Totum Consultant Dee Deol considers the rise of business partnering in finance within professional services firms. What does the remit and responsibilities of the Finance Business Partner role indicate for the future development of their firms?

In recent times, and particularly in the past 12 months, the development of the finance function within law and other professional services firms has seen its focus change from compliance and control to effectively partnering with the business to create real value. Off the back of that, Totum has seen a rise in ‘Finance Business Partners’ roles particularly outside of larger law firms. In particular, we are supporting more firms outside of the top 10 with the recruitment of commercial finance roles that align to practice groups.

Business partnering in finance - Totum insights

Some of the responsibilities and duties of today’s finance business partner roles may have previously been performed by others as part of their job. But it is notable that delivering relevant and timely management information and supporting the corporate performance-management model are now key priorities, reflected in the development of this standalone title, dedicated to these tasks.

The pandemic will have sped up the evolving nature of finance business partners and increase the value they bring. To use a quote from The Practice of Management by Peter F. Drucker, ‘The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.’

The role of the finance business partner has evolved as they have become more embedded within law and other professional services firms. The role now brings with it greater clarity and purpose, and a more forward-thinking approach to decision making, allowing finance business partners to become more strategic and collaborative in the way they deliver support across practice groups.

Totum has seen firms embrace this approach, increasing their hiring of commercial finance roles – moving away from analysis and providing insights to giving important recommendations and acting as trusted business advisors. HR have had these advisory roles for many years and now firms are seeing their value for finance teams and the wider business.

There remain challenges of course. One of the main issues has been quality and quantity of data available from systems available to finance business partners to base decisions, as they are only as good as the data they can access. But improvements in technology, systems and subsequent improvements in data integrity will allow business partnering in finance to further develop from making recommendations to driving action. As an increasing number of finance individuals are able to move beyond preparing numbers to facilitating discussions, the role of a finance business partner could end up being more commonplace.

Common responsibilities of a finance business partner include:

  • Improving the impact, and understanding, of financial reporting on business performance.
  • Providing analysis and delivering insight that links financial reports to business strategies.
  • Providing effective commercial procedures, or initiating change, to ensure key operational, commercial and financial targets are delivered.
  • Building partnerships and maintaining strong relationships with all senior managers and their teams.

But what these roles really need is someone who is not afraid to challenge, who is comfortable proposing and implementing change, and can work with partners in their practice group. It is the soft skills that employers will buy-in to, so good relationship-building and negotiation skills are a must.

If you would like to discuss how to find your next role as a finance business partner or are already a finance business partner and want to move into law and other professional services firms, contact Dee Deol at [email protected]

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