What is a Finance Controller? Responsibilities, Salary, and More

blog cover with financial reporting icon for post about finance controller

The finance controller is at the center of any organization’s financial management. They maintain financial data, organize processes, and help businesses to navigate financial compliance and regulations. Essentially, they keep company spending in order and prevent decisions that could negatively impact the company’s books. 

In this blog post, we will further outline what exactly a controller does and the skills they use to be successful. Plus, we’ll go over career outlook, key interview questions, and what separates the role of controller from other careers in finance. Let’s get started! 

What is a Finance Controller? 

Also known as just a controller, this individual is responsible for overseeing all aspects of financial operations and maintaining accuracy, integrity, and compliance of financial business information.  

They are responsible for creating and implementing economic policies, preparing financial statements, and managing budgets. The controller is also responsible for ensuring that all financial reports and accounting processes are accurate. 

A controller is essential to an organization because their duties are all geared toward protecting and strengthening a company’s financial health. They work to ensure that financial transactions are handled correctly and that the company is on sound financial footing. In short, they help to keep track of earnings and prevent the company from spending more money than it brings in. 

Working alongside other financial teams and managers, they provide critical insight and recommendations to enable informed decision-making. With proper guidance from a controller, businesses can work toward their goals while maintaining financial stability. 

Responsibilities of a Controller

The primary job responsibilities of a corporate controller are to ensure accurate reporting and security of financial data, maintain customer relationships, and oversee accounting operations and financial strategy. They may also be responsible for developing budgets and managing financial reporting. Here is a high level breakdown of a controller’s main responsibilities: 

  • Overseeing all financial operations within their department 
  • Tracking productivity and deadlines 
  • Maintaining and evaluating cash flow and management of finances 
  • Obtaining spending and budgetary updates from other department leaders within the organization  
  • Communicating financial health, budget changes, or other critical financial information to department leaders  
  • Building financial reports based on company spending, revenue, and economic trends, and presenting these to internal leaders as well as company stakeholders 
  • Providing crucial insight to support finance-related decision making  
  • Regularly working alongside C-Suite executives like the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) 

Must-Have Qualifications for a Controller

So, what does it take to be a successful controller? First, let’s review the necessary hard and soft skills they’ll need to tackle their daily responsibilities. 

Controller Hard Skills and Soft Skills  

Because controllers are involved in a great deal of accounting and financial reporting, as well as communication and leadership, they need a strong combination of both hard and soft skills. Here is a consolidated list of both hard and soft skills a controller needs for success: 

  • Mathematics and accounting 
  • Organization and multitasking  
  • Communication  
  • Attention to details 
  • Research and analysis  
  • Strategic planning and decision making 
  • Working knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) 
  • Reporting and presenting  

Education, Experience, and Certifications  

A controller typically needs a four-year degree in accounting, business administration, finance, or economics. A suitable controller generally has five to seven years of experience in financial management and auditing. 

However, some employers may choose candidates with a master’s degree in accounting or finance. A controller may be a certified management accountant with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). 

Salary and Career Outlook  

The salary range for a controller can vary greatly depending on experience, location, company size, and the level of their education or number of certifications. However, the average annual pay for a controller is approximately $135,261 with a base pay of $98,596 and additional pay up to $36,665. 

And because controllers are instrumental to an organization’s financial management, it is a career with considerable security. 

Commonly Asked Controller Interview Questions 

Some common interview questions for a controller position include: 

  • What is your experience with financial statement analysis?  
  • Tell me about a time when you had to manage complex or challenging stakeholders. 
  • Why are you interested in this controller role? 
  • What is your experience with accounting systems? 
  • What is your experience with budgeting and forecasting? 
  • What are your thoughts on change management? 
  • How would you handle a major unexpected expense? 
  • Walk me through your strategy for budgeting a new project. 
  • Are you comfortable working with C-Suite executives? 

Successful Businesses Need Controllers 

A controller is a trusted financial leader who combines technical expertise, analytical skills, and strategic thinking to drive financial performance, ensure compliance, and contribute to the overall success of their organization.  

No business is complete without a controller—the person dedicated to safeguarding their organization’s financial health. If this seems like the right career path for you, go to the Insight Global Job Board to get started. 

And if you happen to need a trustworthy and knowledgeable controller on your team, fill out the form below. Insight Global works alongside hiring managers to deliver quality talent. 

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