Keith Kim, our very own VP of Finance at Planful, recently joined me on the Being Planful podcast. Keith has an interesting career, starting in investment banking and eventually moving into FP&A. During that time, he’s worked at some of the biggest names in technology and has been deeply involved in mergers and acquisitions.
In this episode, Keith and I discuss the differences between corporate development and FP&A, and the lessons learned transitioning from a highly variable, sometimes chaotic experience in M&A to the more structured, cyclical world of Finance. We also get Keith’s thoughts on what FP&A should prepare for in 2021 and how his role at Planful involves influencing the direction of our Continuous Planning software and solutions.
Here are a few highlights of this episode.
A Hybrid of Finance and Corporate Development
Keith began his career working on M&A deals from the investment banking side, playing a transactional role with just a glimpse of the entire deal. He quickly moved to the inside, working with a “highly acquisitive” company. That gave him the opportunity to see the entire lifecycle of a transaction, from due diligence through integration, putting him in partnership with product and engineering teams to provide financial insights as they evaluated a potential target. It also brought his finance and M&A skills together.
“You’re participating in the due diligence, but also seeing what the impact could be to the business as you’re exploring these really exciting technologies and companies,” said Keith. “The roles just go hand in hand. It’s really striking how I had been able to leverage both of those skill sets in one role.”
But, with finance being, at least traditionally, cyclical and predictable, Keith brought out-of-the-box thinking to the role. With M&A being wildly variable, it also helped prepare Keith for managing the unpredictable side of Finance.
Enterprise Attitude for Midsize Action
Working on multi-billion dollar deals across huge companies taught Keith many valuable lessons on mobilizing cross-functional resources and working within well-defined processes. But, as he transitioned to run Finance at Planful, Keith enjoyed the luxury of just rolling up his sleeves and getting things done.
“When you’re smaller, you just take things on,” said Keith. “You just need consensus from maybe one or two other people, and you make things happen. That speed and agility is what makes a smaller company nimble and agile, with quick decision making. But for companies that have bigger aspirations, it behooves them to put efficient processes in place so that as they grow, they’re not laying down debt they’ll have to pay for later.”
That debt avoidance includes controls, collaboration, and automation capabilities that empower Finance to do more, but without adding layers of unnecessary process or human capital.
Constantly Improving FP&A’s Product
Keith mentioned reporting specifically, as it’s the key product delivered by Finance to the business. He likened good financial insights delivery as having a good product-market fit. So FP&A teams need to think like product marketers and deliver those reports, insights, and dashboards to each audience with the right data, in the right format, and at the right frequency.
“Just anticipating changes and bringing insights to your business partners is something FP&A should always revisit and refine,” Keith explained. “Because what you reported last year may not be relevant this year. So sometimes you just have to think outside of the box a little bit, understand the pulse of the business, and change the product: your reporting packages.”
Being Ready for Continued Uncertainty
Keith dove deeper into FP&A deliverables, saying it’s not reporting, but insights that the business needs. But that need changes on a regular basis because the business does, too. This past year showed us all the velocity at which change can happen. Looking back, some businesses rebounded in a matter of weeks, while others are still struggling to regain ground. The insights they needed then versus now are drastically different.
Coming full circle, Keith talked about how he’s taken on a sort of dual role, being both VP of Finance at Planful and working closely with our product development team. His professional experience is used to help our customers build agility, collaboration, and accuracy into their financial processes. In 2021, much of that need also revolves around flexibility so the business can deal with continued uncertainty.
“It just goes to show how adaptable we’ve become,” said Keith. “But, within these new confines, how can FP&A be more efficient and effective? It’s really exciting to see all the new features we have on the roadmap to solve the pain points finance teams have today.”
Subscribe to Being Planful
To hear more about Keith’s M&A days and how he’s in the thick of Continuous Planning at Planful, listen to episode #8 of Being Planful.
This podcast series explores the benefits of adopting a “Planful” mindset by inviting your FP&A peers, analysts, industry experts, and more, to share their experiences and insights. Podcasting also lets us stay socially-distant while giving you a more flexible way to learn about Continuous Planning, whether it’s watching it on your phone, listening during your morning run, or tuning-in whenever it’s convenient.
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