Careers in Finance – An Overview

Finance is a very broad subject. Speaking in terms of employment doesn’t narrow the term much. There are a wide variety of careers and job positions available in the Finance field. Education requirements and salary expectations depend on the area of interest, as well as the geographical position.

Several careers opportunities are available in Finance. Banking is probably the more common position that comes to mind. Commercial Banking, Corporate Finance, Financial Planning, Insurance, Investment Banking, Money Management, and Careers in Real Estate are all related to the field of Finance. Studies done recently have shown that the need for people in the Finance field is growing. Incidentally, as long as there is money involved, there is a need for finance. Some characteristics of Finance professionals include; Strategic thinking, and the ability to comprehend complicated matters fairly quickly, a new, fresh perspective, and candor. If you are interested in a career in finance, you should also possess some leadership qualities, have a firm understanding of risk management, and have strong analytical and problem solving skills.

Keeping in mind that Finance is a global industry, a second or even third language would be a very helpful skill in this field. Education requirements vary, depending on the career path that you have chosen. An Associates Degree would be beneficial for a few minor career choices, but most companies require at least a Bachelor’s Degree for jobs such as accounting, investment banking, commercial banking, and so forth. You can opt to pursue your Master’s Degree, and expect to earn a much higher annual income. Income ranges with a Bachelor’s Degree start around $25,000 per year and top out at over $40,000. Starting salaries with a Master’s range from $30,000 to $80,000 annually. Incidentally, if you choose a Bachelor’s degree, your starting title would probably be “Junior Financial Analyst”, as with a Master’s it would be “Financial Analyst”. So, besides the annual income being higher, with a Master’s Degree, you can expect to have more responsibility and a much higher “clout” with companies than if you simply pursue a Bachelor’s Degree.

Whatever degree you decide to obtain, there will be specific courses of study that you must take. Actual course titles will, of course, vary by institution, but an example of your required courses would be: Developing Business Perspective, Management and Leadership, Fundamentals of Business, Marketing and Sales, Human Resource Management, Organization and Communication, Finance and Accounting, Financial Markets and Institutions, Investment and Portfolio Management, Business Ethics, Public and Nonprofit Finance, and Risk Management. Keep in mind that these courses are not the only ones that you will be required to take, depending on your choice of degree, and the institution that you attend.

The Government Finance Officers Association has information, news, and helpful links to help you whether you are in the Finance industry, or just thinking of entering finance. You can find lists of companies that are hiring, as well as their salary requirements and educational requirements. There are also links to local training events, as well as general news that affects the finance industry in the United States and Canada.

A look at some current job openings in the finance field, shows that the need for financial advisors is very much in demand. In California, an Assistant Chief Fiscal Officer, for a county government office, with only 1 year of experience, has a salary range of $81,765 to $99,424 annually. There are many opportunities in the government, if you have a finance degree, and you can expect the salary to be very competitive. Other, non-government companies, such as AIG, American Express, and local banks are a good place to get your start in the finance world. Also, private firms such as Deloitte & Touche Corporate Finance Canada, Inc., Chapman and Cutler, and William Blair & Company, all which serve the US and Canada, and other private firms hire periodically for new positions, and offer competitive salaries.

If you are inclined to seek your career in the finance industry, research companies well to find the best one for you. Educationally speaking, most colleges and institutions offer a wide range of courses, depending on the focal point of your finance choice. You would need to delve into the path of finance that you are planning to pursue, and with a little research and a good head for business, you could well be on your way to a very lucrative career in the ever-growing Finance World.

Working Capital Business Financing Sources

Working Capital business financing is never a question of why – it’s just simply a matter of when! Working capital and cash flow are of course the heart of every business. The challenges of obtaining that financing become a question of time.

Perhaps you need cash for for your regular ongoing business cycle – that’s the simple one – you buy inventory, your produce things, you sell, bill and collect. In a perfect world your suppliers give you unlimited time to pay, and unlimited credit limits. And of course your customers pay you in exactly 30 days. Guess what? It’s not a perfect world!

If you are a traditionally financed firm you have access to bank capital for revolving credit lines based on your business needs. But for a growing number of Canadian firms that access to traditional bank capital is not available. Those scenarios require a special expertise in identifying sources of business financing that work for you. The solutions actually are quite numerous – its becomes a questions of which solution works for your firm, what are the costs involved, and does the solution fit within your business model.

The business financing we are talking about can take many different forms – it might include an asset based line of credit, inventory financing or purchase order financing, a sale leaseback on unencumbered assets,, working capital term loans, or accounts receivable financing, otherwise known as factoring.

One of the most important things you can do for business financing is to ensure that the type of financing you source matches your needs. What we mean by that is that you should match short term needs with short term financing. Factoring might be a good example. If your receivables aren’t financed, and you need cash to meet inventory and supplier commitments that type of financing is immediate and addresses your needs. Why would you enter into a five year term loan at fixed payments for a short term capital need or requirement?

The best way to think of short term financing is to focus on the current assets part of your balance sheet – those items include inventory and accounts receivable typically. Those assets can quickly be monetized into a working capital facility that comes in a variety methods. The reality is that your inventory and accounts receivable grow lock step to your sales and your ability to finance them on an ongoing basis will give you access to, in essence, unlimited working capital.

There are some solid technical rules of them around how you can generate positive pricing for operating facilities. By calculating and analyzing some basic financial ratios (we call them relationships) in your financial statements you can get a strong sense of whats available in working capital business financing and what pricing might be involved. Those ratios are your current ratio, your inventory turns, your receivables turns or days sales outstanding, a, and your overall debt to worth ratio. Depending on where those final ratio calculations come in will ultimately allow your working capital financier to put your firm in a low risk, medium risk, or high risk band of pricing?

In Canada working capital rates range from 8-9% per annum to 1-2% per month, depending on what assets are financed and how they are financed.

So whats our bottom line in working capital business financing? It is simply there are alternatives available and you as a business owner of financial manager can assess those alternatives in terms of short term needs or long term needs. Pricing and solutions vary, and your ability to convey the positive aspects of your business to the working capital lender will ultimately lead to a final pricing and solution. Speak to a credible, experienced and trusted working capital business financing advisor to determine what solutions are the best for your firm.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.