What does a controller do?
As the leader of a company's accounting department, you'll be in charge of monitoring the financial condition of a corporation. These professionals maintain, analyze, and manage payroll, budgets, and financial statements. Controllers also oversee accounts receivable, accounts payable, and grants administration. Controllers work closely with different program leaders and staff members to educate them about accounting, finance, and procedures. They also teach them how to explore the finance function to support program operations.
Controllers ensure companies have relevant procedures and systems to conduct flawless audits and support effective program implementations. They also supervise the accounting team and handle tax compliance issues. Financial controllers also partner with CFOs, human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) staff, and senior leadership to better integrate and enhance finance, IT, and HR functions.View Roles
What is the average salary of a controller?
According to Glassdoor, the average annual pay for controllers in the United States is $104,365. Market information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the median annual salary for financial managers, a similar position, is at $131,710. However, there is a wide range in controllers' salaries based on company size. Corporate financial controllers find themselves on the higher end of the salary range, while assistant financial controllers and those working in financial-light and smaller firms are on the lower end of the scale. Many factors determine controller salaries and compensation packages. Formal training and experience can make a significant difference in your compensation package. Your salary will also vary depending on your current location, seniority, and industry.
What industries hire controllers?
Controllers oversee the accounting department and guide the strategic financial decisions of a company. This position is therefore integral to every organization's financial growth. Some of the industries that hire financial controllers include:
- Consultant firms
- Investment banks
- Public sector organizations
- Insurance firms
- Private equity firms
- Higher education institutions
- Telecommunication companies
- Pharmaceutical firms
- Hedge funds
- Hospitality sector
- Software development companies
- Healthcare organizations
Working as a controller
Working as a controller involves collaborating with company managers to create budgets for the organization on a quarterly or a monthly basis. You will also monitor the actual business performance versus the budget and report any variances to the management. Expect to work closely with different department managers across the organization and external parties such as customers and vendors. You will also develop cash flow projections and financial models and analyze results from the models to make the necessary recommendations for future business activities such as new product launches and marketing campaigns.
As part of your job, you'll also analyze financial results on a monthly or quarterly basis to prepare reports for the company's management team. You will also prepare quarterly or year-end financial statements, depending on your company's accounting policy. Sometimes your job will also involve acquisitions and mergers, which require knowledge of more complex accounting issues like purchase price allocations.
What are the responsibilities of a controller?
A controller's main duties are overseeing how an organization spends financial resources and keeping accurate books and records. However, there is a big difference in how different organizations execute the role. The responsibilities of an average controller include:
- Managing all accounting aspects such as billing, payroll, financial statements, and general ledger
- Maintaining a documented system of all accounting operations and policies
- Overseeing payments of every account
- Ensuring all accounts get paid on time
- Processing accounts and collecting all payments
- Overseeing payments made for bank loans, debts, and other large amounts of money
- Monitoring funding and cash balances
- Maintaining a proper filing system of all financial statements, transactions, accounts, debts, and payments
- Preparing quarterly or annual financial reports
- Managing the quarterly and annual forecasts and budgets
- Preparing and organizing financial statements for review and record
- Advising on financial analyses
- Making decisions regarding pricing, benchmarks, contract negotiations, capital investments, and other matters
- Defining, benchmarking, and implementing operational best practices
- Organizing information and financial statements for internal and external audits
- Ensuring the organization complies with all regulatory and legal requirements
What type of equipment does a controller use?
The majority of tools you use as a controller consist of computer software. Here are some of the software applications you should familiarize yourself with:
- FinancialForce – Controllers use this tool to track resource availability, spending, and profitability to predict business moves.
- Xero – This accounting software helps simplify monetary transactions and manage sales and inventory, reducing the need for manual data entry.
- Expensify – A controller uses this expense tracking tool to generate reports, scan receipts, and upload cash expenses from mobile gadgets for convenient expense accounting, rebilling, and reimbursement.
- PlanGuru – This tool allows you to evaluate your budget and capture financial problems before they become serious issues by taking data from cash flow records, balance sheets, and income statements.
- FreshBooks – This cloud-based billing system automates essential accounting tasks, allowing users to create and manage entries effortlessly. It also allows you to access company data from anywhere.
What is the work environment of a controller?
Controllers work in large corporate headquarters, banks, or government buildings. Therefore, you spend most of your time in offices. You attend meetings with other department managers to report financial statements and explain financial policies. You also spend part of your time keeping up with the accounting field by attending professional meetings and seminars. Sometimes, you'll work from home or another remote location to help manage your company or employer's funding and accounting needs.
