Financial modeling is the task of building a representation, usually in the form of a mathematical model, of any financial situation. It typically involves constructing a model from historical financial data, such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, or using market information for a company or industry and financial analysts' expectations for future growth. When done in Excel, it can be an immensely powerful tool to analyze and monitor the financial performance of a company or industry.

Financial modeling in Excel has a myriad of benefits. It provides an accurate assessment of financial performance and the ability to project future performance dynamics. Excel also provides a platform to automate financial models, and build custom-made dashboards to allow vast insights into all business aspects and better decision making.

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of Excel and its applications as a platform for financial modeling. We will look at how to build, document, and analyze financial models, as well as using formulas to automate calculations, visualizing data with charts, and using some of the powerful tools available in Excel.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the fundamentals of financial modeling
  • Discover how Excel can be used to analyze and monitor financial performance
  • Learn how to automate calculatins and build custom-made dashboards in Excel
  • Gain insights into all business aspects with financial models

Steps to Building a Financial Model in Excel

Gather input data:

The first step to building a financial model in Excel is gathering the necessary data. This data often includes historical financial statements, forecasts from the management, and macroeconomic assumptions used to estimate the financials. The data should be gathered in a structured format so that it can be used accurately for building the model.

Design data tables:

Once the data is collected, you should design data tables to store the data in Excel. This involves creating tables that have enough rows and columns to store the data in an organized and efficient manner. The data tables should also be organized in a logical way so that they are easy to use while navigating the model.

Create assets and liabilities summaries:

The next step in financial modeling in Excel is to create summaries of assets and liabilities. This involves creating tables with columns that contain all the necessary information related to the asset or liability, such as the cost, expected cash flows, current market value, etc. These summaries should be designed in a way that allows for easy comparison between different items.

Write formulae:

The final step in financial modeling in Excel is to write the necessary formulae to calculate the results. This is done by writing a variety of formulae to calculate the financial metrics required for the model. These can include calculations for ratios, variances, growth rates, etc. The formulae should be written in a way that allows for easy modification and updating of the model.

Financial Functions and Features

Excel comes with a plethora of financial functions that can be used to create sophisticated financial models. From discounted cash flow calculations to creating adjusted cash flows of debt and equity, these functions allow financial modelers to quickly create an accurate model.

Overview of Excel's functions

Excel provides over 400 functions that can be used to quantify various aspects of your model. While each of these functions have different purposes, some of the most common functions used in financial modeling are related to cash flows. This includes functions such as PV (present value), FV (future value), NPV (net present value), and IRR (internal rate of return). Other important functions include CAGR (compound annual growth rate), NPV (net present value), and XNPV (extended net present value).

Understanding range references

When working with financial functions in Excel, it is important to understand range references. Range references are the way Excel refers to a set of cells on a worksheet. For example, if you have a set of cash flows in cells A2 to A5, you can refer to those cells with a range reference of A2:A5. Range references are essential for using many of Excel’s functions.

Conditional logic

Excel also offers the ability to include conditional logic in its formulas. Conditional logic is a way for you to create formulas that will change based on certain criteria. It is a very powerful tool that can be used to simplify complex formulas and models. For example, you can use conditional logic to automatically adjust your formulas when a certain condition is true.

Using the solver feature

Excel also offers the ability to use the Solver feature to find optimal solutions to complex models. The Solver feature can be used to identify the best solution based on an objective function, such as maximizing profit or minimizing cost. The Solver feature can be used to solve problems with a wide range of constraints, such as budget constraints, resource constraints, and time constraints.

Types of Financial Modeling

Financial modeling is the process of creating a numerical representation of a financial situation to understand the potential financial and operational performance of a company or organization. Financial models are used to understand the potential implications of decisions, test assumptions, and compare potential results. Through financial modeling, decision-makers can assess an organization's past performance, predict its future performance, and plan its strategic and financial objectives. Financial models can be used to evaluate various types of investments, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, and derivatives.

Overview of The Modeling Process

Financial models are constructed using a variety of techniques and tools. Typically, financial models are built using a combination of spreadsheets and software applications. Excel is the most popular spreadsheet application used to create financial models. However, many other tools, including software applications and programming languages, are used in the financial modeling process. These tools are used to collect, organize, and analyze data, create project timelines, and forecast potential outcomes.

