What Does The Role of a Management Accountant and Finance Business Partner Look Like in 2021? 

24th February 2021 

Here at Howarth Morris, we are dedicated to Progressing Businesses and Progressing Careers, so helping our clients stay ahead of the game has always been a key focus that we are committed to. We achieve this by providing great talent for our clients, and through collating and sharing the latest industry research and insight.



As part of our dedication to sharing this knowledge, we are providing an insight into our first-hand observations of how the role of a Management Accountant/FBP has evolved in recent years and have looked ahead to uncover how we think the role will look in 2021.


Through our interaction with clients and candidates, we have seen that Management Accountants and FBPs have evolved to be key contributors to defining and achieving business goals, a finance lead in planning and executing strategies and supporting senior management and operations teams, supporting their commercial decisions and navigating the business through turbulent times.

Understanding how the role of a Management Accountant/FBP is changing as a result of the pandemic is important for both those who hold the job title and businesses seeking to hire for this role.

We have outlined three key areas that we have seen change significantly over the past year, read on to find out more!


“From Bean Counter to Business Partner”


In the same vein, the leadership that comes with the role enables Management Accountants and FBPs to play an increasingly important part in decision making and strategising – particularly through predictive analysis – again highlighted by the pandemic. Long gone are the days of the finance team being “back office” and key financial information being unavailable, misunderstood or neglected by Operations Teams and Budget Holders. The Management Accountant/FBP is pivotal to a broad audience having full visibility over all areas of the business as well as presenting and explaining key performance indicators, highlighting performance, underperformance, risk and opportunity.

Management Accountants and FBPs relieve the pressures and eliminate the risks of blindly making decisions, or deploying strategies that are not best suited or adapted to a situation. Through the processes of analysing data and forming predictions, Management Accountants and FBPs can take a well-informed approach to decision making and can support business leaders in understanding the key details needed for an effective strategy and the predicted financial impact of their decisions and actions.

Often business partnering with long-standing colleagues, who may be “set in their ways”, the modern Management Accountant/FBP will need a strong commercial acumen and the gravitas and personality required to forge strong working relationships – based on trust and integrity – to effectively influence decision making and actions. Often supporting Business Owners, Directors and Senior Management, the Management Accountant/FBP needs to be an excellent communicator and presenter with the ability to tailor their approach to fit the level and needs of the audience. The modern Management Accountant/FBP does not just report the numbers but has a direct impact on what the numbers are. In a pivotal role, they can add real value and make a real value to bottom-line business performance. Due to this commercial and strategic involvement, we find that our clients are particularly interested in candidates who can bring previous relevant sector knowledge and who have a close company profile and role/remit synergy in terms of their previous positions, skills and achievements.


Managing Risk


The role of a Management Accountant/FBP has evolved remarkably over the past 10 to 20 years. The pandemic has heightened these new developments through the importance of businesses being able to smoothly deploy Risk Management and ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) systems. The more understanding there is around these plans, the better the results will be in both the short term and long term.

Management Accountants and FBPs are expected to step up in times of crisis and be knowledgeable on ERM. Management Accountants and FBPs approach their roles with competencies in driving strategy planning processes, demonstrating ethical and legal compliance and acting as cross-functional business partners. These are skills that allow them to effectively lead risk management operations.


Tech Revolution


There are a host of opportunities that can be found in Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) that can replace the once labour-intensive tasks of a Management Accountant/FBP. The modern Management Accountant/FBP can provide information and results quicker, so creating more time to reflect, react and take action. Providing quicker solutions to mundane, inefficient, time-intensive tasks is a vital role in shaping the future of accounting operations.

­­Alongside this, the abrupt introduction to remote working that many businesses saw last year resulted in 67% of accountants agreeing that cloud computing will help them carry out their roles more effectively in the future.


Growing your business in 2021


Understandably, for many businesses during the pandemic, business growth and hiring plans had to be put on hold as they reassessed and adapted to navigate through the unexpected and new challenges presented.

But in terms of long-term survival, growth is crucial. From driving business performance and profit to attracting new talent and responding to market demand, it is not something that should be overlooked in challenging times, if the tools and expertise are in place to support it.

Management Accountants and FBPs are an essential resource for understanding what you can afford to spend on staffing, and the returns you can expect for your investment in new onboards. Critical decisions concerning what you keep in-house, and what you outsource, can be made far easier and effectively with the supporting data to make informed decisions.

2021 presents a dynamic landscape for businesses who are yet to navigate and understand the impact of Brexit, whilst recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (For further insight on HR in the time of Brexit, take a look here). Building a resilient workforce has been a hot topic of 2020, and is not likely to dampen down any time soon.

The role of a Management Accountant/FBP in 2021 is not one to be overlooked. Their skills and expertise will enable business leaders to work on recovering, progressing, minimising risks and making tough, well-informed decisions. Year on Year, most of our recruitment activity is at Management Accountant/FBP level – a testament to businesses recognising the contribution the right person can make at this level. They are an essential resource and real asset for businesses looking to achieve their full potential.

We hope you have found this blog both insightful and inspiring. For further information, tips and advice contact us at info@howarthmorris.co.uk.