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P4 - KAPLAN Exam Kit

Studying P4 Advanced Financial Management (AFM)

As the name suggests, this paper examines and tests advanced financial management topics and is especially suited to those who are thinking about a career in treasury field or are likely to be a part or involved in strategic financial management decisions.

1 What P4 Advanced Financial Management (AFM) is about

The main purpose of the syllabus is to develop candidates' ability to apply relevant knowledge and skills, and exercise and practice the professional judgement expected of a senior financial adviser, in taking or recommending financial management decisions that are likely to have an impact on the entire organization.

This is an advanced level ‘optional’ paper which builds on the topics covered in Skill level Paper F9 Financial Management. As an advanced paper, it requires and tests much more than just the candidate’s ability to perform calculations. Candidates ought to be capable to evaluate data, examine the potential financial and strategic consequences of taking investment decisions and advise on alternative courses of action, among different things, in both a domestic and international context.

The syllabus is divided into five main sections.

    The role of the senior financial adviser in the multinational company

      More than ever, organization management's responsibility towards all stakeholders is under scrutiny. They need to be conscious of different stakeholder groups' conflicting desires and be in a position to develop suitable financial strategies that fulfil each and every group's interests as much as possible. The impact of environmental factors should also be uppermost in their minds given the growing importance placed on such factors in the present modern business world.

      Ethical problems and issues can't be overlooked, ignored – ethics are expected to be a consistent theme in the examination, and ACCA Students will be expected to be in a position to take a realistic approach to identifying such issues in given scenarios.

      Multinational companies have their own unique and different set of challenges, such as having operations in international locations. You will be expected to have specific understanding and grasp of how to manage international finances and strategic business and financial planning for organizations with international operations.

    Advanced investment appraisal

      This part revisits investment and financing decisions with the emphasis moving from straightforward technical knowledge, information and understanding towards the strategic problems and issues associated with making investment decisions, both domestic and international.

    Acquisitions and mergers

      You will be expected to discuss the good judgement, logic of a growth strategy based on acquisitions, to choose and observe and apply an appropriate approach of valuation and make strategic decisions concerning how the merger or acquisition must be financed. Candidates will be required to act in an advisory and also in technical capacity.

    Corporate reconstruction and reorganisation

      This area looks at how to put together a restructuring package and methods in which an organisation would possibly be reorganised (for example, management buyouts and sell-offs). As above, you will be anticipated to act in both a technical and advisory capability in questions on this section.

    Treasury and advanced risk management techniques

      This part covers distinct areas of risk and how to measure and manage them. Currency risks and Interest rate and the derivatives used to hedge against them are considered in detail. You will be required now not only to know how the derivatives work but additionally to advise on the best techniques of hedging in particular scenarios.

2 Skills you have to demonstrate

2.1 Knowledge and application

Even with exams you have previously taken, you'll remember that passing didn't solely mean reproducing knowledge. You also had to apply what you knew. At Professional level, the stability is tilted much more toward application. You will need to be have a sound basis of technical knowledge. The exams will detect whether or not you have the necessary knowledge. However, you may not pass if you just spend your time acquiring knowledge. Developing application competencies is vital.

2.2 Application skills

What application competencies do you need? Many P4 Advanced Financial Management (AFM) questions will include detail in a scenario about a particular organisation. The following skills are especially important when you're dealing with question scenarios.

  1. Identifying the most important features and aspects of the company and the organisation's environment. Clues to these will be scattered during the scenario. The technical knowledge, information and understanding that you have should help you do this, however you will also need business knowledge and awareness and imagination. There will be a main and primary theme running thru most scenarios that you will need to identify.
  2. Using analysis methods and techniques that will provide you more insight into the data and information that you are given.
  3. Making informed judgements that observe from your evaluation about what the company is doing and should be doing.
  4. Communicating definitely and concisely your evaluation and recommendations.

3 How to pass

3.1 Study the whole syllabus

You need to be comfy with all areas of the syllabus. Compulsory Question 1 will always span a range of syllabus areas and other questions may also do so as well. In particular you have to have a very good, proper, accurate and suitable knowledge and awareness of the issues in the ethical section of the syllabus, as compulsory Question 1 will always include a component on ethics.

The examination team has also stressed that study and revision cover the whole syllabus in detail. Students should not question spot or prioritize one part and area of the syllabus over another. The examination team has recognized in its examination team's reports those topics which candidates who question spotted clearly believed would not be examined, however unluckily were.

3.2 Focus on themes, now not lists

There are quite a wide variety of lists in the Texts. This is inevitable due to the fact corporate governance guidance quoted as best and great practice is often in list form. Lists are also once in a while the clearest way of presenting information. However, the examination team has stressed that passing the exam is no longer a matter of learning and reproducing lists. Good answers will have to focus on the details in the scenario and convey out the underlying themes that relate to the scenario.

3.3 Read around

Wider reading will help you to understand the main problems and issues organizations and businesses face. Most importantly you should read the technical articles on the ACCA official site that are relevant to P4 Advanced Financial Management (AFM).
Websites such as www.Reuters.com are also a beneficial and useful source of information on current trends in the financial environment.

3.4 Lots of question practice

You can develop application competencies by way of attempting questions in the Practice Question Bank and later on in the BPP Learning Media Practice Revision Kit.

4 Answering questions

4.1 Analysing question requirements

It's particularly essential to consider the question requirements cautiously and carefully to make sure you understand exactly what the question is asking, and whether each question section and part has to be answered relating to the scenario or is more general. You should also need to be sure that you understand all the tasks that the question is asking you to perform.

If for example you are asked to:
'Discuss the benefits and disadvantages of a company, organisation entering into an overseas joint venture rather of setting up overseas independently’, then you would explain:

  • The merits of joint venture as a method and technique of getting into an overseas market.
  • The merits of placing and setting up independently in an overseas market.
  • In both cases you would support, assist your argument using the clues in the scenario.
  • You would not talk about whether or not a company, organisation must enter this overseas market (this is an extract from a previous exam question, and many candidates made this mistake).

4.2 Understanding the question verbs

IMPORTANT!
In the report for the first P4 Advanced Financial Management (AFM) exam, the examination team highlighted lack of grasp and understanding of the requirements of question verbs as the most serious weakness in many candidates' scripts. The examination team will use question verbs very intentionally and deliberately to signal what is required.

P4 (AFM) - Exam Kit

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