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Finance glossary

What is a financial controller?

Bristol James
4 Min

A financial controller is a senior-level accounting and finance manager who oversees the day-to-day financial operations. They are a part of your upper management team, making high-level decisions and supervising lower accounting and finance staff members.

A finance controller isn’t the same as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). A CFOs responsibilities will span across all financial activities, while a financial controller might focus specifically on individual components of the business. The size of your company will dictate which responsibilities are dedicated to a finance controller and a CFO.

Financial controllers can take on many different duties and responsibilities, depending on the business needs. For example, some financial controllers might be involved in closing the books each month while others focus on regulatory compliance and tax planning. Regardless of the specific duties, a financial controller will have a bird’s eye view of the financial state of your company.

Financial controllers almost always have a formal education and extensive work experience. This could be a 4-year accounting degree, a CPA license, or 10+ years of industry experience. In addition, a financial controller will have strong interpersonal and communication skills, as they will be the tone at the top leading team members.

The role of a financial controller 

The role of a financial controller in a business depends on the unique needs and the size of the organization. For example, if there aren’t any lower-level finance employees, the financial controller will play a larger role in the day-to-day transaction management. Nevertheless, here are the financial controller roles you can expect from an expert:

Financial Decision Making

Financial controllers will make high-level decisions that promote growth, profitability, and efficiency. One example comes in the form of inventory orders. A financial controller can evaluate the current unit costs to find ways to lean out, such as by going with a new supplier. These decisions help preserve the bottom-line number and reach strategic goals.

Financial Management

A financial controller will also handle all financial management. This includes monitoring the day-to-day transactions, ensuring vendors and employees are paid on time, and monitoring account receivable balances. Anything related to the back-end reporting of a business will fall in a financial controller’s job description.

Financial Reporting

Financial reporting is a major role taken on by your controller. This includes closing the books, preparing adjusting entries, and reviewing internally prepared reports for accuracy. In addition, your finance controller will be the point of contact when working with outside accountants for assurance services. They know your business’ numbers like the back of their hand, making them a trusted expert when it comes to anything finance-related.

Benefits of Having a Financial Controller

Enlisting the help of a financial controller gives a business access to numerous benefits, including:

Improved Financial Performance

An effective financial controller allows your business to increase financial performance. This might be stronger cash flow management, an increase in profitability, or better cost control. Whatever the case, one of the main tasks of a financial controller role is to improve your business’s financial performance.

Reduced Risk

The financial controller position also helps your business alleviate risks. For one, a financial controller might assist the finance team in evaluating customer credit. With the right controls in place, your business is only allowing certain customers to buy goods and services on credit, reducing your risk of writing off bad debt.

Additionally, every business faces compliance risks. From issuing financial statements that comply with GAAP to ensuring accurate information on your tax return, financial controller responsibilities include risk reduction.

Increased Efficiency

Financial controllers streamline your internal processes and procedures. From establishing defined month-end procedures to ensuring all internal financial policies are being followed by employees, an effective financial controller infuses efficiency and accuracy into your finance function.

How to Find the Right Financial Controller

When it comes to filling a financial controller position, there are a few different criteria you want to evaluate. The right controller will provide you with the experience your business needs without causing you to sacrifice your cash flow. Here are a few areas to consider when it comes to your search for the right financial controller:

  • Skill and Experience – What background does the candidate have? Do they have experience working in your particular industry? A retail setting is much different compared to a manufacturing business. Be sure your financial controller retains the proper experience and skills.
  • Credentials – Does the candidate hold a CPA license or other credential? This could be a CFA or CMA license. Credentials aren’t usually as important as experience, but it’s still a good area to inquire about.
  • Cost – What does the candidate charge? Is it per hour or a fixed salary? How much can your business afford? Businesses that are just starting to grow might not have the need for a full-time controller. Instead, consider enlisting the help of a part-time financial controller or a remote controller. This can help you save on costs while still giving you access to much-needed professional help.
  • Business Needs – Can the candidate meet your business needs? If you are looking for an individual to work full-time, can the candidate meet that time requirement?

Finding the right financial controller can take time. If you are still struggling to locate the right candidate, contact a recruitment agency.

Summary

  • A financial controller is an upper-level professional that oversees the finance department.
  • Financial controller roles generally include financial management, financial decision-making, and financial reporting.
  • Financial controllers can help your business reduce risks, maximize compliance, increase efficiency, and improve financial performance.
  • Finding the right controller relies on fully evaluating the credentials, experience, and availability of candidates.

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