Different Types of Financial Modeling

Financial models are used to analyze a variety of situations and can be classified into three broad categories:

  • Static Financial Modeling: Static models are used to analyze a one-off problem. This type of modeling does not consider changes in the environment over time, but instead focuses on the evaluation of a situation at a specific point in time.
  • Dynamic Financial Modeling: Dynamic models are used to analyze the effects of decisions and changes over a period of time. This type of modeling considers changes in the environment, such as inflation, regulatory changes, and economic cycles.
  • Monte Carlo Modeling: Monte Carlo models are used to identify risks associated with investment decisions. Monte Carlo models incorporate a range of probabilities to assess the impact of uncertainty on financial decisions.

Financial modeling is an effective tool for understanding and analyzing the potential performance of companies, organizations, and investments. It is important for financial analysts, investors, and decision-makers to understand the different types of financial modeling and when each type should be used. By understanding and utilizing financial models, decision-makers can make more informed decisions, improve their understanding of the potential outcomes, and maximize the potential return on their investments.

Best Practices for Modeling

Creating a financial model in Excel requires attention to detail in order to ensure an accurate and reliable model. In this section, we will discuss best practices for modeling including sensitivities, analyzing competitor models, and building a defense for your assumptions.

Including Sensitivities:

Sensitivity analysis is an important step in any financial model, and needs to be performed in order to determine how changes in the assumptions may affect the output of the model. Sensitivity analysis is typically performed on variables such as revenues, costs, expenses, and sales volumes. It helps to identify the key variables that drive the financial results and can show whether the model is sensitive to any particular inputs.

Analysing Competitor Models:

It is important to review competitor models in order to understand the market and identify trends that may be impacting the business. Comparing models can also help to ensure that the assumptions used in the current models are in line with market trends and are reasonable. Additionally, looking at what other companies are doing can yield insights that can be incorporated in the current model.

Building a Defense for Assumptions:

Developers of models must always be aware of the sources of their assumptions. Without knowing and understanding the source of the assumptions, it is impossible to defend and explain the results of the model. As such, it is important toidentify the source of the assumptions and build a defense for each assumption that is used. This defense should include an explanation of the rationale behind each assumption and which data sources were used.

Additional Resources

The internet offers many resources to those interested in learning and improving their skills in financial modeling. Whether you are looking for tutorials, guides, or interactive lessons, there are many online resources available for free.

Online Resources

One of the best places to start your journey into understanding financial modeling is to spend some time reading and watching tutorials. Popular sites such as Kaggle, Udemy, edX, Coursera, and Udacity offer great introductory courses that are often free to take. There are also many YouTube videos and blogs on the topic. Many of these resources are free of charge and provide great value when it comes to learning.

External Software

In addition to the online resources available, there are also external software programs that are available to those interested in financial modeling. Some of the most popular software packages include Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access. The Excel financial modeling templates are known to be very user friendly and can be used to quickly create complex models. Access is a database software program which can be used to create more sophisticated models. Additionally, there are many third-party software packages available, such as Tableau and Alteryx, which provide comprehensive analysis capabilities.


Financial modeling in Excel is a powerful tool to be used for predicting current and future financial performance and financial forecasting. This article has covered its importance, explained the basics of Excel models, and the important set of skills needed to build a financial model.

Takeaway Points from Financial Modeling

At the end of this article, we have looked at a few of the most important points related to financial modeling in Excel:

  • Financial modeling gives valuable insights into financial forecasting and predicting current and future performance;
  • A good model should be organized and structured for easy navigation and understanding;
  • Thoroughly research the industry, the company, and the competitive environment before building the model;
  • Use the correct assumptions and data to ensure the accuracy of the model;
  • Be aware of the limitations of Excel when building financial models;
  • Develop a strong set of skills to be a successful financial modeler;
  • Always review and test your model;
  • Review the final results before presenting them; and
  • Share your results with your team or stakeholders.

Upcoming Improvements in Excel

As Excel is constantly improving and evolving, financial modeling will continue to be made easier and more efficient. Some of the upcoming improvements include:

  • Using predictive analytics to interpret and make sense of large amounts of data;
  • Creating more advanced dashboards;
  • Integrating business processes from multiple sources with improved automation;
  • More user-friendly features;
  • The ability to access, combine and analyze large volumes of data; and
  • Integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning for target customer segmentation.

With these upcoming improvements, financial modeling using Excel becomes more efficient, accurate and robust.

Expert-built startup financial model templates

500+ Excel financial model templates for your business plan