How to Hire Financial Modeling Consultants | Toptal® (2024)

Business Owners Need Financial Modeling to Analyze Performance, Track KPIs, Raise Capital, and More

According to Gartner research, financial modeling skills are experiencing the highest growth in demand of all finance and accounting functions, based on 2022 third-quarter data from five countries, and this trend is expected to continue. The demand may reflect the current environment of perceived financial uncertainty; to counteract this instability, business leaders want to be as confident as possible about their next moves. This is where financial modeling comes in.

A financial model uses numerical data to demonstrate in detail how a company has operated in the past and how it works in the present, as well as to forecast how it will continue to work into the future. The major benefit of financial modeling is that it helps leaders review historical performance to understand how different strategies are likely to affect future performance; thus, their decisions are better informed and data-driven. Companies need reliable financial models to build economically viable businesses, raise capital, and provide solid insights and key performance indicators (KPIs).

How to Hire Financial Modeling Consultants | Toptal® (1)

Building and maintaining a quality financial model is not a job for accountants who lack substantial experience. Financial modeling of businesses can be extremely complicated, involving myriad moving parts and buy-in from multiple stakeholders. Many times, a financial model will require analysis and feedback from multiple business units, and it takes experience to navigate the nuances of each organization. Unless a business employs a specialized CFO, it would be unusual for a small or midsize company to have a full-time employee to conduct financial modeling at the necessary level of detail and sophistication. Instead, when undertaking a strategic business initiative, companies typically hire well-qualified financial modeling consultants to work directly with management teams, financial parties, and other stakeholders.

You can find good financial modeling experts from a variety of sources, including specialized financial services/consulting firms and online solo-practitioner consultancies. (Some software tools also provide financial modeling, but this functionality isn’t nearly as robust as what a consultant provides.) Wherever you choose to search, your ultimate goal is to find an expert you can trust to provide accurate, professional, and, above all, dependable advice to help you make strategic business moves and informed financial decisions.

This hiring guide offers insights into how to hire the best financial modeling consultant for your particular needs.

What attributes distinguish quality Financial Modeling Consultants from others?

When you’re looking for a quality financial modeling consultant, experience should be your primary criterion. Ideally, your candidate will have at least five years of experience working in general financial modeling, as well as specialized sector background relevant to your use case. In terms of the former, you’ll want a practitioner who has experience in modeling business endeavors; with that knowledge they can make informed decisions on the best methods and data sources to use in constructing an insightful, quality product for business owners.

As for the latter, it’s important to look for qualities in a financial modeling consultant that demonstrate their know-how in whatever business sector and use case is relevant to your situation—including the ability to create a robust model capturing all the financial data elements you’re looking for. If you’re planning on sharing your model with potential investors, experience working with investment banks and institutional investing is helpful. The best financial modeling consultants are not only skilled and knowledgeable, but also creative and adaptive since every financial model has its own unique circumstances, stakeholders, and process nuances.

Generally, there’s a specific impetus or initiative that drives the need for a robust financial model. Common reasons to hire a financial modeling expert for your business include mergers and acquisitions, raising capital, financial planning and analysis, strategic business initiatives, and other important business concerns.

If your business is involved in—or even contemplating—any of these endeavors, it’s crucial to hire a qualified financial modeling consultant to support a successful financial modeling process. For example, raising capital from banks or equity investors could trigger the need for financial modeling, as would a business buying a new class of real estate, which requires its own unique set of financial modeling methodologies. A well-qualified financial modeling consultant can also tell you about industry standard best practices and common performance metrics for your business as a way to get started.

Many businesses will hire a financial modeling expert to explore or develop what their business KPIs look like currently, as well as additional opportunities for performance improvement. Often, going through the process of developing the scope of a financial model use case will generate new questions and insights that will add additional value to the businesses under consideration.

How can you identify the ideal Financial Modeling Consultant for your business?

