From number crunchers to finance business partners 

Maersk Line and Implement Consulting Group

6 April 2018

A learning journey for 500 Finance Business Partners

The Maersk Line Business Finance College is a groundbreaking training program for the finance function. Almost 500 people have now been through the face-to-face training and are ready to help their business stakeholders solve their most critical problems.

Two years ago, however, there was a very different picture. A Hackett Benchmark Business Finance Study had been sent out to measure the impact of the Finance department on their strategic journey.

The results were somewhat chastening. As Maersk Line CFO Pierre Danet explains: “Our stakeholders essentially felt that Finance should better understand the business and didn’t really see the department as creating a lot of value.”

Creating the college was a true collaboration between Finance, HR, Learning & Development and Implement Consulting Group.

The result was a 6-month learning journey with a range of activities to accelerate Business Finance’s development.

A total of 9 sessions have been run with almost 500 participants.

The results indicated that a shift needed to be made. The skillset and competencies of Finance people needed to be lifted, whilst the heavy focus on producing reports and analysing numbers should be changed to helping the likes of Commercial and Operations solve genuine business problems. In other words, becoming a real Finance Business Partner.

The first step was designing clear roles and responsibilities of what a Finance Business Partner should do, what competencies and capabilities were required, and which stakeholders they should support. Following the design of the organisation and hiring of many new Finance Business Partners, a small team started to work on a framework and training program that would accelerate the journey towards delivering the vision.

Pierre Danet explains: “People don’t become great Finance Business Partners overnight just because you tell them to. So, we needed to give them a framework and build their competences”. The result was the Maersk Line Finance Business Partner Framework and the Business Finance College.

The Finance Business Partner Framework

The journey started with the design of a Finance Business Partner Framework and a groundbreaking training program that not only would deliver a lift in our competences but more importantly create a culture change within Business Finance.

It took just over a year from the very start of the project work until we could hand out diplomas to the first graduates.

The Finance Business Partner Framework is simple in structure, yet comprehensive in content and answers four simple questions:

  1. Why do we have a Finance Business Partner role?
  2. Where do Finance Business Partners focus to create value?
  3. What activities do the Finance Business Partners perform?
  4. How do Finance Business Partners deploy their competencies to create value?

Driving value creation

The Business Finance College involves e-learning, solving an actual case study, an introduction to the concept of energy management and a reflection paper over the course of 6 months. At its core are four days of training to equip finance colleagues with better tools to partner with business stakeholders and a framework on how to solve problems.

By now, almost 500 participants have completed their learning journey. Pierre Danet explains: “It was hugely satisfying to sign the first round of diplomas signaling that we now have our first Business Finance College graduates. More and more of our Finance Business Partners are now ready to drive value creation and build strong relationships with their stakeholders to the benefit of the wider organisation.”

The learning journey prompted the participants to learn more about their communication preferences, the preferences of their business stakeholders, how their stakeholders perceive their business finance competences as well as sharing reflections about what they had learned.

The fact that the training program consisted of a 6-month learning journey is what differentiates it from most other training programs and is what makes it stick and creates a real impact on the business.

A profitable investment in people

The program has been quite an investment, but with the training program concluding, our managers can now increasingly expect to see Finance Business Partners being able to support their stakeholders in solving critical challenges. So, this is worth the costs. As Pierre states: “It’s a major investment aimed at enabling our full Finance transformation and was therefore not only essential but also self-funded.”

Impact of the training program was measured on four levels:

  • Reactions – Measured by asking the participants to rate the training activities after completion.

  • Learning – Measured by testing whether the participants can recall the material after having completed the training.

  • Changes in behaviour – measured through surveys completed by the participants’ stakeholders.

  • Business results – measured by compiling the impact from the 400+ business cases solved by the Finance Business Partners as part of the program. The return on investment of the training program is self-funding.
Introducing the journey behind Maersk Business Finance College

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