The financial controller has the responsibility of overseeing and managing the company’s accounting and finances, a responsibility that overlaps with nearly every aspect of a company’s operation.
In this article, we will discuss the controller job description.
We will include primary responsibilities, and the skills and qualifications required to become a controller at a company. We will also discuss the job prospects for those who want a career as a controller, and the opportunities for advancement that are open to controllers.
Job Overview: What Does a Controller Do?
Accounting operations and financial operations of all kinds performed by a company are the responsibility of that company’s financial controller. The controller job description is defined in broad terms. That’s because, while the management of accounting and finances of the company is the core responsibility of a controller, the boundaries of a controller’s jurisdiction are defined differently from company to company.
Accounting and financial operations are an integral part of any decision made by the company, and so the responsibility for the oversight and management of these operations will be determined by the size of the company and how it’s organized.
In smaller companies, it is natural for the controller job description to include the oversight and management of a larger share of the financial and accounting decisions made by the company. The controller of a small business is likely in charge of every budgeting, reporting, and financial decision made in the company. In larger companies, the responsibilities of a controller will likely be more specialized and limited in scope.
Controller Job Duties
- Establish and maintain the corporate accounting procedures and policies.
- Oversee all accounting operations taken by the company.
- Accomplish budgets, planning, and preparation of forecasts.
- Regulatory compliance by the company – regulatory filing and reporting.
- Prepare and publish timely monthly financial statements.
- Financial management, including risk management.
- Establish internal control policies.
- Maintain an accurate record of all transactions.
- Communicate with other departments and manage the results of their analysis and finding on the company’s financial and accounting data.
- Make recommendations on company policy based on analysis – ensure financial plans are consistent with the company’s goals.
- Work with outside firms and agencies, such as credit card companies, government agencies, collection agencies, etc.
- Supervise and coordinate employees in accounting/finance operations and human resources.
- Oversee accounting and financial operations in subsidiaries, and ensure that subsidiaries meet the reporting and control system implemented by the controller.
Controller Job Essential Skills
Attention to detail. The controller must have a clear sense of the company’s operations, and be able to identify problems and irregularities, subtle or otherwise, as they arise.
Problem solving and analytical reasoning skills. Financial and accounting irregularities must be made sense of and corrected. Being able to reason through problems logically is a critical skill.
Communication and presentation skills. The controller must have sharp interpersonal communication skills. They often have the challenging task of discussing a complex subject (such as the company’s financial) with those who don’t have the background necessary to understand the details.
Numerical and technical proficiency. A controller is tasked with making sense of the financial and accounting numbers. They must be very comfortable with all of the standard methods of analysis and have a deep understanding of how they are used. The controller must read and analyze the latest and most relevant information on technical procedure and governmental regulations.
Knowledge of software. Having a working knowledge of the standard financial analysis software used in the industry, as well as knowledge of general software used by businesses and corporations (such as Excel) is necessary.
Management and leadership Skills. The delegation of work to subordinates and the subsequent aggregation of their results is a significant aspect of a controller’s duties. Having good leadership and management skills is a must.
Becoming a Controller
The controller job description specifies a great deal of trust and responsibility. This is not a position that one can obtain without years of experience. Controllers usually begin their careers in entry level positions in accounting or auditing. If the employee demonstrates excellence in these lower level positions, they are allowed to move up the ranks and enter positions of greater responsibility. Eventually, they can work their up the corporate ladder until they become a controller.
Technically, there is no degree requirement for the position of controller. However, nearly all employers want prospective hires for the position to have at least a Bachelor’s degree. A Master’s degree is also preferred. Competitive applicants for the position of controller must have a strong background in financial management and accounting, with many years of work experience (at least five).
They must also show both technical expertise and leadership in management roles. Most competitive candidates are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). To become a CPA, certain educational requirements must be met. Many pursue a Master’s degree to meet these requirements.
Qualifications and Training
A controller needs to have an advanced accounting degree, with preference for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs), and/or Certified Management Accountants (CMAs). He or she must also be skilled in using relevant industry software to check the controller job description.
In order to become a controller, you need 5+ years of experience with managing accounting and financial operations. You also need to master the principles of accounting and accounting procedures, have experience creating financial statements, and have management experience and proven administrative skills.
Controllers work 8 hour days and 40 hour weeks. However, hours vary between companies. Some companies may have higher expectations from their controller, and hence controllers in these companies may work longer hours.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
A control can win a median annual salary of $185,321. Growth rate in controller jobs is expected to be the same as the average growth rate, so around 7 percent in all occupations, though this position is expected to be a competitive one.
There are opportunities to advance to higher ranks in the company from the position of controller. Advancement to executive positions in upper management and becoming the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) are viable career routes.
The controller of a company is responsible for accounting operations and the financial health of the company. While the extent of the responsibilities included in the controller job description depends on the company’s size and organizational structure, they tend to be broad in scope.
Controllers must have a mastery of financial and accounting procedures, as well as excellent management skills. They are often responsible for establishing the corporate accounting procedure and policies, ensuring that these standards are met by the company and their subsidiaries, and that the company is compliant with regulations and other legalities.
Becoming a controller requires years of experience in management, finance, and accounting. Controllers have opportunity to advance to higher positions in the company as well.