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Finance and financial management

Finance and financial management: area of work

A graduate financial role in the consumer products sector can place you at the heart of business decision making.

Graduate finance roles in consumer goods companies are about much more than sitting at a desk poring over numbers. They call for teamworking and effective communication with colleagues from across the business in order to maintain effective financial controls.

If you start your graduate career in a finance role in a consumer goods company, you’ll provide management information that will be used to make business decisions and assess how the operational side of the business is performing against targets and budgets. Your performance will help steer the profitability and efficiency of the business, and as you advance, you’ll learn how to challenge decisions that don’t make financial sense. Some FMCG companies have a dedicated finance team for each brand, and you could find yourself ensuring the future success of a household name product.

You’ll need to keep up-to-date and maintain your awareness of the wider picture, taking market developments into account and making sure you understand the impact of changes in the law to the business.

What is it like doing a graduate finance job in a consumer goods company?

The leading graduate employers in the sector tend to run finance graduate schemes that support recruits through relevant qualifications, such those offered by CIMA (the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). Graduate schemes are typically one to two years long and involve a series of placements in various finance functions in the business. There may be opportunities to spend time working overseas or at a distribution centre.

If you take up a place on a finance graduate scheme in this sector you could find yourself providing financial information about specific products at different stages in their life cycles, or working on analysing sales across the company. For example, if the company is in the process of developing a new product, you might be called upon to consider potential market demand, assess the manufacturing costs, analyse how it would fit in with the organisation’s overall commercial strategy and establish the likely impact of launching the product on the company’s profitability. Alternatively, you could be involved in working out the cost of a project to launch a new product, in order to decide how successful it was after the event.

Other tasks and projects you might undertake during your graduate training scheme include providing a financial analysis for a brand or product category, profit forecasting, optimising costs in manufacturing facilities and internal audit.

After completing your graduate training scheme, you will probably move into a management accounting role in one of the company’s divisions, often focusing on either commercial or operational activities. You could progress to a senior role in finance management, perhaps as finance director for a brand, group of products or region.

What skills, aptitudes and qualifications are needed for graduate finance roles in the consumer goods sector?

You’ll need numerical competence and good communication, negotiating and interpersonal skills, and initiative. A strong academic record is important and some recruiters require a minimum 2:1. Graduate schemes tend to be open to applicants from all degree backgrounds, but you’ll need to be comfortable with numbers in order to cope with a management accountancy qualification. A foreign language may be an advantage.

Graduate recruiters will look for candidates who are results-driven and have good attention to detail. As you’ll ultimately need to be willing and able to challenge business decisions within the company, you will also need confidence and a thick skin.

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