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What is a Financial Controller?

Every business, regardless of the type of size, must manage and oversee its day-to-day financial operations to ensure its smooth functioning. This responsibility lies with the chief accounting executive, also referred to as the financial controller.

A business’s success is heavily dependent on how skilled its financial controller is because they have to keep an accurate record of all the transactions taking place, preventing any discrepancies from showing up in the accounting books.

For meticulous people who love accounting and keeping track of data, financial controller jobs offer the perfect opportunity to boost a company’s efficiency and gain a reputation in the business world.

What does a Financial Controller do?

A financial controller is a title that takes on various roles and responsibilities that continuously evolve as their company grows and the financial reporting landscape changes.

From preparing financial reports, budgeting, and forecasting to handling tax-related matters and planning company spending, financial controllers have the prime responsibility for managing the company’s entire finance and accounting process.

Often in small firms, the highest possible executive role is that of a financial controller who also serves as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). However, in larger firms, a financial controller is amongst the senior executives that must report to the CFO. Accordingly, the scope of the role varies significantly based on the kind of company for which one is working.

Simply put, though, the financial controller must be punctual in providing accurate company records, financial statements, and reports- all of which guide the strategic decision-making of the business.

Financial control involves meticulous duties such as ensuring the data are punctual, accurate, without any discrepancies, and within the rules set forth by the company. Furthermore, a financial controller’s job incorporates duties including approving invoices, audit liaison, debt and cash flow management, budgeting, stakeholder management, compliance with local law, and cost savings.

Accordingly, financial controllers play a crucial role in its success in the present and future. Without a skilled financial controller, a firm will likely suffer huge losses and eventually shut down due to costly miscalculations and poor decisions.

IMA and Deloitte reported that beyond managing risk, preserving assets, and maintaining efficiency within the accounting processes, a financial controller can also contribute to and execute the company’s financial strategy. These were originally roles reserved for the FP&A executives, but with time, controllers are asked to make valuable contributions to a company’s strategic planning.

Where do Financial Controllers Work?

Accounting plays a crucial role in running any business, no matter how small or big. Monitoring cash flow and maintaining accurate and systematic records of all financial transactions of an organization is at the core of its success and growth.

As an accounting professional and a company’s lead accountant, the financial controller is a senior-level management position found in various public and private sector firms, including accounting firms, banks, and government organizations.

What Degree is Required to Become a Financial Controller?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, financial controller jobs’ prospects are promising. It is a job requiring various soft and technical skills. Besides relevant education, Individuals must demonstrate considerable experience in finance and management. Accordingly, job seekers with only a high school diploma are not eligible for this role.

The first step to becoming a financial controller is to earn a relevant undergraduate degree from an accredited college or a university. Most successful controllers major in programs like accounting, finance, and business administration. However, a degree in economics and math is also an excellent choice for aspiring financial controllers.

Unfortunately, in this increasingly competitive economy, getting a high school diploma and an undergraduate degree is simply not enough. The second step and a giant leap forward to becoming a highly sought-after candidate for this job is pursuing a master’s degree in a finance-related field.

Gaining work experience by getting an entry-level job in a company’s finance department and progressing from there can also put an individual on the path to securing a finance controller position. Most organizations prefer candidates to have 5-10 years of finance and accounting experience. Experience in any of the Big Four firms is a huge plus.

Which decision you end up choosing depends totally on your circumstances. Not everyone has the funds for a master’s program, therefore getting a job after pursuing an undergraduate degree is a great option. Increasingly, however, companies require financial controllers to have a master’s degree, so it is something aspiring controllers may eventually have to do.

How Much Money Does a Financial Controller Earn?

How much a financial controller earns depends on several factors, including the industry the company belongs to, its location, and its size. All of these factors influence the earnings of a financial controller.

Regardless, being a financial controller is a lucrative job, and the average annual salary for this role is $90,368.

In the securities industry, financial controllers can even end up earning approximately $200,000 annually.

Financial Controller Job Requirements

The typical financial controller begins their career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and then goes on to gain other professional certifications and achieve designations such as Certified Financial Analyst, Certified Fraud Examiner, and Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

While these certifications are not a regulatory requirement to be hired for financial controller jobs, they are excellent credentials to demonstrate your skills and extensive knowledge about finance and accounting procedures and gain a competitive advantage over other candidates.

Financial controllers are expected to have a wide range of skill sets. They must have a strong ability to interpret and understand numerical data, have good attention to detail, and be skilled in cost analyses. Furthermore, they must have knowledge of relevant accounting software and Microsoft Excel and databases.

Financial Controller Career Path

Financial controllers often start their careers by earning an undergraduate degree and CPA designation. Nobody starts as a financial controller right off the bat, and it takes a vast amount of skill and experience of the business process to be successful at this role.

After spending many years in the same organization or company, financial controllers can eventually be promoted to more senior-level accounting jobs and be tasked with more strategic responsibilities.

With certifications and progression within the industries, the rewarding position of finance director, and eventually CFO can be unlocked after a hard and long journey.

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