Financial managers provide 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.
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.
Types of financial management client
You may be employed in many environments including both public and private sector organisations, such as:
- financial institutions
- general businesses
- manufacturing companies
- multinational corporations
- NHS trusts
Financial managers may also be known as financial analysts or business analysts.
Financial manager roles 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, you will need to:
- provide and interpret financial information
- monitor and interpret cash flows and predict future trends
- analyse change and advise accordingly
- formulate strategic and long-term business plans
- research and report on factors influencing business performance
- analyse competitors and market trends
- develop financial management mechanisms that minimise financial risk
- conduct reviews and evaluations for cost-reduction opportunities
- manage financial accounting, monitoring and reporting systems
- liaise with auditors to ensure annual monitoring is carried out
- develop external relationships with appropriate contacts, e.g. auditors, solicitors, bankers and statutory organisations such as the Inland Revenue
- produce accurate financial reports to specific deadlines
- manage budgets
- arrange new sources of finance for a company's debt facilities
- supervise staff
- keep abreast of changes in financial regulations and legislation.
- Starting salaries are between £25,000 to £35,000, though can be as high as £45,000 in the investment banking sector.
- Qualified, mid-level finance managers with 5-10 years' experience usually earn an average of £55,000 to £65,000.
- Senior financial managers, with around 10+ years' experience, earn £65,000 to £115,000+.
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 data from Robert Half. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are generally 9am to 5pm, five days a week, with some possible flexibility. However, longer hours may be required depending on current deadlines and workload. Jobs within the City 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.
- Working as a self-employed financial consultant is possible, 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 multiple 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. For full membership you must evidence the relevant qualification, but you can often join at an earlier stage in your career, as in the case of the IFA's Embedded Student membership option.
Many finance organisations have a stand at university careers fairs, presenting information about their company, relevant roles, the culture and any finance graduate schemes. This provides an ideal opportunity to talk to representatives and recent graduate trainees 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.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
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.
With a significant amount of experience, you can work in a self-employed capacity, providing financial consultancy advice to a range of businesses.
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)
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 you 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, to become fully qualified.
Depending on the experience you gain, it may eventually be possible to step into the role of finance director or managing director. Knowledge about the day-to-day running of a company is essential in these roles.
Professional bodies such as ACCA and CIMA offer a Fellowship category of membership, which is awarded after a specific period of service and a certain level of competence and knowledge is demonstrated.
Financial management offers good opportunities to work overseas and professional qualifications from the major UK accountancy bodies are widely recognised around the world.
The expertise you offer as a financial manager is extremely transferable and it is therefore usually possible to move across into other areas of industry or commerce.