A Financial Controller is a senior member of a finance team. In a many businesses they will be the number two or three in the business.
An FC is largely responsible for the day to day running of the finance team whilst assisting the CFO with strategic and confidential work (such as acquisitions).
They are an important link between Finance and the senior leadership team. They are not only excellent at finance, but have a strong understanding of the entire business. To be effective a financial controllers need to have strong leadership skills, great communication skills and be excellent at managing their time.
Their duties can be varied, but usually include the following.
- Oversee statutory accounting and liaising with auditors.
- Creating and managing internal controls (spending limits, bank authorizations etc)
- Overseeing the production of management accounts.
- Ensuring Sales and Purchase ledger teams are keeping on top of Aged Payables and Receivables.
- Managing the bank accounts.
- Working with directors and senior management.
- Developing the finance team.
Financial Controllers job description
A job description for a Financial Controller role can show just how varied it is.
Here is a typical job description for the role.
• Ensure the finance teams’ preparation of accurate and timely monthly management accounts to Group’s very strict reporting deadline.
• Provide support and guidance to the Director’s business strategy, to optimise the Group’s financial performance and strategic position
• Responsibility for treasury management with ultimate responsibility for the Company’s cash flows with clear visibility of potential issues
• Responsible for ensuring that key business risks (FX, credit and LME) are controlled via appropriately devised hedging strategies, and the subsequent implementation and ongoing management of those strategies
• Production of annual and frequently updated forecasts, budgets and business plans
• Cost accounting duties – understand the manufacturing process to an in-depth level in order to be able to produce product costings when requested:
• Responsible for managing a team & provision of coaching of finance team members where necessary
• Oversee payroll function accuracy, timeliness & legal compliance with a good understanding of basic pension legislation
• Ensure that company financial systems/ internal controls are robust, compliant and can support future growth, implementing improved processes and internal controls where deemed necessary
• Lead for all external audit teams, including statutory, banking audits & Group compliance audits
• Working alongside external auditors, ensure statutory accounts are accurately prepared and published within Group deadlines. Also that corporation tax, VAT, and any other statutory returns and payments are concluded within the required regulatory timescales;
• Establish a high level of credibility and manage strong working relationships with internal & external stakeholders, including Group colleagues, auditors, lenders, advisors, etc.
• Qualified Accountant with a minimum of 5 years industry experience
• Must have experience in a manufacturing and exporting environment with good knowledge and understanding of commodities and foreign currencies
• Attention to detail with the ability to consistently produce to the highest standards
• Ability to work under pressure and prioritise work based on deadlines and importance
• Ability to communicate confidently with people at all levels and able to form close, collaborative, working relationships with Senior Managers & Directors.
• A proven problem solver – proactive in identifying issues within area of responsibility, recommending solutions and in implementing agreed recommendations
• Advanced Microsoft Excel skills, and experience with ERP systems (ideally familiarity with SAP or SAP B1) and Sage Payroll
Now that is a varied job with plenty of responsibility.
CFO vs Financial Controller
These roles are usually separate, but at small businesses they can be the same person.
The main difference is that the Financial Controller manages the day to day operations of the business whilst the CFO focuses on the numbers and external stakeholders.
An EY report quoted this:
“The difference between the CFO and the FC is that the financial controller is more like the financial operating officer. They make sure everything is running well, there are no surprises, and the audits are good. The CFO keeps on top of the numbers, but has a big external focus in positioning the company with our investors.”
The Career Ladder
Being a Financial Controller is a great role with a nice salary. To become one you usually need to of enjoyed time spent as a senior accountant in a business (Group Management Account, Finance Manager etc). The other route is coming from a firm such as EY, as a fully qualified auditor with some good experience.
A financial controller with some great examples of improving the business is often able to quickly climb the ranks in a few years and become a Finance Director. The experience working at a strategic level in a business is the natural stepping stone for anyone wanting to become a CFO.
Make an Impact!
Rule 1: Automate Rule 2: Automate
Automation is the key to making any finance function become much more useful to the business. It saves staff valuable time doing manual data entry and can instead focus on more value building work.
If you can automate invoicing, you can spend more time chasing payments from clients.
An accountant can pull together the accounts faster.
The Sales Team can access a sale report with little finance team input.
Build up a strong relationship with department heads and managers. Giving them access to useful information quickly can really help them improve.
Some larger finance functions may not have the best internal communications, so encouraging that to improve is also another easy win!