[Interview] What Is It Like to Be a Bilingual FP and A Professional in Japan?
Recently I had a chance to speak with Imam Hossain, a top finance professional working in Japan. He is an FP&A Manager, who over the last five years launched his career in financial planning and analysis.
Using not only his finance skills but also his language skills he has developed his career in a leading international pharmaceutical company. Hossain-san made time out of his schedule to discuss his views on the ins and outs of the Financial Planning and Analysis world.
When did you decide to start a career in FP&A and what motivated this choice?
“When I was a BBA student in my University, I was always curious about Strategy and Financing. I was able to understand the value of a Financial Planner & Analyst while he or she is responsible for a company’s finances with a more critical view. I was also influenced after I got to know that FP&A is the right hand of a company, who knows the trends with deviations between “present” and “to be” situations of a company and then introduce strategies based on those analysis for sustainable growth.”
Tell us a little about your current role?
“For me it’s about proactive attitude and self-responsibility. In FP&A, one must be reactive to continue daily activities faster and smoother, however it’s always a positive sign if he/she is also proactive (driven by self-responsibility) as you don’t want to wait for any task to be given or any situation to be faced, which is also good for an organization that he/she belongs to.”
So it is great to know that in this field there are many different types of positions to suit different types of people, from team based positions to standalone ones. Not only are there a variety of positions, but also a variety of companies, including Gaishikei- or foreign companies, based in Japan. So how does a foreign national fit in to Japanese working culture?
“Since I am working in a foreign based company in Japan, I feel myself a bridge/connector between Japan Local office and HQ. I am very happy that I am adding extra value in my role since I am familiar with both the Japanese business culture and Western business culture which I can utilize to both parties to achieve a common and mutual goal. Moreover as a bilingual professional I can deep dive to each of my colleagues located in both Japan and abroad to meet any challenge or to improve any process since there is no language barrier between me and my colleagues from both Japan and abroad.”
So if language is not a problem, then what are the challenges of fulfilling an FP&A role?
“Since this is one of the most important and critical roles for a company, there is a lot of challenges I have in my day to day work. The first one I would like to say is “to challenge my business partners”. Business people always think about getting more business and growing sales, however as an FP&A professional I need to validate how important is it for my company to get more business to ensure future sustainability. Which means as a strategy planner, sometimes saying “NO” is a challenge to your business partners. Secondly, as a business controller it’s always important to engage everyone in an organization. Since the employees are from different backgrounds/departments, it’s always a challenge when I am communicating as I need to communicate by putting myself in their shoes.”
So it seems that communication is a key factor when considering a role in the FP&A field, but if you can overcome all of these challenges, what kind of rewards do you receive?
“There are quite a lot of perks in my role. Firstly, excitement; every day is new to an FP&A position. New challenges come up and I am responsible for overcoming those. I always feel energetic and never feel bored in my daily activities. Secondly, I speak based on proof and evidence (and figures are my evidence): In the present corporate world it’s not that easy to make someone say yes and get that someone to be supportive to you. However, I always speak and propose based on the situation with proof and evidence. Here my evidence is my data analysis since I always discuss based on figures and fact. And it becomes easier to manage the stakeholders and keep them engaged as you can’t deny the figures. Moreover, I feel happy when I am able to do so, as I have always liked numbers and analysis from the beginning.”
Perhaps you are a new grad considering a job in this field, what is Hossain-san’s advice to you?
“I would say, in the FP&A function we should work in a cross functional style, since our boundary of work is not limited, and the more we can work cross functionally the more it’s smooth to achieve the goals of FP&A. Besides that, we should work not only with numbers, but also with the business and people side of things. We also need to understand how the business runs and how our front line employees think.”
This is fantastic advice for anyone considering a role in the FP&A field, as Hossain-san has made it very clear, a love of number, analysis, problem solving and of people with guide you to a successful career path in the interesting and ever-growing market.
If you feel like you have these talents and are interested in joining the Finance industry, please do not hesitate to contact me. Let’s talk about the next step in your career!