FP&A » FP&A is Batman, not Robin, says Warner Bros Discovery Exec Director
FP&A is Batman, not Robin, says Warner Bros Discovery Exec Director
Warner Bros' Daniel Echeverri sheds light on the evolution of FP&A from supportive sidekick to becoming the caped crusader of the financial world, wielding data and technology to navigate through the complex and dynamic financial landscapes
In the cinematic universe, Batman, with his cool gadgets and tech-savvy prowess, has always captivated audiences by turning visionary engineering into crime-fighting reality.
It is therefore no surprise that he also happens to be the protagonist in Daniel Echeverri’s favourite film franchise.
With a background steeped in mechatronic engineering and a palpable admiration for the Dark Knight’s technological arsenal, Echeverri finds himself travelling a similar narrative, albeit in the financial realms of the entertainment industry.
His transition to executive director of FP&A at Warner Bros Disvovery, a conglomerate known for bringing the caped crusader to the big screen, seems almost serendipitous. While Echeverri does not fight crime, he does combat financial conundrums with a utility belt filled with data analytics, strategic foresight, and technological acumen, crafting a future where financial planning & analysis (FP&A) becomes the unsung hero behind the scenes.
“In recent years, computing power has increasingly evolved and was followed by new software tools that made manual work less cumbersome for all the financial departments,” he tells The CFO.
“At the same time, we are getting more information about the clients than ever. For FP&A this means to transition from crunching numbers to connecting, organizing, and understanding data to bring the best insights as business partners.”
Providing the right support
Navigating through the financial complexities of the corporate world, CFOs encounter a myriad of unpredictable variables. The role of FP&A has therefore become more paramount than ever, serving as a strategic guide through these intricacies.
“There has always been and there will always be unpredictable variables,” Echeverri says. However, the approach towards this unpredictability is strategic and data-driven.
CFOs, he suggests, should maintain a “clear focus on the company’s strategy and how to achieve it by understanding the information available with the pertinent analysis.”
The emphasis here is on a strategy that is not only deliberate but also deeply rooted in data and analytical insights, ensuring informed and strategic decision-making.
“The best way to achieve the strategic objectives for the CFO is to work closely with all the different areas of the company, understand the client needs and how value is created within the services/products offered,” Echeverri says.
This underscores the necessity for CFOs to adopt a holistic approach, understanding and integrating insights from various areas of the company, and ensuring that the FP&A function is not only supportive but also strategically aligned with the overall objectives of the organization.
Bolstering FP&A with data and automation
Navigating through the financial intricacies with a strategic and data-driven approach sets the stage for a deeper exploration into the role of technology and analytics in FP&A.
The integration of data analytics and technological advancements, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, has not only enhanced the capabilities of FP&A but has also redefined its role and impact within the organisation.
“The amount and availability of information is exponentially growing for all the companies,” Echeverri says.
The surge in available data necessitates a robust analytical approach to extract relevant and actionable insights, positioning data analysis as a pivotal priority for CFOs. Echeverri suggests that the integration of data analytics into FP&A begins with “nurturing a digital transformation culture.”
This involves empowering and training teams to adeptly utilize new tools and technologies, ensuring that the data is not merely collected but is also effectively analysed and transformed into strategic insights.
“Both AI and automation have been around for a couple of decades now and are already part of the FP&A systems that we use on a daily basis,” Echeverri says.
The push towards these technologies, particularly as organisations seek to enhance efficiency and manage costs, has become more pronounced.
Echeverri notes that the optimal approach towards these technologies involves leveraging available tools to perform “almost every manual and repetitive activity of the financial planning processes.”
The objective is to minimise repetitive work, thereby enabling finance professionals to focus on performing in-depth analyses and maintaining proximity to clients and the business.
In this context, FP&A becomes a function that is not only integral to financial planning and analysis but also a strategic partner that leverages data analytics, AI, and automation to enhance decision-making, optimize processes, and align financial strategies with organizational objectives.
Planning for the future
Delving deeper into the technological and analytical advancements that have reshaped FP&A, a forward-looking perspective becomes imperative.
“In a few years from now, FP&A will be almost an immediate and online task, thanks to seamless and automated data flows,” Echeverri says.
The advent of business intelligence systems, AI, and RPAs is set to make budgeting, forecasting, and monthly closures virtually instantaneous.
This future, while technologically advanced, also demands strategic preparation from CFOs to ensure that the transition is not only smooth but also strategically aligned with organisational objectives.
“CFOs should be prepared to enhance the quality of the information created and received across the whole organization to get the right insights for the optimal decision-making process,” Echeverri says.
“Future CFOs and senior financial executives are going to have more information available than ever, and their focus will be to prioritise the most important facts and develop a strategy to guarantee that all the data remains accurate throughout time.”