Financial Controller Jobs & Career Guide

What is a Financial Controller?

A financial controller acts as the steward of the company’s financial health. It’s a senior level position overseeing the day-to-day management of the company’s financial operations. This role is pivotal for ensuring that the company’s financial statements are accurate, that financial practices comply with regulatory standards, and that the organization’s financial strategy supports its overall business goals.

Commercial Banking Careers

What does a Financial Controller do?

Being a financial controller is like conducting an orchestra – you have all these different departments playing their instruments, generating financial data. Your job is to harmonize it all, ensure everything is in tune, and create a clear financial picture for the company. It’s about interpreting the data, identifying trends and potential risks, and then translating that information into actionable insights for senior management. It’s a challenging but incredibly rewarding role, where you play a vital role in the company’s financial health and strategic decision-making.
Sarah Jones, Financial Controller at Euromonitor
  • Financial Reporting – The financial controller is primarily responsible for all company accounts, financial statements, and cost structures. They ensure that all reporting is compliant with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) or international financial reporting standards (IFRS).
  • Budgeting and Forecasting – They play a crucial role in budget preparation and management. This includes forecasting future revenues and expenditures to establish cost structures and determine capital budgeting for projects.
  • Internal Controls and Compliance – Ensuring the integrity of financial information and maintaining or updating internal controls. Controllers oversee regulatory compliance regarding financial functions and participate in audits (both internal and external).
  • Cash Flow Management – They monitor the cash flow of the company, oversee the preparation of cash flow reports, and manage the financial planning to ensure the company has enough cash to meet its obligations.
  • Financial Strategy – Controllers often assist in formulating the company’s future direction and support tactical initiatives by performing financial analysis and modeling. They help in identifying and managing financial risk, strategizing on fund procurement, investment of funds, and efficient control over financial resources.
  • Team Management – Financial controllers typically manage accounting teams, overseeing financial department staff in their daily operations. They ensure that the team is functioning efficiently, accurately, and timely in managing and reporting financial data.

What’s a Typical Day for a Financial Controller?

Here is what a day in the life of a financial controller in a large software company might look like:

  • 8:00 AM: Arrive at the office. Begin the day by reviewing financial reports and dashboards updated overnight. Check on key metrics like cash flow, revenue trends, and expense reports to catch any issues early.
  • 8:30 AM: Meet with the accounting team to discuss the status of ongoing work, including the closing of books, any discrepancies found in ledger entries, and updates on compliance matters. Provide guidance on complex issues they are handling.
  • 9:30 AM: Review emails and respond to urgent requests. This might include communications from department heads about budget adjustments or from external stakeholders like banks or auditors.
  • 10:00 AM: Attend a finance department heads meeting. Discuss broader financial strategies, upcoming fiscal policies, and align on the financial outlook for the next quarter. Collaborate on preparing for a forthcoming external audit.
  • 11:30 AM: Conduct a review of financial controls and processes. Meet with the internal audit team to discuss findings from recent audits and ensure that all recommendations are being implemented to improve financial control systems.
  • 12:30 PM: Lunch break.
  • 1:30 PM: Work on financial forecasting. Update or review financial models considering new data, and prepare for an upcoming presentation to the board about future investment strategies and risk management.
  • 2:30 PM: Meet with the IT department head to discuss the budget and financial implications of new software development projects. Ensure alignment on cost structures and discuss ROI expectations.
  • 3:30 PM: Respond to more emails and prepare for end-of-day reports. Handle any administrative tasks related to financial management and team oversight.
  • 4:00 PM: One-on-one meeting with the CFO to discuss the financial health of the company, progress on major financial projects, and any concerns about upcoming regulations or market conditions that could impact the company.
  • 5:00 PM: Finalize and sign off on reports that need to go out to external stakeholders. Review the day’s work and set up key tasks for the next day.
  • 6:00 PM: Wind down operations, check in with the team to ensure all critical tasks are on track, and provide any last-minute feedback or support needed.
  • 6:30 PM: Leave the office.

How to Become a Financial Controller

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

Start with a bachelor’s degree in accountingfinance, business administration, or a related field. Coursework should include fundamentals of accounting, business law, management, statistics, and economics.

