financial managers cannot lead an organization without actively participating in that organization. Activities that enhance leadership
include attending meetings outside the finance department, participating on organizationwide committees, becoming involved in public relations events, sponsoring an achievement award and personally presenting it, attending a hospital-sponsored golf tournament or 10-kilometer run, and cultivating relationships with leaders from other departments or the community at large. Being seen and heard is an important facet of leadership
opportunities abound for healthcare financial managers who wish to take advantage of them. By broadening their scope beyond management functions, healthcare financial managers help move their organizations forward while receiving recognition for their work. Developing leadership
skills will increase their visibility throughout the organization and in the community, which, in turn, will help them advance in their career.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Robert B. Kowalski, MSHS, is health data director, Parkland Community Health Plan, Dallas, Texas, and a member of HFMA's Lone Star Chapter.
Manie W. Campbell is a principal, CampbellWilson, Dallas, Texas, and a member of HFMA's Lone Star Chapter
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