Financial Fluency

Financial Fluency: the language everyone in your organisation needs to know…

BPP was founded over 40 years ago to provide Professional Qualification (PQ) training to accountancy students. Its origins were based on technological innovation (back then, pioneering the use of word processors!) combined with presenters with real world experience of the concepts and frameworks they taught. This initial core business also established very strong and lasting relationships with the leading accountancy institutes – based on trust in the BPP brand and the quality and integrity in its delivery of content and training.

BPP’s Professional Development (PD) keeps to the same core values but is focused on post qualification, continuing professional development (CPD) across accountancy, tax, corporate finance and law. PD currently offers around 350 courses using around 170 specialist and experienced presenters.

In recent years, there has been an attempt in many organisations to take the finance team away from the stereotype of being ‘scorekeepers on the sidelines’ to being ‘key players on the team’.  These initiatives are headlined with various titles including finance transformation and/or finance business partnering. For many accountants, this means focusing on some of the softer skills that they have not fully developed by way of their qualification or experience to date. These include skills in communication, listening, influencing, presentation and negotiation.  BPP PD has a multitude of courses covering these types of topics and they are very popular with delegates and client organisations in ‘upping their game’.

This is helping the ‘supply’ side of the partnership but what of the ‘demand’ side from non-finance colleagues?

To many people (even senior board executives) the word ‘finance’ strikes fear. Firstly, it sounds like a whole new language with lots of confusing jargon. Terms such as depreciation, amortisation, accruals, prepayments, net present value, net realisable value, net book value.  No wonder really! Secondly, it often feels that the only time that finance gets involved is when there is a problem – such as an overspend or a shortfall in revenue. Thirdly, there is an element of mistrust which can be reflected in references to the finance team as bean counters, the business prevention department, or head office spies.

This is not a good background against which to try and cultivate a positive working relationship between finance and non-finance colleagues to the good of everyone and ultimately for the organisation’s long term generation of value. This is where BPP PD can help by assisting non-finance colleagues understand better the jargon and the fundamental concepts of finance and accounting.  This will result in an enhanced understanding and ability to work with finance and for finance to be involved at an early stage in a positive way.

We refer to this as ‘financial fluency’ – the core ability to understand finance sufficiently and confidently enough to contribute effectively to an organisation’s success. To develop the competence to interpret how and why key decisions are made from a financial perspective and to be more pro-active in improving financial performance in one’s own sphere of influence.

Does it work?

Here are a couple of case studies to provide a flavour of what can be achieved. In both, it illustrates how we work closely with clients to develop tailored in-house training solutions.

In the first example, BPP is proud to be working with a global credit card provider. We collaborated with the client to create a training programme for their sales teams. The programme not only explains the basics of finance and how the financial statements work but also how the financial statements can provide valuable information to help build a value proposition for potential clients. This knowledge can then be used by sale representatives to demonstrate the positive impact of using the provider’s particular credit card services to improve a client’s performance through, for example, a significant reduction in working capital so releasing cash for use elsewhere in the business.

The programme has been rolled out globally with over a thousand sales representatives having been trained so far, in Europe, Latin America, US, Canada, Far East and Asia, Australia and New Zealand.  This was achieved – as with BPP’s founders – by a mix of innovative technology and experienced presenters with practical knowledge.  We jointly developed a blended training programme comprising not only voice over PowerPoint courses available online but also the leading edge ‘Online Classroom’ environment. This is where the online presentation is live with capacity  for presenters and delegates to readily interact with each other in an engaging way – and experience bears this out as they truly do!

In the second example, BPP is delighted to be collaborating with a leading retail organisation in the UK. Employees at head office, distribution centres, retail shops and elsewhere are due to undergo an extensive programme of financial fluency.  This will be structured over ten modules covering topics such as working capital management; how individuals and/or teams can impact the financial statements; producing and presenting financial information with impact.

Again a blended format will be used – all of it online – which substantially reduces the time and cost of travel and accommodation incurred in face-to-face training but successfully retains the engaging interactive element. We will jointly be developing practical case studies to tease out issues specific to the retailer. Issues such as the trade-off between stockholding of perishables for higher product availability and the likely increase in waste and mark downs; the different economics of store versus online versus click & collect; the use of promotional discounts and sales multipliers.

These are just two success stories. BPP Professional Development has worked with many other clients across different sectors including retail, financial services, manufacturing, and the public sector to deliver tailored solutions to clients. By working in partnership with our clients we have delivered solutions that work, and have led to significant improvements in business performance.

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