Financial Controllers are almost always senior-level executives who oversee the operations of the finance and accounting departments. They require a broad range of experience handling things like:
- Financial Management
- Corporate Accounting
- Regulatory Compliance
- Financial Reporting
- Corporate Budgeting
- Financial Planning
- Cash Flow Management
- Financial Risk Management
- Debt Management and Collection
- Cost Management
- Managing Payrolls
- Developing Financial Governance and Control Policies etc.
This list covers the entire gamut of finance and accounting related activities that a medium-sized company might need to perform on an ongoing basis. Therefore, the role of a financial controller is to ensure that all these functions are performed as per the needs of the business and within regulatory/ legal restrictions.
The financial controller is not alone in the performance of these duties. They are assisted by teams from the finance and accounting departments and possibly others depending on the structure of the organisation. Financial controllers oversee the various teams who perform these functions and have the overall responsibility to monitor those teams.
The focus areas for financial controllers might be categorised into three broad areas:
This includes reporting, internal accounting, cost/ inventory accounting, and other such activities. Accounting is considered the primary area of responsibility for the financial controller. The preparation of periodic financial reports, ensuring that the accounting systems are operational and error-free, ensuring compliance with the relevant accounting standards (like IFRS), etc. are some of the activities that fall under the ambit of a financial controller’s profile.
This includes all financial aspects that are not part of the accounting functions. For example, handling accounts receivables and payables, managing cash flows, budgeting and financial planning, resource allocation, risk management and so on.
Different companies may structure these departments differently. However, irrespective of which department each specific function is housed under, the financial controller has a responsibility to ensure that the work is done.
Financial controllers are also responsible for the legal and regulatory requirements as they apply to the finance and accounting functions. For example, payments from certain sanctioned countries or entities cannot be legally received in the EU. So being aware of these restrictions and making sure the teams comply with them is a responsibility that falls to the financial controller. Compliance and legal teams can assist and provide information, but the actual day to day operations still need to be monitored.
A day in the life of a financial controller
Financial controllers are responsible for managing all the teams that perform the functions mentioned in the previous section. They are ultimately responsible for any lapses, but they are not expected to perform the functions themselves (unless its crunch time and the team is falling behind!).
Because of this, financial controllers can expect to spend most of their time managing people. This can be done through meetings, calls, emails, using special process management software to assign and track tasks, or any variety of creative ways to get the job done. In addition to managing teams, financial controllers also act as conduits between the producers of the data and the management teams that need to make decisions based on that data. This is especially true for budgeting and financial planning type activities where financial controllers play a key role.
A financial controller might spend one day planning for a board meeting while the next day, it might be time to start working on processing the payrolls. Quarter and year-end periods can be unbelievably hectic as all the relevant reports need to be prepared and must be error-free. Any mistakes can be disastrous, and this can really increase the stress levels during certain times of the year.
The day to day actives also depends on the size of the company. Financial controllers in smaller companies with fewer teams might have to do more of the work themselves rather than delegating it. Whereas at the larger business houses, financial controllers have daily routines that are closer to what a CFO might do.
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