Financial Controller Qualifications & Skills

Financial controllers manage financial reporting, accounting records, and daily activities at the company. They also work at a senior level. They ensure completion of all projects and adherence to various accounting regulations. The controller may also help with strategic plans and work with the CEO.

There is much overlap between the skill requirements for accountants and financial controllers. Financial controllers have a higher career path than regular accountants. To be a financial controller, you need leadership, experience, team skills, a wider view, and stakeholder management.

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Financial Controller Academic Qualifications

Graduate studies increase the chances of financial controllers finding a job. A bachelor’s degree in accounting is enough for controller positions. Yet, hiring managers prefer candidates with MBAs or Masters in Accountancy.

MBAs prepare managers by teaching leadership and financial guidance skills. This wide variety of degrees covers economic planning, business management, and accounting. The graduate programme offers an extra opportunity to develop professional skills.

Having a strong passion for maths is necessary and will help you succeed in your classes and job.

To work in financial controllership, get a Master’s degree in finance and accounting. This will improve your CV. For more CV-building tips for a financial controllership position, visit the following article.

Formal Certifications

Financial controllers need an accepted accounting qualification in their country of work. The following are examples of some of the organisations that offer such capabilities:

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

Many professionals get these qualifications while working in other financial accounting-related roles. What a candidate has achieved at work is more important than their education for this job. Yet, Fortune 500 companies may still favour candidates with a Tier 1 MBA degree. This is true for many of their top roles.

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Work Experience and Internships

A controller should show their work readiness on CVs, resumes, and achievements. The candidate should also be well-equipped to learn generally accepted accounting principles. Internships help students gain experience and education. This prepares them for accounting jobs at firms. Students attend these programmes after graduating with university credits. Accountants have two options to gain knowledge and build a network: choose one.

You need 5 to 15 years of experience in accounting or finance to apply for a financial controller job. The work experience requirement changes depending on the company’s size, employees, and structure. To succeed in this role, you need a solid understanding of finance and accounting.

To be a financial controller, you need experience in finance and accounting. These people need to show they can lead and understand financial numbers well. If you work with other departments more, you have a better chance of becoming a financial controller.

In smaller companies, the work experience rule might be lower. Yet, financial controllers still have to do all their tasks. These tasks require knowledge of accounting and financial management.

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What Skills Do Financial Controllers Need?

  • Accounting. Financial controllers must have a strong grasp of accounting, which is crucial to their role. Many financial controllers gain these skills at an accounting firm or department. Yet, financial controllers in higher positions need a broader understanding of accounting. They must also view it from a holistic perspective. The accounting skills required for higher positions are not the same as those needed for entry-level jobs. Financial controllers must grasp and convey the data’s significance, not arrange it.

  • Numeracy Skills. To do their job well and help the organisation, financial controllers analyse numbers. The financial accounting department’s mistakes can lead to big financial or operational losses. Controllers who can find these errors will add value to the organisation. They will earn their salary by doing so.

  • Keeping up-to-date with regulations. Regulations change everywhere. Financial controllers must stay updated on these changes. You must have a strong grasp of accounting rules like GAAP and IFRS. In their departments, they should know the rules, understand the changes, and use them. Financial controllers need to collaborate with compliance teams. Their goal is to educate other departments on rule adherence.

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  • Top Soft Skills for Financial Controllers. Financial controllers need technical skills and qualifications to succeed in their jobs. Below are six skills that will be helpful for success in this role:

  • Leadership and team management. Being a financial controller is a leadership position. Financial controllers lead large teams of finance and accounting professionals. They make sure the team works towards the organisation’s goals. Financial controllers are leaders who have shown their skills, but it’s not easy to do.

  • Handling deadlines and pressure situations. Financial controllers’ workloads increase at the end of each month, quarter, and year. Pre-planning helps, but data for a specific period is only available at one point. Financial controllers must work to produce accurate reports under time pressure.

  • Business Acumen. Recording and reporting financial transaction data may be enough for most accounting jobs. However, it is not enough for a financial controller. A financial controller must have a deep understanding of the relevant sector. Such an understanding will help them add real value to the organisation. The controller can suggest cost-saving changes by using cost accounting.

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  • Financial and strategic planning. Financial controllers assist in the review of variances between actuals, budgets, and forecasts. They find it helpful to be task-oriented, but having a strategic mindset makes the job easier. Financial controllers have to manage big departments that might have special projects. To work as a financial controller, you must keep track of and adjust department functions and tasks.

  • Communication Skills. The best finance controller is a good communicator. They will often provide information about complicated finance to non-experts in this role. Good communicators speak clearly. They consider their audience and listen to others’ advice.

  • Time-Management Skills. Financial controllers must adhere to tight deadline responsibilities. Every year, they must create and share budgets, predictions, and reports for taxes. Financial controllers can manage their duties, meet deadlines, and manage stressful conditions.

Controller vs CFO

In smaller financial departments, the controller and CFO can be similar. In most cases, the organisation’s CFO also serves as the executive leader. The role takes care of the financial team and shares important information with everyone. They also assist with strategic decisions that help develop a company’s prospects. The CFO may work with the CEO and provide reports to the board. The CFO is not as involved in the accounting department’s daily operations as the financial controller is.

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Career Growth Opportunities

Financial controllers gain valuable leadership training to support their future careers. Often, an enterprise’s CEO or treasurer position is the next step for an experienced financial controller.

If you want to be a financial controller, visit our resources page or search for roles here.

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