Managing finances is at the root of all major business decisions. This role is crucial to the success of organisations in a range of sectors
A financial manager is responsible for providing financial guidance and support to clients and colleagues so they can make sound business decisions.
As a financial manager, you'll need a good head for figures and for dealing with complex modelling and analysis, as well as a sound grasp of financial systems and procedures.
You may be employed in many different environments including both public and private sector organisations, such as:
- financial institutions
- general businesses
- manufacturing companies
- multinational corporations
- NHS trusts
Clear budgetary planning is essential for both the short and long term, and companies need to know the financial implications of any decision before proceeding.
In addition, care must be taken to ensure that financial practices are in line with all statutory legislation and regulations.
Financial managers may also be known as financial analysts or business analysts.
The roles of financial managers can vary enormously. In larger companies for instance, the role is more concerned with strategic analysis, while in smaller organisations, a financial manager may be responsible for the collection and preparation of accounts.
In general, tasks across roles may include:
- providing and interpreting financial information
- monitoring and interpreting cash flows and predicting future trends
- analysing change and advising accordingly
- formulating strategic and long-term business plans
- researching and reporting on factors influencing business performance
- analysing competitors and market trends
- developing financial management mechanisms that minimise financial risk
- conducting reviews and evaluations for cost-reduction opportunities
- managing financial accounting, monitoring and reporting systems
- liaising with auditors to ensure annual monitoring is carried out
- developing external relationships with appropriate contacts, e.g. auditors, solicitors, bankers and statutory organisations such as the Inland Revenue
- producing accurate financial reports to specific deadlines
- managing budgets
- arranging new sources of finance for a company's debt facilities
- supervising staff
- keeping abreast of changes in financial regulations and legislation.
- You can expect starting salaries in the region of £24,000 to £35,000. Average starting salaries in the banking and finance sector can be as high as £35,000, rising to £45,000 in the investment banking sector.
- Typical salaries for newly qualified accountants in public service and not-for-profit agencies are between £35,000 and £40,000.
- Salaries for experienced financial managers (ten years plus) in commerce and industry can range from £65,000 to £100,000+.
Some companies may pay higher salaries while others offer a lower basic pay with additional high bonuses.
Salaries vary widely according to the type, sector, size and location of the employing organisation. The highest salaries tend to be in London and the surrounding areas. The private sector, most notably the banking and capital markets sector and particularly organisations based in the City, pays more than the public sector.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are generally 9am to 5pm, five days a week, with some flexibility possible. However, longer hours may be required depending on current deadlines and workload. Jobs within the City in particular can be highly pressured with long working hours. During the early years of your career, if undertaking professional study, you'll need to factor extra working hours into your official working day.
What to expect
- It's common for employers to provide financial support for professional study, as well as study leave.
- Jobs are available in most areas of the country, with the majority being in or near large towns and cities.
- Self-employment is possible. Finance professionals sometimes work as consultants, but usually only after gaining significant experience.
- Career breaks are possible but, as with any profession, if you're considering re-entry you must keep up to date with developments.
- Travel for work is likely, particularly if the company operates from a number of different sites, with overnight stays or periods away from home sometimes required.
- Opportunities to travel and work abroad will depend on the size and nature of the organisation, its clients or customers, and whether it has overseas sites or international links.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following subjects may be particularly helpful and may entitle you to exemptions from some professional examinations:
- accountancy and finance
A relevant postgraduate course may be useful, but isn't essential. In certain niche areas, specialised knowledge gained through a postgraduate programme may give you a competitive advantage. Graduate schemes in finance and related areas almost always require further study for professional qualifications. Search postgraduate courses in financial management.
Entry into the profession is possible with A-levels (or equivalent) or an HND or HNC, generally by studying with an institution such as the:
You can then proceed to professional accountancy training and work your way up to a management position.
Gaining membership with a professional organisation is useful as it shows your interest and commitment to the sector. Registration with professional bodies is open to individuals with A-levels (or equivalent) or above, such as an HND or HNC, so you don't have to wait until you've graduated to join.
A variety of organisations offering finance graduate schemes, as well as accountancy professional bodies, hold presentations on university campuses and have stands at careers fairs, where you can talk to representatives and recent graduate trainees in order to get an insight into the nature of the work and tips on what helped them to succeed.
