Finance Controller Career Profile

Finance controllers, also known as financial managers, or in some cases Chief Financial Officers, are the primary managers of all aspects of organizations. These are senior executives, usually specialists in the financial functions of their organizations.

The Work Environment

Finance controllers operate at management level, both in terms of their organization as a whole and in terms of their own functions. The finance controller has delegated authority to operate the business accounts, approve expenditure, and control the financial operations of the organization at all levels. 

Responsibilities in this role include:

  • Budget formulation and operation
  • Advisory role at the senior level
  • Financial reports and studies
  • Contract management
  • Financial management according to best practice
  • Safeguards against fraud and misappropriation
  • Operation of the business financial processes
  • Management of the financial department and branch finances
  • Management of financial aspects of corporate equity issues where applicable
  • Management of financial issues related to products and services
  • Oversight of cost efficiency issues

The role of a finance controller is one of the peak management jobs, but it's also one of the most demanding. There's not really a "generic" form of this type of management, except in the most basic business and financial principles. Financial management of a service industry business and a retail business, for example, can't be the same process. The role of a finance controller can vary considerably, depending on industry, and in fact many finance controllers are specialists within their own industry.

Finance controllers are required to be experts in their fields. These jobs come with significant expectations. Many organizations promote senior financial officers within their organizations to ensure that their finance controllers have the knowledge base required for the position.

This is also a senior executive position. A finance controller must deal with the organization culture, and be able to work with multiple levels of operational management on a basis of good professional working relationships. The role requires excellent interpersonal skills, leadership, and strong character.

This is also a "hiring and firing" role. Finance controllers are also managers, as well as financial experts. The position includes all aspects of staff and departmental management. At the level of finance controller, advanced management skills are required to deal with these issues as part of the job.

The Career Environment

Finance controllers do have a lot of job mobility, and within the financial role may progress quite rapidly to better jobs in finance. Generally financial executives move in clear career tracks through promotional advancement. At the top of the hierarchy, however, the career progression motif changes. Finance controllers have a large number of excellent options for further career advancement, but they're all challenging options.

Finance controllers are highly qualified managers usually entering or in their peak career phase in the purely financial sphere. The next stage of progression is extremely competitive, and not easy to achieve. Some may progress to corporate management level including Chief Executive Officer positions. This is a quite common form of career progression for senior financial executives. Many CEOs of major US corporations are former finance controllers or CFOs. The financial role is a necessary part of their qualifications for these positions.