Step 2: Gain Initial Accounting Experience

After graduation, seek entry-level positions such as a staff accountantauditor, or financial analyst. Focus on developing a strong understanding of financial reporting, taxation, and internal controls.

Step 3: Pursue Further Certifications

Obtaining the CPA certification is highly regarded and often essential for advancing in accounting and finance careers. It demonstrates your expertise and commitment to the field. Consider additional certifications like Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), depending on your career focus.

Step 4: Acquire Advanced Skills and Knowledge

While not always necessary, a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or Master’s in Finance can enhance your knowledge and competitiveness in the job market.

Step 5: Obtain Mid-Level Management Experience

Move into roles such as senior accountant, accounting manager, or finance manager. These positions will provide management experience and involve oversight of financial reporting, budgeting, and auditing processes.

Step 6: Understand the Business Operations

Gain experience and understanding of other aspects of business operations like sales, marketing, and IT. A good controller understands how all parts of the company fit together to affect the financial health of the organization. Build relationships within various departments to understand the challenges and financial needs of each.

Step 7: Step into a Role as a Financial Controller

With the right mix of education, certifications, and diverse experience, apply for financial controller positions. Be sure to upload your resume and setup job alerts to find the perfect opportunity.

How Much Money Does a Financial Controller Earn?

The average salary for a financial controller is $202,609. For more insights, please refer to our guide on financial controller salaries.

Our career advisors answer your questions

Our career advisors get asked a lot of questions about becoming a financial controller, here are some of the most common ones:

How do I transition from an accounting role to a financial controller?

Transitioning to a financial controller typically involves several years of experience in accounting or finance roles with increasing responsibility. Gaining experience as a senior accountant, accounting manager, or finance manager is common. It’s crucial to develop expertise in financial reporting, budget management, and internal controls. Strong leadership skills and the ability to communicate complex financial information to non-financial colleagues are also essential for progressing into a controller position.

Does being a financial controller mean I have to be a people person? I prefer working independently.

While strong analytical skills are essential, financial controllers also need good communication and interpersonal skills. You’ll collaborate with various departments, explain complex financial concepts to non-finance professionals, and sometimes even negotiate contracts with vendors. The ability to build relationships and communicate effectively is key to success in this role.

What challenges does a financial controller face regularly?

One of the main challenges is ensuring accurate and timely financial reporting, which is crucial for strategic decision-making. Controllers also face the challenge of staying compliant with changing laws and regulations, managing internal controls, and reducing risks. Additionally, they must handle the pressures of managing budgets in economically uncertain times and may need to do more with fewer resources.

I hear financial controllers work long hours. Is there any work-life balance?

Work-life balance for financial controllers can vary depending on the company culture and industry. Busy periods around deadlines or during mergers and acquisitions might require longer hours. However, some companies prioritize work-life balance and offer flexible work arrangements. Effective time management and delegation skills are crucial in this role.

Position Company Location Posted
Project Controller – Project Management & Construction The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Golden, Colorado US 05/27/2024
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Project Controller and Participation Manager CLARIANT Frankfurt, DE 05/27/2024
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Project Manager Hitachi ABB Power Grids Bogota, CO 05/27/2024
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Area Finance Controller – Southeast Asia (S) & India Subcontinent DNV Singapore, SG 05/27/2024
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Area Finance Controller – Southeast Asia (S) & India Subcontinent DNV Singapore, SG 05/27/2024
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Company
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Location
Golden, Colorado US
Posted
05/27/2024
Company
CLARIANT
Location
Frankfurt, DE
Posted
05/27/2024
Company
Hitachi ABB Power Grids
Location
Bogota, CO
Posted
05/27/2024
Company
DNV
Location
Singapore, SG
Posted
05/27/2024
Company
DNV
Location
Oslo, NO
Posted
05/27/2024
Company
DNV
Location
Singapore, SG
Posted
05/27/2024
Company
DNV
Location
Oslo, NO
Posted
05/27/2024
Company
JPMorgan Chase
Location
United Kingdom, GB
Posted
05/26/2024