An Interview with Association for Financial Professionals’ Brian Kalish (Part 1)
As the Association for Financial Professionals’ (AFP) director, finance practice, Brian Kalish has been a part of the invigorating discussion of the role of strategic capital planning in Finance. Especially, as it relates to competing for resources, talent, and priority from Treasury, Budget, and other lines of business.
Recently, Brian was instrumental in launching AFP’s FP&A Certification beta with great stories of individual and corporate interest from around the world.
In Part One of this two-part series, we take the time to learn more about the program and how AFP got to the point of planning 5,000 international testing locations for their very first exam – which is now open for registration!
Planview: Brian, thank you so much for helping us get a better understanding of what AFP is doing for Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) professionals. Tell us about AFP’s FP&A certification program.
Brian Kalish: Our inspiration was to approach that “chasm” in corporate finance between Accounting, Treasury, and Portfolio Management. All of those areas have great certification programs already such as the CPA, the CTP, and the CFA. However, FP&A does not.
What we’ve learned is that both professionals and corporate organizations are very receptive to this goal. For the professional, certification gives you a competitive edge. For the corporation, we’ve come to understand that they are seeking a tool, like certification, that can help them solve a number of challenges they are experiencing. Certification will help organizations make better hiring decisions, as it creates
a strong training expectation, and it gives them a retention tool. We are seeing corporations express interest in certification as a way to make investments in their analytical team members.
Planview: Specifically, what can an individual expect from signing up and taking the certification exam?
Brian Kalish: Technically speaking, it’s a two-part exam. The entire exam is seven and a half hours long. We’ve contracted a control test proctoring firm, Pearson Vue (www.pearsonvue.com), which has locations around the world and will accommodate an individual’s schedule to take each part of the exam on different days.
The goal will be to provide a score to the professional beyond pass and fail on where they stand on a standardized understanding of the skills and abilities of a professional with between three and five years of experience. Certification will articulate that the individual can be considered a qualified generalist, with the “world view” of FP&A expertise.
Planview: How did you derive the exam, itself?
Brian Kalish: We’ve utilized our large base of volunteers, which is one of many reasons being a non-profit has served us so well. First, we started with a focus group of FP&A professionals from around the world to determine what FP&A is. From there, we surveyed 4,000 international practitioners with questions surrounding the criteria we built from the focus group, to be able to itemize a list of skills and abilities an FP&A professional with three-to-five years of experience should be able to do with confidence. Then we aggregated correlations between expectations and realities.
With the criteria in hand, we had several teams of volunteers create and vet questions. They needed to be able to refer specific text books so that we had recommendations for study literature. Then we needed to create several alternate questions because the test needs to change twice a year indefinitely.
We kicked off registration for the beta test which will be on February 1, 2014. This group is the validation of this hard work, three-years in the making.
Planview: So where are you now in being able to offer bi-annual certification exams?
Brian Kalish: As mentioned, February 1st is the beta exam. We have over 100% of needed enrollment for this exam that will to allow us to create a “cut score”. This will allow our team and consultants to evaluate each question for question bias, geographic applicability, language accessibility, and much more.
This test needs to be internationally useful, not only across industries but continents as well. I am pleased to say that the beta has participants in every continent except Antarctica. This was important for us and for our constituents.
By May 15th, we will have this data and the final tests results.
In Part 2 of this two-part series, we ask Brian about what he has learned about the industry from those interested in certification. The global influence not only surprised me, but Brian as well.
To learn more about the Association for Financial Professional’s FP&A Certification program, visit www.FPACert.org.