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The Journey From Accountant to Business Partner in Japan

The Journey From Accountant to Business Partner in Japan

5 months ago by Jonathan Cant
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​In partnership with the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), we were proud to co-host “From Accountant to Business Partner” recently. Over 130 participants enjoyed the session, which was hosted by our partner Nina Michels-Kim from IMA. Panelists Toru Enomoto from Takeda and Akihito Miki from Rigaku Holdings shared their insights and experiences on becoming a good Finance Business Partner (FBP).

In this article I would like to summarize and go through the 4 questions integrated into the webinar as polls. The responses brought interesting insights regarding the state of business partnering in Japan. 

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Top 3 answers

  • Enhanced skills, knowledge, and competencies - 41.9%

  • Improved job enrichment - 16.1%

  • Improved personal connections - 11.8%

To transition into a business partnering role, there has to be a benefit to you. Interestingly, here in Japan, there was an overwhelming response in favor of people wanting that benefit to be the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills. Over anything else, including increasing scope of responsibilities, connections and even job enrichment, we saw that the vast majority of Japanese finance professionals want to use the Finance Business Partnering experience to acquire more skills and knowledge.

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Top 3 answers

  • Understanding and interpreting data - 28.4%

  • Forecasting - 20%

  • How a business functions financially - 14.7%

A key attribute of a good FBP is the ability to look at financial models and interpret them, and not surprisingly, this was the most commonly cited “basic” skill that our attendees wanted to improve. Beyond this, forecasting is also vital and it was natural to see this as the second most important basic skill.

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Top 3 answers

  • Strategic thinking - 30.9%

  • Storytelling - 20.2%

  • Leadership - 16.0%

Attendees were also asked which of the “broader skills” they value the most. These were the core elements of business partnering: communication, strategy and influencing. Strategic thinking and Storytelling were the areas where Japanese finance professionals want to develop. Strategic thinking is often mentioned as an area that separates a good FBP from your average finance professional. Obviously, with access to so much data, and business partnering responsibilities involving multiple teams, it’s vital to be able to consider the numbers and make the best suggestions based on those numbers. How are you looking to improve your strategic skills? Do you get the opportunity to use figures to think about how the company can continue to grow and achieve? 

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Top 3 answers

  • Build trust - 39.8%

  • Keep things simple and focused - 20.4%

  • Use an inside-out approach, starting with why - 12.9%

Interpersonal interactions are a very important area and we saw that FBPs see building trust as the most crucial area to focus on. To become a better Business Partner requires strong interpersonal interactions, probably even more so in a low context culture like Japan. As you get better at interacting with other people, you will build trust with them and they will come to you with their thoughts, concerns and suggestions. 

So what do you think? Which areas are you most interested in developing? Do any of these data surprise you? We plan to hold more events soon, so look out for the next opportunity!