You'll need to show evidence of the following:
- commercial and business awareness
- excellent communication and presentation skills
- an analytical approach to work
- high numeracy and sound technical skills
- problem-solving skills and initiative
- negotiation skills and the ability to influence others
- strong attention to detail and an investigative nature
- the ability to balance the demands of work with study commitments
- good time management skills and the ability to prioritise
- the ability to work as part of a team and to build strong working relationships
- the capacity to make quick but rational decisions
- the potential to lead and motivate others
- good IT skills.
Relevant work experience can be valuable and there are many opportunities available. Some employers run vacation placements or short work experience taster courses. You should apply as early as possible as competition can be strong.
Many of the professional accountancy bodies also publish details of available traineeships. Many employers offer industrial placement years, which can be taken as part of a sandwich degree. Your university careers service and course tutors should be able to offer you support with finding these. It's worth approaching organisations directly for work experience, even if they haven't advertised placements.
Financial managers work in a variety of organisations, throughout all sectors of business, industry and commerce. Some may begin their training in firms of chartered or certified accountants, while others train in the public sector in a range of settings, such as:
- health authorities
- local government
- other public organisations
- universities and colleges.
Other financial managers work in a range of industrial and commercial companies, including:
- banks, building societies and insurance companies
- fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries
- IT companies
- manufacturing and service industries
- public utilities
Financial managers may be employed by small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), where they may be responsible for a wider range of activities.
Self-employment is also possible, as a consultant providing financial advice to a range of businesses. This is usually only possible with a significant amount of experience.
Look for job vacancies at:
- ACCA - Careers advice
- Chartered Accountants Ireland
- CIMA MyJobs
- CIPFA Recruitment Services
- ICAEW Jobs
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Appointments are increasingly being handled by recruitment agencies, which frequently advertise in professional journals and newspapers. When searching for vacancies, look at the job description rather than just the job title as this can vary across companies.
The finance and accountancy sector is influenced by the economic climate and so when there is a period of economic downturn it will have a detrimental effect on the sector. This can mean that firms reduce their levels of recruitment and competition for jobs can be fierce. In these situations it may be useful to consider jobs with smaller accountancy firms and other SMEs, rather than focusing on the large organisations that offer graduate schemes and attract a lot of applications.
Most financial managers are qualified (or partly qualified) accountants. To become qualified, you need to pass (or be exempt from) a series of professional examinations, and undergo a period of practical training.
Professional accountancy training is mostly on the job, and you will study for your examinations on a part-time basis. Employers usually support this activity and may help to fund the studies.
You may follow a structured graduate training scheme, which will give exposure to a range of different functions. This will enable you to move into a financial management role at a later date. You may also be asked to complete a training log or portfolio to show evidence of your training and experience.
Structured graduate training schemes are offered in large companies and in the public sector, although some financial managers gain their initial training in accountancy firms.
There are various chartered accountancy bodies in the UK which offer professional examinations. Check their websites for details of syllabuses, practical experience requirements and exemptions from professional examinations. Relevant bodies include:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Chartered Accountants Ireland
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Which professional qualification you'll study towards is likely to be determined by your employer, so it's important to find out in advance which qualifications they support as well as the level of financial support, tuition and study leave they provide.
Most financial managers start their career at a lower level and undertake professional accountancy qualifications, usually with the ACCA, CIMA or CIPFA.
You may then move into the role of financial manager in the latter stages of your training or take up the role afterwards, once you've built up some experience.
The expertise offered by a financial manager is extremely transferable. Although training may have taken place in an engineering company for example, the knowledge and skills gained can be applied in any other environment across industry or commerce.
Many financial managers use their knowledge of a company to move out of finance and into a more general management role, such as HR manager. Others decide to specialise in one industry, such as education.
Depending on experience, some move on to the role of finance director or managing director. Knowledge about the day-to-day running of a company is essential in these roles.
However, moving from one role to another within an organisation, either related or unrelated to finance, may still require you to undertake further professional training. Fellowship can be awarded after specific periods of time in service with professional bodies such as ACCA and CIMA. This can help to show you have reached a certain level and can aid career progression.
Financial management offers good opportunities to work overseas. Professional qualifications from the major UK accountancy bodies are widely recognised by countries around the world.