Controllers these days are in complete control of their career success. In 2017, competent controllers are in high demand, according to Randstad employment research.
The market for controllers is expected to remain strong in the years to come. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number to increase 11 percent
— from 2014 to 2024 — faster than average for all occupations.
Controller duties and responsibilities
The controller’s role is fundamentally different from that of an accounting manager
or bookkeeper. As the main financial go-to person, the controller takes ownership of everything on the profit and loss financial statements. The controller knows why some expenses increased while others fell, and is very familiar with a company’s sales and backlog.
(or vice president of finance depending on the size of the organization) is typically part of major decisions involving the purchase of new equipment, hiring
of a new manager, investment in property and changes in employee benefits plans. The controller is the primary person for the company’s banking, insurance
and legal relationships. He or she creates budgets and measures them against results.
The controller is the company spending watchdog, constantly looking for ways to improve profitability by cutting expenses. Is there an area where an organization can cut the cost of freight or worker overtime? Does a department really need to hire or can people be more productive elsewhere? These are the types of cost-cutting questions that controllers ask daily.
Managing the day-to-day financial operations, including accounting, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable, the controller is often in charge of finding new technology and applications to make sure the department is running efficiently. Other key responsibilities include preparing financial forecasting reports and financial statements, maintaining accounting records, reconciling accounts, coordinating audits, recommending financial performance benchmarks and ensuring income tax compliance.
To perform these duties, controllers should possess a strong work ethic, advanced knowledge of accounting software, great attention to detail, managerial abilities, integrity, interpersonal skills including communication and ability to collaborate.
Controller education and certifications
In general, controllers need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or business. Some hiring managers for larger organizations prefer a Master of Business Administration (MBA). They should usually have at least seven years’ experience in accounting, including some public accounting experience.
Other desirable qualifications include a certified public accountant (CPA) and strong working knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). For those working at public companies, knowledge of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations as well as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are a must.
Road to CFO
Many successful controllers aspire to move on to a chief financial officer (CFO) position. But the road upwards isn’t always easy since the CFO must have a deep understanding of the organization beyond the numbers and be able to communicate complex financial information to the board of directors. Also, many finance chiefs oversee human resources, information technology
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