chief accounting officer vs controller

This can also happen when the accountant or CFO is too thinly stretched to offer the necessary business support. It’s common for controllers to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or have a similar credential. The CPA certification equips controllers with the know-how on financial planning, internal auditing, financial statements, and more. Thankfully, financial controllers and Chief Financial Officers are quite distinct. And as we’ll explore, it’s relatively easy to see what sets these two positions apart.

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chief accounting officer vs controller

Networking with professionals in the industry and building relationships with other professionals in the accounting and finance fields can also be valuable in preparing for a management position. In terms of duties and responsibilities, there is no practical difference between the two titles. Comptrollers and controllers have the same position, but controllers work for businesses and comptrollers work for nonprofits and public sector organizations—often for local, state, chief accounting officer vs controller and federal governments. Controllers typically report directly to the CFO (except in cases where there is a COA) and usually lead a team of accountants, bookkeepers, and accounts receivable/payable clerks. You may agree that it’s easy to see how one person could fill both roles simultaneously, at least when your company is still new. With so much overlap in the roles and responsibilities, the difference between a CFO vs controller seems negligible at first.

How Can Diversity of Thought Lead to Good Ethical Decisions?

The CMA exam is a two-part exam covering (1) Financial Planning, Performance, & Analytics and (2) Strategic Financial Management. We offer a broad range of tools and thought leadership to help the controllership function assess, advise, and transform their capabilities around organizations and people; policy, process, and controls; and information and systems. The framework is also used to help controllerships envision a more strategically-focused future state and consider innovative ways to leverage talent, process, and technology.

  • Controllers typically report directly to the CFO (except in cases where there is a COA) and usually lead a team of accountants, bookkeepers, and accounts receivable/payable clerks.
  • They should be able to optimize the capital structure, prepare business plans, investor decks and presentations, and obtain financing.
  • Internal controls are developed, monitored, and implemented by financial controllers in order to mitigate the occurrence of accounting errors, irregularities, and fraud.
  • Other important duties include tax accounting, management reporting, and variance analysis, as well as managing both internal and external audits.
  • It doesn’t take years of direct accounting experience to become a controller, but it helps.
  • The framework is also used to help controllerships envision a more strategically-focused future state and consider innovative ways to leverage talent, process, and technology.

Communication skills

It’s no wonder the role is increasingly being viewed as a path to the CFO position; the leading CAOs are strategic decision makers. A controller is important to finance as they control the risk and reporting aspect of the company. A controller is the point person for making sure the financial reporting is done correctly. They are also the person to understand why inaccuracies may exist, what changes must be put in place, and how those changes will impact future reports.

Smaller companies demand more versatility of the controller, while larger companies are able to disperse the following job responsibilities across other employees including the chief financial officer and treasurer. A controller is one of the most influential people within your company’s accounting and finance department. They can benefit your company by providing a balance of financial expertise and accounting services management that bridges the communication between C-suite and day to day functionality of the accounting department.

  • Chief Financial Officers identify business risks by looking at financial data and make appropriate decisions to mitigate those risks, among their many leadership functions.
  • It’s better to look at experienced accountants (even managers or other senior-level positions) when making comparisons to controllers.
  • This includes developing gaps related to receivables reporting, payroll, quarterly financial reporting, or internal controls.
  • A comptroller is the top manager of accounting, budgeting, and financial reporting functions, usually in a governmental entity or non-profit organization.
  • You could boil down the choice between mid-level accountant and controller to one between specialization and general control.

chief accounting officer vs controller

If a business has both finance roles, the controller will typically consult with the CFO to help ensure that various initiatives are compliant with tax regulations and accounting standards. They’re directly responsible for closing the books on time, keeping clean financial records, and usually managing company cash flow. A good controller has a collaborative relationship with sales, IT, operations and any other personnel who affect or are affected by any accounting systems, company accounts, and internal controls—many of which they develop themselves. They are forward-focused professionals who do whatever they can to partner with and support their sales, operations, IT and other teams that directly or indirectly drive growth. They don’t get in the way of initiatives, and remove roadblocks holding their internal partners back from achieving their goals.

Controller vs. Vice President of Finance

They are also responsible for monitoring actual performance against budget and identifying and addressing variances. Select finance professionals are trained in GAAP fundamentals and may hold a GAAP certification. AICPA’s certification on GAAP for example equips finance professionals with the skills to master GAAP accounting and financial reporting concepts. Companies that want to pursue a growth strategy will need the expertise of a CFO to generate insight into profit and loss (P&L), evaluate acquisition opportunities, and to create processes for financial planning and budgeting. As opposed to controllers, CFOs provide higher-level financial planning and strategies than controllers do.

chief accounting officer vs controller

Is a Controller the Same As CFO or VP of Finance?

CAOs usually hold a degree in finance, accounting, or economics, and many hold a certified public accountant (CPA) license. In addition, today’s CAO is expected to be more than just the head of accounting; they are expected to partner with the CFO. Those interested in entering the field of financial controllership will find that obtaining a Master’s degree in finance and accounting gives their resume an additional boost.

  • For instance, working for a bank requires additional expertise, such as the most recent FDIC requirements.
  • A financial controller is a higher-level finance position that takes the responsibility over the financial reporting process.
  • Over the past several years, we have seen the chief accounting officer (CAO) emerge as an elevated, strategic leadership role.
  • Last, controllers often transition into the role of assistant controller before making the jump to a full controller role.
  • For one thing, the CAO has a unique, cross-organization view of the business’s performance and trajectory.

A good financial controller will develop efficient and effective strategies to increase profit margins, increase employee productivity, and find cost savings through cash management. Your business should consider using AP automation software integrated with your ERP system to reduce the time to process invoices and make and reconcile global payments. Accounts payable automation speeds the monthly close process for financial reporting.

Outsourced vs In-House Controller: Which is Right for Your Business?

Almost all controllers start out as public accountants or work in corporate settings before moving up. Preparing for a management position as a controller or chief accounting officer (CAO) typically involves a combination of education, experience, and professional development. A bachelor’s degree in accounting is required to become a chief accounting officer. However, specific roles demand a master’s degree, professional experience with accounting, and industry-specific knowledge based on the business for which you work. The controller carries out the implementation and day-to-day management of the operations of the accounting department. The controller’s oversight and account management enable the CFO to meet the company’s strategic goals.

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