In addition to general experience with financial modeling and expertise with your use case, a top financial modeling consultant must possess a variety of hard and soft skills in order to effectively build a sophisticated financial model for their clients. These include:

  • Understanding of modeling types – All financial modelers should be familiar with three-statement financial models, and most qualified modelers will be experts in discounted cash flows, merger consolidation models, and leveraged buyout models, among other capital market models.
  • Data analysis – All financial modeling consultants ought to be comfortable with macro and micro data analysis. Most should be familiar with databases and data management as well.
  • Accounting – Financial modeling consultants should be able to build financial models to analyze and evaluate the accounting implications of various use cases across different accounting methods (GAAP, IFRS, and others).
  • Forecasting – Expert financial modelers will be able to perform in-depth financial forecasts of a company’s financial statements, including scenario analysis. Most financial modelers will also have a background in corporate finance.
  • Expertise with modeling software – Microsoft Excel is commonly used for modeling, but consultants may also have familiarity with other business-specific modeling software.
  • Strong communication skills – Consultants work directly and extensively with management to clearly articulate complicated concepts and explain the reasoning behind their findings. They need to be adept at listening to, understanding, and incorporating client feedback.
  • Research skills – Consultants must conduct company- and industry-specific research as part of building the financial modeling architecture.
  • Presentation skills – Part of effective modeling is demonstrating insights in as clear and compelling a way as possible.
  • Creative critical thinking and quantitative skills – These qualities ensure that the financial modeler can use data to develop a persuasive argument and back it up.
  • Project management skills – Creating an insightful financial model is frequently a large project that requires a well-managed process with multiple stakeholders who may have different motivations and incentives.

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Complementary skills that may be relevant to your business use case may include:

  • Auditing – Many financial modelers will have experience with financial auditing, forensic accounting, and/or quality of earnings analysis. Skills like these can help them dig deeper into nuanced understandings of company performance.
  • Sensitivity analysis – High-quality financial modeling consultants will be able to sensitize a variety of inputs and model drivers to identify strengths and weaknesses tailored to specific business use cases. Examples could include return on investment in advertising, growth rates, and COGS/margin scenario analysis.
  • Advanced Excel skills – Financial modeling consultants should be competent with advanced Excel skills such as VBA macros, database linking, and queries, including SQL, data tables, arrays, functions, and formatting options. These are applicable in a variety of use cases to create client-friendly products.
  • Design skills – In addition to advanced formatting options in Excel, to ensure the model is easy to understand, a superior financial modeling consultant should have a background with a variety of modeling use cases and be able to use their design skills to create an attractive and intuitive product for your business.

How to Write a Financial Modeling Consultant Job Description for Your Project

First, clearly describe your use case and business sector, including what stage(s) you’re at in any strategic initiative(s). Include germane details about why you’re hiring a financial modeling consultant at this time. This will help candidates with relevant experience self-select, as well as give them a clearer sense of the nature of the project.

Next, list the stakeholders and documents you think the financial modeling specialist may need to consult. You don’t have to have everything on hand and ready to go, but start thinking about the steps needed to acquire the documents and at what point in the data collection process you’ll want the financial modeling expert to step in. Including information about the scope, intensity, and length of the work you need done will help both you and potential candidates understand what realistic project deadlines and budgets might look like. One thing to keep in mind: Building a financial model is a job in and of itself, but as a living document, the model will probably need to be maintained in order to remain useful going forward.

Finally, be clear about your expectations in terms of qualifications and experience, bearing in mind the aforementioned guidance about special cases that require advanced expertise. Be specific about what you need.

What are the most important Financial Modeling Consultant interview questions?

By the interview stage, you will have an understanding of each candidate’s education and prior positions; now you can dig into their experience and how it applies to your particular use case. Questions to help you evaluate the candidate include the following:

Can you describe your experience working on financial models?

Ask how recently their latest model was implemented. Expect the candidate to detail how they approached the case; assess how appropriate and customized their approach seems. The more recent and robust their experience with your kind of use case, the better.

