Financial Controller: 6 Tips To Maximise Salary & Achieve Career Growth
A financial controller is in a position of leadership. Although different companies have different structures, the financial controller is usually close to the very top of the finance and accounting department. Because of this, financial controllers have to demonstrate their leadership abilities in addition to their core skills in finance, accounting, budgeting, planning, reporting, etc.
Professionals in finance and accounting may have a slightly harder time filling their resumes with flashy bullet points like someone from the sales department, for example. Often times, the efforts of financial controllers and others in the department can only be measured in subjective terms or in a broader context as opposed to a salesperson who can simply include half a sentence which mentions how much revenue they generated last fiscal.
That shouldn’t pull one down though. Remember that the person looking at the resume probably has a pretty good idea about what the role entails and what achievements to look out for. It’s always preferable to make objective statements which include a numerical reference point rather than making generic and subjective statements. For example, saying that you managed four subsidiaries across three continents is more impactful than saying that you managed multiple entities across geographies. Objective and numerical data points always pop out. The focus should be the results achieved, whenever possible.
Bare-minimum Skills vs Differentiators
A lot of resumes mention the bare minimum skills like “strong analytical skills”, attention to details” and so on. While these are obviously necessary for a financial controller, they are essentially the bare minimum skills rather than differentiators. Your goal is to stand out as an exceptional candidate, not be drowned out in the crowd.
Towards that end, always mention remarkable or exceptional traits first and foremost. Better still, mention objectively quantifiable results. Did you achieve a € 5 million saving through some optimisation? That needs to be at the top and bold. Then, it can be followed by how it was achieved, and that it serves as a real-life example or mini case-study of your analytical skills rather than just a dry comment that you possess them!
Team Management, Leadership and Inter-Departmental Relations
Once the core finance and accounting skills are taken care of, next up are leadership and people management. Financial controllers will usually have a few accounting or finance people reporting to them. Mentioning that you managed a team of x people successfully is obviously a perfectly reasonable statement to include in your CV. However, financial controllers have to work very closely with other departments and being a team player is a key part of the job. Joint projects that were executed with other departments or going above and beyond your normal duties to achieve a positive outcome might also be worth a bullet point or two on your CV.
At the end of the day though, financial controllers have to provide leadership to the finance department and establish financial control over the entire organisation. As long as you can demonstrate your ability to do that better than the other candidates, you would have a head start.
Salary & Pay
Financial Controllers can expect to make anything from £40,000 per year to £100,000 based on the total (relevant) years of experience under their belt. The number varies greatly based on how generous the employer is with compensation as well as the candidate’s work experience. For example, it’s possible that salaries for financial controllers in banks, big consulting firms or Fortune 100 companies might go up to £120,000 or even higher.
Financial controllers are senior-level executives who usually report directly to the CFO and in case of smaller companies, might perform the duties of the CFO themselves. The compensation for the financial controller must, therefore, match the overall responsibilities that they have to perform. This is another reason why salaries can often be quite variable between companies.
The total compensation for financial controllers will also include a variable component. This, of course, depends on the performance of the individual, their department and the company as a whole but a minimum expectation of 10% might be considered fair. Again, if the individual is assuming multiple responsibilities within the finance department, their bonus would reflect that and would go proportionally higher. More often than not, the salary for the financial controller would be second only to the CFO in the finance department.
(Note: Salary figures based on Glassdoor.co.uk and Payscale.com)
Choosing the Right Sector for Maximum Growth
Financial controllers focus mostly on the handling of financial data and the preparation of financial reports, audits and other such responsibilities related to financial management. This means that they do have a fair bit of flexibility in moving from one core sector to another, unlike someone who is a product specialist, for example.
Therefore, to achieve optimum career growth, it might make sense to choose a rapidly growing or at least a stable sector. Healthcare, banking, IT/ tech, engineering, consulting are all good examples of sectors which continue to grow, although the situation may vary from country to country.
Another high risk, high reward option are start-ups. These companies can experience explosive growth and when that happens, it usually benefits the entire workforce especially if ESOPs (or something similar) is a thing. But the catch is that such roles are more suited for experienced professionals since they would have to do the heavy lifting in a start-up environment without much guidance.
An obvious advantage of a career in this field is the flexibility of moving from one sector to another. Career-oriented professionals looking to maximise their salary potential should always be on the lookout for moving to a better position even if it means switching to a different core sector that the candidate doesn’t have experience in or even to another EU country.
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Our Renaix Guide to Finance, Skills & Qualifications provides information on trends in the industry.
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