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What does a financial controller do?

Posted by Early Growth

September 17, 2021    |     5-minute read (872 words)

The above financial controller definition is a basic rundown of who this individual is within a business structure. But what does a financial controller do in practice? The answer to this question will vary based on the size of an organization, its needs, and the skills of the financial controller in question.

Financial controller job description

The financial controller is the senior finance figure within a company. Qualified controllers typically hold decades of accounting experience, particularly when it comes to taxes. Beyond skill with numbers and ledgers, financial controlling involves binding the entire finance team together. This is what separates a financial controller from an accountant. They must be great communicators, charismatic, and demonstrate a flair for the job.

Financial controller responsibilities

So after looking at the job description, what does a controller do in finance? What are the day-to-day responsibilities? Here’s a brief rundown of some of the things controllers may be asked to do.
  • Oversee the organization’s financial health
  • Hiring new staff for the financial department
  • Training new finance hires
  • Checking and authorizing ledgers
  • Managing the accountancy policies and procedures of the whole organization
  • Ensuring their organization meets tax, permit, and licensing requirements
  • Working directly with external auditors
Certain controllers may take on additional responsibilities, such as disciplinary measures within the financial department. They will also spend a considerable amount of time liaising with both the financial department and the board.

Qualifications required for a financial controller eole

Most jobs require a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration, or finance. Holding a master’s degree is not required, but an increasing number of companies are starting to ask for one. Professional certifications are often required, such as the certified public accountant license. These certifications were not always compulsory, but today more employers are demanding them.

Skills required for a financial controller role

As a minimum, a prospective controller should possess at least ten years of accounting and financial experience. Candidates for this role must demonstrate leadership qualities, communications skills, and a strong knowledge of current corporate tax rules and reporting requirements.

Financial controlling versus accounting

So what does a financial controller do that an accountant doesn’t? Controlling and accounting are two different roles. While the controller may spend most of their time in day-to-day accounting, these roles are not interchangeable. Accounting as a concept is about keeping accurate records of all incoming and outgoing transactions. Controlling, on the other hand, is about recording that data accurately and on time while remaining in compliance with set reporting standards. If there is a mistake within the books, it is up to the controller to notice it, determine how it happened, and decide how to proceed. Many controllers are also responsible for drawing up internal financial policies, such as expense policies. Accountants and controllers work together to close the books at the end of each accounting cycle.

Tips to be an effective financial controller

When looking at what a controller does in finance, it is a mistake to believe that an effective accountant would also make an effective controller. A gift and passion for numbers is only a part of a great controller who can be a true asset to an organization. Here are some tips for prospective controllers to excel in their new roles.

Automate the reporting process

Automation technology can reduce the need for manual data entry — the more manual entries in the system, the greater the chance of mistakes. Automating financial duties like expenses and invoicing removes the risk of human error, thus making it less likely that the controller needs to hunt down mistakes.

Hone your communication skills

What makes the controller’s role so unique is they must communicate and build relationships beyond their own department. Financial departments rely on sales, purchasing, and marketing to do their jobs. Great controllers keep solid lines of communication throughout every department.

Practice autonomy

Rather than having employees drop invoices and other financial documents into the inbox of the company accountant, encourage employees to be more autonomous. Simple spend and invoicing management tools can enable employees to enter the data themselves for an accountant to double-check later. This is an excellent initiative for boosting corporate efficiency.

Invest in professional development

Rules and regulations change all the time. Work cultures are in a state of constant revolution. Controllers may be the most senior accountant figure, but they must remain sharp by investing in their professional development. Effective controllers are those who refuse to stand still and can evolve with the ever-changing landscape of business finance.

Show initiative in transforming the company

Controllers dictate the financial direction of a company. Rather than simply fulfilling the financial controller job description defined above, show initiative. Research and suggest new ideas to improve productivity and enhance corporate efficiency.


Securing the role of financial controller requires skills that go beyond mere accountancy. While accounting remains at the core of this profession, effective controllers go beyond this. Employing a controller can be an incredible asset and pay dividends in terms of keeping control of a company’s finances. If you need help with your revenue, expenses, accounting, and financial direction, get help from Early Growth. Contact Early Growth to streamline your corporate finances today.

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