FPAC Profile: Ready to Shape the Future of the Profession
Natalie Morrison may not have started out in FP&A, but after 10 years entrenched in it, she’s ready to take on the challenge of shaping the future of the profession. “I would love to take on the challenges of a leadership role at the national level for one of the professional organizations I’m currently part of,” said Morrison. “These organizations have a unique ability to shape the future of our profession, and I want to be part of leading that forward-looking movement.”
Finance found her
Morrison’s desire to make a difference in her organization is what led her from internal auditor to senior financial analyst. She was completing her MBA courses when the finance director at WaterOne reached out to discuss a financial analyst position that would be opening, coincidentally, after Morrison completed her degree. “I was eager to dig into a more operational role to utilize more of the skill set I was developing through my education, and I was thrilled that the director had noticed my desire to make a difference in our organization,” she said.
It didn’t take long for Morrison to dive in and immerse herself in everything finance, utilizing the analytical and problem-solving skills she carefully developed through experience and education, and which she thoroughly enjoys putting to use for the betterment of her organization.
Present day responsibilities and challenges
In her current role as the manager of Financial Planning & Analysis, Morrison manages a team of financial analysts to finalize the annual budget, manage the organization’s investment portfolio and perform economic analysis on future capital investments.
To help her not only to carry out these tasks, but improve upon them, Morrison regularly attends national and local industry conferences such as AFP, AWWA and GFOA. She is always on the lookout for new tools or training on best practices, or unique solutions other organizations have employed. And she doesn’t keep them to herself. When she returns, it is with an extensive write-up of the sessions she attended in hand and a list of initiatives to investigate further.
While technical skills have been incredibly important to Morrison’s career development, soft skills have also played a key role in her success. “I am particularly interested in the story behind the numbers. The way people make decisions and process emotions doesn’t always follow textbook rules, and understanding human tendencies is both fascinating and important for understanding the real story behind the decision process,” she said.
Train them up and treat them well
“One of the biggest challenges facing FP&A in the future is the recruitment and retention of talented analysts,” said Morrison. Because there is no way to automate the consultant role that FP&A plays, recruiting and retaining analysts with the unique skill sets required to be successful in this role will continue to be critical to the success of any organization.
“My boss has a philosophy that we should train our employees so they are able to leave, but treat them well enough that they don’t want to,” she said. If you invest in your staff, if you train them but also treat them as a whole person, understanding that there will be times they’re able to give their all, and other times when they’re not, it creates a true sense of loyalty. “I know firsthand how meaningful this type of understanding is,” said Morrison.
Morrison said one of the biggest rewards associated with her current role is the opportunity to be a mentor for her team. It is her personal mission to help each of her analysts achieve their major career milestones, whether that is earning additional credentials, getting their master’s degree, or earning their own management roles.
For her own upskilling, Morrison says it’s all about technology, specifically RPA. “I’ve heard some really exciting stories about streamlining processes and improving efficiency through the deployment of RPA technology, which is something I haven’t had the chance to work with just yet, but I’m looking forward to getting into in the future.”
How the FPAC credential aided in her career advancement
Morrison believes that curiosity and a passion for learning are critical for success, which is what led to her earning the FPAC credential. When it was still a relatively new offering, her boss brought it to her attention. He printed out all the competencies on the exam, reviewed the list with her and said it sounded like her job description. Morrison agreed, ordered the online learning program and said she had fun investigating all of the learning tools that came with it. “It became an obsession, and I was so stressed about successful test results, but after all the work and stress there was no better feeling than when I saw that I had passed!” she said.
Because working and studying for the FPAC at the same time wasn’t enough, Morrison took it all on while she was pregnant. And it was while she was out on maternity leave that she learned she was being promoted to senior financial analyst. “Earning my FPAC played a critical role in this promotion, and I can’t tell you how meaningful it was to have earned a promotion while I was away from the office,” she said.
Morrison said she is incredibly proud to be able to list the FPAC credential after her name, that it adds a level of achievement and credibility that only a rigorous certification can do. “It was an external validation to my boss and my peers that I was knowledgeable and dedicated to our role as FP&A,” said Morrison.
And she didn’t stop there. Morrison followed up the FPAC by earning the CTP credential and volunteering to complete the investment responsibilities for the organization. “Adding yet another credential and also putting it to work for WaterOne was definitely a consideration as I earned the promotion to management,” she said.
Morrison said she would wholeheartedly recommend the FPAC credential to others. In fact, half of her department holds the credential, which is something the whole team is proud of. “Earning the credential is an objective measure of knowledge, skills and abilities in the FP&A role. It is validation that you are committed to and prepared to lead the financial planning & analysis profession. You join an elite club of other professionals who are dedicated to excellence in our profession. And, most importantly, FPAC professionals bring critical knowledge and skills back to their organizations adding value at every turn,” said Morrison.
What the future holds
Morrison said she would love the opportunity to serve as WaterOne’s finance director someday. For her, that would mean maintaining the organization’s AAA rating from S&P and providing affordable and equitable rates for their ratepayers.
She is also interested in leadership roles outside the office. Morrison has enjoyed serving as the current president of the Eastern Kansas Government Finance Officers Association, and hopes to take on the challenges of a leadership role at the national level in the future. She is particularly interested in serving one of the professional organizations in which she is currently a member, including AWWA, GFOA and AFP. “These organizations have a unique ability to shape the future of our profession, and I want to be part of leading that movement,” Morrison said.
Learn more about the FP&A profession through original content and resources available only on AFP’s website.