What to expect from a Financial Controller role

Written by: Helen Jones
Published on: 13 Jan 2021

A financial controller, also known as a ‘Finance Controller’ or ‘Comptroller’, is an important role within a business, but what is the role and what are they expected to do in it? ICAEW delves deeper in this financial controller guide.

What is a Financial Controller? 

The financial controller (FC) is a vital and senior role in the accounting or finance department. Usually reporting to a finance director or chief financial officer, the financial controller has responsibility for the accounting operations of a business. 

What does a Financial Controller do? 

A financial controller oversees all accounting functions in a business. They make sure that all accounting records are appropriately kept and that every reported result complies with accounting standards and legislation. Part of their duties includes coordinating and managing the preparation of budget and financial forecasts, preparing monthly statements and other regular financial reports. It’s also a role where you must ensure your finance team operates with a robust control environment and being the go-to contact for all external auditors. 

As a senior role, FCs contribute to the financial strategy of a business and will be pivotal in the development of all internal control policies and procedures in the company. It’s possible that they may have responsibility for financial risk management and are expected to work alongside other senior leadership team members to create risk minimisation plans. They contribute to ensuring all financial systems are fit for purpose, are maintained, and can spot any potential areas for improvement. 

Key Financial Controller Responsibilities 

The primary responsibilities of a financial controller vary, but mostly include: 

  • Managing all day to day accounting operations - this usually includes Billing, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, General Ledger and Counsel, Cost Accounting, Inventory Accounting and Revenue Recognition. 

  • Coordinating the preparation of budget and financial forecasting and reporting any variances. 

  • Preparing and publishing all monthly financial statements. 

  • Creating reports (annual and monthly) which identifies results, trends and forecasts. 

  • Ensuring all transactions are recorded, filed and reported properly. 

  • Making sure reporting meets compliant standards with statutory law and financial regulations. 

  • Documenting business processes and accounting policies to maintain internal controls. 

  • Streamlining and improving all operations and accounting systems. 

  • Coordinating the management of cash flow, debt and debt collection. 

  • Supervising and managing financial department staff 

  • Overseeing the audit process and liaising with external personnel where required. 

  • Support the business with the financial strategy and decision-making processes 

  • Helping the CFO in presenting reports to board members, senior executives, and board members. 

Importance of a Financial Controller 

Financial controllers play a pivotal role in keeping a company’s financial reporting, financial planning, debt financing and budget management organised. They are one of the most important staff members in a business, as their skills allow the CFO and finance directors to focus on taking the business further. The FC also controls most of the reporting and financial optimisation of the company. 

Skills Required for the Job 

Financial controllers are expected to have incredible analytical, numerical and problem-solving skills and must be able to work to tight deadlines. An FC should have strong personal and communication skills alongside confident leadership and management skills. They should also show a strong business acumen, and the ability to influence people at all levels. 

Career Opportunities for a Financial Controller 

The financial controller position is a vital one within a company, no matter the sector or jurisdiction. Progression for an FC usually leads to becoming a finance director, chief financial officer (CFO) or even a chief executive officer (CEO), if they demonstrate good commercial awareness. 

Competencies of a Financial Controller 

There are high-level competencies required for the financial controller role: 

Audit and Assurance 

  • Must advise on and communicate effectively the role and scope of all audit and assurance engagements to stakeholders. 

  • Applies regulatory, legal, professional and ethical standards in relation to audit and assurance engagements. 

  • Plans and prepares for audit and assurance engagements. 

  • Performs audit and assurance engagements. 

  • Reviews and reports back on the findings of audit and assurance engagements. 

  • Guiding Operations 

Corporate and Business Reporting 

  • Prepares financial statements, corporate financial, and integrated reports for external stakeholders using appropriate technology. 

  • Leads decision making by analysing, evaluating and communicating financial performance and positions of entities. 

  • Prepares financial statements for groups of entities using appropriate accounting software. 

  • Monitors, evaluates and advises on accounting standards regulations, conceptual and financial reporting frameworks. 

Financial Management 

  • Monitors developments in global trade, markets, business practices and the current economic climate and suggests the improvements needed in the financial and risk management of a business. 

  • Advises on current business asset valuations, capital projects and investments through the right analytical qualitative and quantitative techniques. 

  • Can see, evaluate and advise on alternate sources of business finance and different ways of raising finance. 

  • Communicates and advises what impact financial decision making is having on developments in regulation, ethics and governance. 

  • Assesses and advises on the right strategies to manage business and organisational performance in relation to business and finance risk while communicating the impact effectively. 

Governance, Risk and Control 

  • Evaluates all internal structures and governance to protect the interests of stakeholders in the long term. 

  • Recommends the right strategies to ensure the organisation adheres to governance structures and applies best practice internal controls. 

  • Highlights and manages risk appropriately. 

  • Makes use of risk management strategies with the best interests of the company and its stakeholders in mind. 

  • Monitors and applies legislation, policies, and procedures relevant to the organisation. 

Leadership and Management 

  • Applies the right leadership strategies to deliver business objectives. 

  • Manages and motivates people to optimise performance and effectiveness. 

  • Collaborates and supports the company to achieve the latest objectives for an organisation, while using the appropriate digital resources. 

  • Is proactive and strategic in anticipating organisational needs while recognising the wider business environment. 

Management Accounting 

  • Uses development and performance management across the wider business and technological environment, as part of the strategic planning and implementation. 

  • Directs performance in the company through selecting and measuring financial and non-financial performance indicators. 

  • Collaborates on all tactical and organisational areas involved with budgeting, control, capital investments, resource management and people. 

  • Consults on design and use of the latest technology and information systems to evolve decision making and organisational performance. 

Strategy and Innovation 

  • Use business and commercial acumen awareness to deliver business objectives. 

  • Can suggest appropriate strategic options where sustainable plans and objectives can be developed. 

  • Evaluates, justifies, and puts strategic options in place. 

  • Uses various innovative methods to implement strategy and manage change. 

If you’re looking for a new role, ICAEW Jobs have the latest financial controller jobs which you can apply for online. New roles are posted every day from businesses across the UK from a wide range of industries. Get started with your applications today by uploading your CV and get job alerts when new roles appear.