A financial controller is a senior executive who manages a company's financial health. While the controller is typically the company's lead accountant or financial manager, they do far more than just keep the books. This person analyzes data and trends and makes financial decisions to help companies prosper.
Controllers have a number of functions, many of which depend on the size of the company or organization. In smaller companies, a controller must be versatile, as they may have control over almost all the accounting functions. In larger corporations, you may take a leadership role, making decisions to ensure financial stability.
As a financial controller, your responsibilities may include:
Tracking cash flow
Establishing internal accounting procedures
Preparing financial documents
Ensuring the accuracy of reports, statements, and balance sheets
Maintaining compliance with financial regulations and laws
Overseeing staff in the accounting department
Developing a financial growth plan for the company's future
Analyzing financial data
Evaluating and managing risk
Handling tax matters
Ensuring the company or organization is financially stable
The controller's forward-looking role in the organization distinguishes them from other accountants. While accountants typically analyze and keep track of past data, the controller uses financial information and projections to help the organization plan its future financial activities.
Did you know? Chief financial officers (CFOs) take a higher-level, strategic role in a company’s finances. A CFO tends to perform management-oriented tasks, while controllers take a more tactical approach to the day-to-day operations of a company’s financial department.
Financial controller is a sought-after, high-level position. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers like controllers had a median annual pay of $134,180 in 2020. The position is expected to grow by 17 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than average .
If you're considering a future career as a controller, now is a great time to get a solid financial education and the right certifications to set yourself up for success in the years to come.
Most financial controllers have extensive experience working in the business finance industry. Let’s take a closer look at the specific requirements and recommendations you should consider to advance your career in this field.
Most financial managers, including controllers, have at least a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting. Many companies prefer candidates with a master’s degree in finance or a Master of Accounting (MSA).
In addition to earning a degree, financial controllers typically have several years of professional experience as an accountant or auditor. You can make yourself more appealing to hiring managers by earning an industry-recognized certification. Popular options include the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credentials.
Effective financial controllers leverage a wide range of technical and people skills as they steer a company’s financial future. If your career goals include advancing to a role as a controller, spend some time now working on these skills:
Analytical skills to help you make informed decisions about the company's financial future
Mastery of math and accounting
Communication skills to effectively inform management about important financial decisions
Competency with financial management software
Explore for yourself whether a career in business finance is a good fit for you through the Finance for Non-Finance Professionals course from Rice University. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, learn more about earning a graduate finance degree from a top university, like the Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Financial Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm.” Accessed January 24, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.