Who are your colleagues as a controller?
The role of a controller varies based on the company size. In large corporations, a controller works with finance managers, chief accounting officers, and other company executives to control the finance function. In midsize and small establishments, controllers work with accountants, project managers, and insurance companies. Controllers also work with the company's management, business development experts, and department heads.
What is the work schedule of a controller?
A financial controller works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. That means these professionals work for at least 40 hours every week. Sometimes, you will work longer hours, especially during busy periods like the end of the economic year. However, you won't get paid for overtime hours, as most controller roles are salaried positions.
What is the career outlook for a controller?
According to the BLS, financial controller positions will grow by approximately 7% by 2030. That means around 96,000 new controller jobs will become available over the next decade. Most of these jobs will become available as the current job holders retire or leave the profession. As you gain more experience as a financial controller, you'll encounter better opportunities to advance your career. Experienced financial controllers can advance to the chief financial officer position.
What are the advantages of working with Spherion as a controller?
If you're looking for a job as a controller, Spherion can help. Due to its place among the leading staffing companies in the United States, Spherion can connect you with various businesses. Here are some of the amazing benefits you'll enjoy when working with Spherion:
- Training opportunities and resources to sharpen your skills
- Access to a wide range of jobs within your geographical area
- Temporary and permanent working contracts
- Quick interviewing process
- Flexible working schedules
- Weekly payment options
- A contact person to help you during your job search
- Access to the most sought-after jobs in your location
What education do you need as a controller?
To become a financial controller, you need an undergraduate degree in finance or an accounting-related field. Many organizations, however, prefer individuals with a master's degree in a relevant field. These advanced academic programs assist students in learning financial analysis techniques and software and developing analytical skills.
To get a job as a financial controller, you need to have years of experience in a financial or business setting. Many companies prefer applicants with at least 10 years of work experience in a business or financial role, while others prefer individuals with at least five years of experience. You can gain work experience in various financial roles such as bookkeeper, accountant, financial analyst, and accounting clerk. Controllers often get on-the-job training with an organization during the first couple of months. This training includes learning the firm's financial systems and software and the organization's procedures and policies.
Skills & competencies
In addition to getting a degree, you can get certifications from recognized institutions to become more appealing to employers. Popular accreditation options include the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certifications. A CPA certification is suitable for individuals with a degree and at least one year of professional experience. You can also get the Chartered Financial Analyst accreditation with a degree and four years of experience. Effective controllers leverage a broad range of people and technical skills to steer an organization's financial future. Some of these skills include:
- Attention to detail
- Project management and organizational skills
- Basic math skills
- Understanding of international accounting and finance
- Excellent communication skills
- Technical accounting expertise
- Time-management skills
- Advanced computer skills
- Strong analytical skills
- Creative-thinking skills
Controllers analyze trends and data and make important finance-related decisions to help organizations grow. If you are considering a career as a financial controller, invest in a solid accounting and financial education and relevant accreditations to set yourself up for success. The following frequently asked questions about controllers will also help you understand more about this profession.
What does a controller do?
A controller is mainly responsible for overseeing the accounting department and providing timely and accurate company reports. They own the company's financial process and produce financial reports and statements that guide decision-making. These professionals are responsible for the company's financial tasks, such as forecasting, analysis, and planning. In big organizations, controllers oversee financial reporting and payroll processing.
What are the qualities of a good controller?
A good financial controller needs good organization skills. They organize the company for success by designing it in a way that supports the business currently and is flexible enough to accommodate future changes. As the leader of the accounting department, you should have the capacity to build and manage a strong team. A good controller hires the right individuals for the role and the accounting team.
Good controllers also understand systems, processes, and the underlying data and work closely with the IT department to get the best out of its technology tools. These professionals communicate well throughout the organization and beyond, knowing that they are part of a collective group that only succeeds together.
What is the difference between a controller and a CFO?
Controllers prepare financial reports such as company balance sheets. They also handle compliance audits, help with budgeting, monitor internal controls, and, to a certain degree, evaluate financial information. On the other hand, CFOs track the company's capital and growth and handle higher-level financial planning and strategies. They provide an analysis of the strong or weak points of the business and develop plans for improvements. A controller's role focuses more on timely and accurate financial reporting, while CFOs are financial planners.
How do I apply for a job as a controller?
Applying for a job as a controller is easy with Spherion. You can search for controller jobs on Spherion.com by job title and location. If you don’t see the perfect role, you can submit an open application. Once you submit your contact information and resume through Spherion’s open application, a recruiter from the office closest to you will reach out with details about potential controller roles that fit your skill set and professional goals.