From time to time people approach me on LinkedIn about financial modeling, courses, certificates, and other similar topics. I try to answer as much as I can. In the past couple of years, the questions have been accumulating, hence, we have decided to make a compilation of the questions and answers that could help others in their learning process as well!
Learn more about the certificates here:
Certificate Talks - Which, Why, When?
1. Do you have any recommendations for developing strong financial modeling skills? Any trainings or certifications that would bring added value to my personality and to my CV?
As for training, I think there are a couple of good options: 1. I really like the FMVA program by the Corporate Finance Institute. They really give very good and wide content for a price of a one-day webinar. This gives good lectures. 2. I think that our own Financial Modeling World Cup cases are probably the best thing to really train yourself for getting from just knowing the stuff to really mastering financial modeling and being able to work fast and efficiently. 3. As for certifications, in my opinion, only the FMI’s (Financial Modeling Institute) exams are worth the money (AFM and CFM exams). If you get a CFM grade, that’s really a sign of good quality in the industry.
2. I am a CFO for a small size company & keen on enhancing my skills in Financial modeling. Could you kindly recommend what’s the best course to pursue?
If you want to learn new things and improve your financial modeling skills, I think that FMVA would work best for you in terms of learning new skills. They have a very good online course. Just keep in mind that FMVA is very, so to say, Wall-Street-oriented, not Main-Street-oriented. I mean that they have emphasis on M&A deals, Valuation and other things that are not used by CFOs on a daily basis. Still, you would learn a lot of general financial modeling tricks. FMI, in my opinion, would work better for a CFO, but this is more of certification, less of a course. I think you could learn through FMVA and then sharpen your skills through FMI’s exams when you feel comfortable.
3. If I complete the full CFI FMVA program including all the electives courses would I be prepared to take FMI AFM?
I think you will be more than qualified for AFM. AFM requires you to be able to create a 3-statement model in a nice design and under time pressure. FMVA covers a lot more topics that are also useful for FMI’s CFM level exams and probably also for the MFM level when they launch it. However, it’s not only the knowledge that is tested on AFM, but also the general quality of your models and ability to work on a normal speed (not wasting too much time). Let me put it like this: FMVA will give you the knowledge, actually much more than you need for the AFM level. Still, you need to do some AFM practice exams (you’ll get them when you sign up) to be comfortable with it.
4. I don’t have any work experience, and now AFM is opened for students as well, although initially it was available for those who have 1-3 years of work experience. Do you think a student who doesn’t have any work experience can still pass the exam?
I think that work experience doesn’t matter that much for the AFM level. You should have enough knowledge from your university to be able to understand different line items in the financial model (i.e. sales, COGS, profit, depreciation, common vs. preferred equity, etc.). Training for the exam will allow you to enhance your skills. Additionally, if you get your AFM qualification, I think it will be a significant bonus for your potential employers.
5. I was looking at your profile and I saw that despite you seem to have an advanced level of modeling, you recently took the course of FMVA of the CFI. If you have some time, could you give me your own experience of the course? Is it worth doing it? I am currently finished with the CFA program and I’m looking for new things to learn! I have experience in modeling and I’m interested to continue improving and learn new techniques of modeling.
FMVA is more specialized on financial modeling, building Excel models and, to a less extent, pitch decks. It is a very good resource to learn, and I don’t think many things will overlap with CFA. In any case, the amount of learning is probably like 10x smaller than for the CFA program. And the exams are easy, in my opinion.
Some time ago I have written a review on this program, you can learn more from my blog here:
Overall, I think FMVA is a very good value for money. You will definitely strengthen your financial modeling skills. However, I don’t think it could give you as much career advantage as CFA could.
6. Currently I am planning to pass the FMVA certification. Do you have some good financial Model templates or documents to share?
If you go for the FMVA certification, you will get very good templates for many different needs like M&A, LBO, SaaS, real estate and even mining. They have very good templates that are included in the cost of the program. You can also review our templates at our website CFOTemplates.com. There is also a huge number of documents and templates on Eloquens.com.
7. Can you use FMVA materials to prepare for the CFM or MFM levels of FMI?
Might be possible to some extent if you need to cover a topic you weren’t previously exposed to. For example, I’ve spent 20 years doing corporate financial models but didn’t have too much experience with M&A models. It might be a good idea for me to review M&A video lectures before the MFM exam. But you can’t rely only on CFI’s materials – I would expect FMI exam cases to be much harder. At least that was my impression of the CFM exam cases at the year when I passed it. Low pass rate for the CFM level probably is another argument here.
8. I am extremely impressed with your financial modeling skills. I’m currently trying to develop my financial modeling skills. Can you please recommend a plan of action? – Books – Courses
Probably the best way would be to see other people models and to learn from these practices. I can’t recommend any specific book, I think most of them are OK, it’s just a matter of taste. But if you’d like to train, I suggest you to: 1. Use our case studies from the Financial Modeling World Cup and see the sample solution models: https://fmworldcup.com/sample-cases/ 2. Browse other people models at Eloquens.com. Start with the free models. You’d better spend the money on FMVA program. 3. Use FMVA program from Corporate Finance Institute – it costs about $500, but it will guide you through every aspect of financial modeling. It is definitely better than anything you could ever find on Udemy or other e-learning platforms.
9. I’m writing to you because I’ve seen your profile in the FMI website. I want to learn how to build financial models and to take the financial model’s exam issued by FMI in the future. I wanted to ask you if you could recommend a few books to start with?
I don’t think there is a single book that is better than others. Don’t think I can recommend any of them. At the time when I was learning there was not too much literature on this. You might really go for many of them. I know that Danielle Stein Fairhurst’s book should be good. However, the best advice would be for you just to go for practicing solving previous year exams – for AFM level that would be more than enough.
10. What does the CFA exam day look like? Do candidates need to start from scratch – to construct the whole financial model or is there some form of pre-set format given to the candidates when they arrive?
As far as I recall, it should be done mostly from scratch, including the design. I think that the historical P&L and the BS were given, but nothing else. So, it’s not about filling the pre-defined cells with formulas, it’s about making the whole model from scratch which is much more time-consuming.
11. Would you rather hire a person with CFM or FMVA certification?
CFM. It actually means that the person is a very advanced specialist in the field of financial modeling. It’s been tested and proven.
12. Which training would you use to train your in-house analysts?
FMVA. The video lectures could be accessed at flexible timing. A specific topic could be learned if an analyst starts a specific project. It’s also less expensive. I would only need to check their progress somehow.
13. How did you manage to get all those certifications? It seems so hard to study all the time, especially with the job (which is quite demanding).
The only program I really studied for was my CFA some 15 years ago. CFM and FMVA were easy as I was doing financial modeling for many years – just had to pass the exams. Believe me, I’m not even remotely as nerdy as my certifications might suggest!
14. How does FMWC work?
It’s a series of monthly financial modeling contests. Financial analysts from all over the world solve 3 different cases for a total of 2 hours (flexi-time Friday to Monday). To answer case questions you need to create a financial model – this is how you train. After the stage is over, the solution models are provided – this is how you learn the best practices. I think the website explains it pretty well – have a look yourself!
15. I’m thinking of participating in the Financial Modeling World Cup, but would like to see some example case studies to get a feel for the competition, would you be able to provide that?
Thank you for your interest! I think that these links will provide more than enough cases to get a feel for the competition: https://www.fmworldcup.com/sample-cases/ and https://www.fmworldcup.com/product-category/case-studies/! Will be looking forward to welcoming you among FMWC players this season!