Financial controllers are responsible for all of the day-to-day operations in the finance department, reporting directly to the finance director.

Financial controller roles: beyond the job description.

This is a high-level position. Financial controller jobs are usually filled by those from a management or financial accounting background. The role holder will typically have their eyes fixed firmly on the prize: a finance director role, perhaps, or even a managing director role is their likely next step up the career ladder.

How does a financial controller differ from a company accountant?

The difference between a financial controller role and that of company accountant is one of scale rather than scope. 

Whereas company accountants are associated with smaller businesses and tend to work alone, financial controllers are found in larger companies and tend to head up a team. 

The duties of both roles are, however, broadly similar.

What are the duties of a financial controller?

A controller position is the finance director’s second-in-command. 

They are responsible for the company’s financial reporting, such as its monthly, quarterly and annual accounts. They manage all of the company’s transactions, from accounts payable to receivable payroll, and from control accounts to general operational finance.

What experience and qualifications are needed to become a financial controller?

As a senior-level role, financial controllers will need a lot of demonstrable experience in both finance and management. 

Most will hold a relevant degree in a subject such as Maths, Economics or Business, as well as having completed their accountancy qualifications from either the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

What skills does a financial controller need?

This is a role that requires balancing the hands-on financial management of a company with decision-making at the highest level. 

As the critical link that binds finance to the entire senior management team, you need to be a good communicator and to understand the entire business, not just the ins and outs of your own department. 

Your role is to make sure that the implications of your reports are clear to all and that each department understands how its contribution impacts on the overall company strategy and goals.

The numbers that you report must relate directly to improving performance and delivering objectives.

This is one of the biggest challenges facing financial controllers today: the need to lead their department out of the back-office and encourage other departments to actively work in partnership with them. 

This means that a financial controller needs strong leadership skills, interpersonal flair and more than a touch of charisma.

The need for partnering means that financial controllers must carry out their financial – and highly technical – role within the entire business environment. The so-called soft skills are just as important as the hard figures.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Whilst the increasing centrality of finance is creating challenges it is also creating opportunities.  Financial controllers are more in demand than ever before. 

As more companies seek to integrate the finance function as a strategic part of their plans for growth, there is more demand for those who can effectively fill this role.

It is not simply that financial controller jobs are becoming more prevalent, either. They are also attracting more remuneration, more responsibility and a higher calibre of applicant.