Know The Difference Between CFO & Financial Controller If You Want The Right Job

There are two types of key financial leadership roles in modern business – the Financial Controller and the CFO. Mix them up and you will not secure job interviews or suitable candidates if you want to hire real talent. These two roles are not the same and neither of these is the same role as an Accountant.

The financial hybrid roles

Some companies like to combine the two but the roles are different. If you are job hunting and you are reading job ads, ensure to pay attention and if you are advertising for the role and your business has any significant size to it and is planning to grow, you need both.

CFOs and Financial Controllers usually come from an accounting background and start off as Accountants. The Accountant’s role is that of record-keeping and financial reporting. Some call it, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, scorekeeping or bean-counting.

The Financial Controller

When, as an Accountant, you get really good at accounting and financial reporting and develop the ability to manage several different activities and supervise people, you can become a Financial Controller. This job is more than a bean counter role; however, the Controller role is a natural progression from the Accountant.

The CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

CFO is not necessarily a natural progression from Financial Controller. You don’t just get the CFO role because you spent x number of years as a Financial Controller. As the CFO,

– You must know accounting and financial reporting – that is a given; however, your skillset better be much broader

– A CFO has to understand the operations of the business and how the financial system interrelates with operations

– You have to understand capital structures and business funding

– You must know how to manage cash

– You have to understand business risks, both financial and non-financial, and know-how to mitigate those risks

– You have to know the strategy and be able to see the big picture

– You must be able to make decisions

– Finally, the one CFOs most often miss, you must understand people and be an effective communicator

In the CFO role, if people are still calling you a bean counter, they either have no clue, they are playing games or you are doing something fundamentally wrong in the performance of your duties.

So, if you are reviewing job ads or if you are planning to advertise for some skilled Financial Controllers or a CFO, know the difference. And ensure to make the little things count.

To help, you can apply the checklist below:

CFO and Controller comparison

CFO – Analysis and Solutions, Financing and Forecasting, Critical Key Indicators, New Views, Planning and Implementing, Big Picture Future Vision, Functional Focus, Compatibility, Strategy, Coach to Functional Managers, Walks Four Corners, What if…………….

Controller – Accurate Reporting, Accounting, and Reporting, Standard Formats, Existing Stats, Budgeting, Reporting Here and Now, Financial Focus. Compliance, Tactics, Reporter, Stays in Financial Area, What is………..

Ensure to check the list before you spend your time addressing senior financial job advert requirements with your summary of skills and experience. Contact us if you need help with your resume or selection criteria cover letter response. We can help you to stand out amongst the hundreds of applications.

Whatever you do, remember to hunt wisely!

Ulrich Schild is the MD of and For more on the topic of job hunting and career change advice for candidates in the Financial & Executive Careers including best practices that reduce bias in evaluating your application, read Ulrich’s guest blogs here on

You can also follow Ulrich on Twitter @ulrichschild

If you’re looking for your next challenge in finance or audit, then Submit Your CV, or Search Jobs to find out about the roles we currently have available.

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Our Renaix Guide Guide To Finance Careers, Salaries And Benefits provides information on trends in the industry.

Similar posts: Composing a Well-Written CVHow to Get a Higher Salary, Interview Help, How Do I Move from Audit to Finance?


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