CFO Vs Controller Which Does Your Business Need?

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Sorting out what financial management jobs your company needs to fill—and then what those various financial jobs deserve in terms of compensation—can be overwhelming for a small- or medium-sized business. Two positions that are often accidentally merged or mistaken for each other are the chief financial officer, or CFO, and the corporate controller. So what is the difference between these jobs, and what kind of person do you need to fill each?

Controller Job Description

The controller oversees accountants and manages customer cash or credit information. A corporate controller is a natural step up from an accounting position; a controller must be focused on accurate reporting of financial data, knowing the company’s financial situation at every moment. This includes detailed budgeting and planning.

The goal of a controller is management and efficiency. Essentially, the job of a controller is to ensure that a company’s finances are complying with the standards set out by senior leadership.

Chief Financial Officer Job Description

CFOs also tend to come from accounting backgrounds, and most CFOs obtain Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credentials. However, CFOs have additional skills which separate them from controllers—and mean that controllers are not always the best pool from which to promote a CFO.

Although a CFO continues to hold the role of being a financial gatekeeper, the job description has expanded to include participating in the overall strategic planning of a company and partnering with the chief operating officer (CEO). The CFO must understand not only the financial position of the company, but also the entire operation and how to take or minimize financial risk. While a controller focuses on the here and now of a company’s finances, a CFO must be able to analyze the present in order to look toward the company’s financial future.

A CFO must also have high-level personal and communication skills. In many ways, a CFO is also a salesperson, selling other management or investors on your company’s financial strategy.

Which Do You Need?

Depending on the size of your company, the two positions can be merged; however, a growing company likely needs both.

Are there any other financial management jobs that you frequently see confused or switched? Share your experience in the comments.

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