what is a controller?

Controllers, also known as financial managers, are senior-level executives who work as the heads of accounting and oversee the preparation of financial reports, including income statements and balance sheets. They also have responsibility for ensuring accurate ledgers for money coming into the company and eliminating any mistakes. Banks, government agencies, and large corporations employ controllers.

Financial controllers work closely with an organization's budget, audit, and accounting along with other budget-related departments. They have responsibility for producing reports that determine the company's financial outlook over time. They have to ensure the accurate and timely completion of monthly financial statements. Controllers are also in charge of submitting paperwork to statutory regulatory agencies. This record-keeping promotes honesty, efficiency, and accuracy within the company. Companies expect controllers to improve processes within each team to meet reporting deadlines efficiently.

A controller may also have responsibility for staff management. However, the controller could work as the only accountant in small companies. They report directly to the president or board of directors to offer insight and provide recommendations for managing the company's budget. When identifying trends for budgets and forecasting purposes, the controller must express ideas in terms that everyone can understand.

A controller's ability to thrive in a challenging role will be reflected by how they respond to unexpected changes and expectations within the company. Those with analytical mindsets are most likely to succeed in the position. Good controllers are often motivational and flexible in their learning approach. Their role may also have an IT component and include business development.

Would working as a controller suit your financial and business acumen? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a controller role.

controller jobs near you

how to increase a controller's salary

It is crucial to consider your experience and employer size when looking to increase your salary as a controller. Experienced controllers with a proven track record are highly sought after in the industry and can command a higher wage that matches their skills and expertise. Additionally, possessing relevant qualifications, such as extra certifications and a master's degree, can significantly increase your earning potential compared to those with only an undergraduate degree.

In smaller companies, it is essential to note that the salary prospects may be lower due to financial constraints, and the complexity of your duties may be less as well. On the other hand, in large organizations, your job is highly specialized due to the complexity of financial data, which can translate to a higher salary. Therefore, as a controller, it is crucial to consider these factors when negotiating your compensation package to maximize your earning potential.

Wondering what you can earn as a controller? Find out immediately with the Randstad salary checker! You can quickly and easily see what the average salary of a controller is.

smiling woman
smiling woman

types of controller

Some types of controllers include:

  • finance controller: as a financial controller, you lead a team of accountants overseeing day-to-day financial operations. Your job is to run the accounting functions and be in charge of the company's records and books. Apart from analyzing the accounting records, you must understand the business operations to provide accurate analysis supporting strategic business decisions.
  • credit controller: as a credit controller, you analyze the company's available credit and assess the debts in the business. You handle credit assessments, develop payment plans, and keep accurate financial records and repayment terms for each creditor. You also ensure the company receives money from its creditors on time.

working as a controller

Working as a controller involves looking at the bigger picture of the company's financial resources and assisting the management with financial strategy. Let's explore the specific duties and tasks of a controller.


controller skills and education

As a financial controller, having the right academic qualifications to secure a top position in the field is essential. While a bachelor's degree in accounting may meet the minimum requirements for entry-level controller positions, hiring managers generally prefer candidates with advanced degrees, such as an MBA or a master's in accountancy.

MBAs provide a comprehensive education in managerial skills, including economic planning, business management, and accounting, which are critical for demonstrating effective leadership and financial guidance. Furthermore, graduate programs offer a unique opportunity to develop professional skills and gain practical experience in the field.

In addition to academic qualifications, a strong affinity for mathematics is essential for completing required coursework and delivering optimal on-the-job performance. Formal certifications are also a requirement for financial controllers. Organizations such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) offer widely recognized qualifications that are accepted in various countries.

While work experience plays a significant role in hiring decisions for senior-level positions like financial controller, some Fortune 500 companies may prefer candidates with top-tier MBA degrees for their leadership roles. Therefore, having a solid academic pedigree is always an advantage when pursuing a career as a financial controller.

skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of a controller include the following:

  • financial acumen: a good controller needs a solid economic sense to interpret and analyze the financial data of a company. Financial understanding will help you evaluate a company's financial health and assess an investment opportunity's risks.
  • problem-solving skills: as a controller, you need to handle issues that arise while preparing accounting information. With your problem-solving skills, you can anticipate risks and find ways to mitigate problems before they escalate. You also assist with process optimization to drive efficiency and save costs.
  • team management and leadership skills: as a controller leading a large team of accounting and finance experts, you need to command respect and inspire them to act. With good team management skills, you improve internal efficiencies since everyone's performance is at an optimal level.
meeting with financial controller
meeting with financial controller

FAQs about working as a controller

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about controllers.

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