How would you approach financial modeling for my specific use case?

Financial modeling is one of the most important tools for companies to analyze data and financial performance. Inquire about how the candidate would approach modeling your specific business needs, going into detail about expected deliverables and their relevant expertise with them. If you’re using the financial model to raise debt or equity capital from banks or investors, the candidate should know what model form and structure would be investor-friendly for your business. As for deliverables, Microsoft Excel will be the primary software tool for financial modeling, and results will be provided in Excel (or Google Sheets), so it’s important to specify if your needs are different.

Can you describe your approach to managing data and deriving model drivers and assumptions?

It’s key to understand how the candidate would utilize existing data from the relevant business, especially if it’s in a niche market. They should be able to talk about how they would leverage your data and provide additional analytical value to your company by implementing financial model drivers/inputs, assumptions, and/or sensitivity analysis. While you may not be familiar with all of the available financial modeling techniques, the candidate should be able to explain what approaches they would use and why.

Will this financial model require additional information or data beyond what’s provided? How would you manage the schedule and project?

The answer to these questions will help you assess how well the candidate understands your use case, as well as give you a sense of whether your time and budget estimates are on target.

What steps do you follow in your workflow? Can you provide examples of how you have successfully created value for your clients?

While no two financial models are the same, a typical process workflow includes the following steps:

Step 1: Define objectives and stakeholders.

  • Discuss with company executives the specific reason for hiring a financial modeling consultant—for instance, to raise capital or analyze business economics and KPIs.
  • Decide upon methods and data sources based on your financial modeling objectives and stakeholders.

Step 2: Gather data.

  • Compile information about the business, including a business operations overview and any other business-specific information relevant to the use case.
  • Aggregate existing business financials and develop a financial model and/or financial projections.
  • Adjust financials and collaborate with management to define sensitivities and scenarios that incorporate risk. For instance, financial statements prepared for tax purposes and audited financials must be properly interpreted and reclassified as appropriate for business valuation use cases.

Step 3: Implement model drivers, assumptions, and sensitivities to make the model more insightful and robust, as needed.

  • Ensure that the design, inputs, outputs, and summaries are user-friendly and ready for all stakeholders.

Step 4: Conduct additional research and analysis, as needed.

  • Perform in-depth analysis of company data, as well as industry-specific best practices or standard performance metrics to compare to the model, as relevant.

Step 5: Present findings and iterate/collaborate with management, as needed.

  • Provide a comprehensive presentation of the specific business financial model outputs; run additional modules, as relevant.

Step 6: Finalize the financial model.

  • Ensure that the deliverables have satisfied management needs and decide if the model needs to be maintained and updated periodically.
  • Make a plan for any future work or model maintenance.

Why do companies hire Financial Modeling Consultants?

A financial modeling consultant is a financial professional with experience in designing and building robust and insightful financial models to achieve or support specific business initiatives. There are many reasons your company may need a thorough, accurate, data-based financial model. These include raising debt or equity capital from banks or investors, tracking capital budgeting projects and profitability, analyzing KPIs, or simply gaining a better understanding of your business plan and sensitivities.

For any of these situations, hiring a qualified financial modeling consultant will help you achieve a deeper understanding of your financials and financial performance, as well as reduce the likelihood of problems resulting from an incorrect or unsophisticated financial model. Hiring the best consultant for your needs will, in turn, make the financial modeling process go as smoothly as possible and ensure that you get accurate, useful results.

I'm an expert in financial modeling, possessing extensive knowledge and hands-on experience in the field. My expertise stems from years of working with businesses, understanding their financial intricacies, and helping them make informed decisions through sophisticated financial modeling. My insights are not only theoretical but have practical applications in various sectors, aligning with the demands of the ever-evolving financial landscape.

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How to Hire Financial Modeling Consultants | Toptal® (2024)


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