Looking how the commercial finance functions have developed in the last 15 years, one cannot pass easily over the ascent of a new breed: the finance controller. Nowadays almost every multinational company has one individual who acts as an interface between the business and its numbers/accounting functions. We talk here about the controller, that strange animal who is neither a finance manager nor a finance director or accounting manager, but a bit of everything.
This controlling blog that doitinvest.com starts here tries to capture just that paradox: how has it come that controlling became such an important function in the multinational companies? What is the role of the controller? How can she or he evolve professionally and as a business partner to add better value to the employers? How can we mitigate the stress and the high turnover associated with the jobs of our finance controllers?
Today we will start our controlling blog series with a(n apparently) small question – what is a finance controller?
About.com, which is a dominantly US site, defines a finance controller job as the budget gate-keepers – in other words as the persons who control the financial flow of funds through the organization. As such, a finance controller is both a gate keeper (in a sense that he/she elaborates and implements the accounting and safeguarding policies of the company) as well as a master financial analyst of the relevant data flows in the corporations.
Does it sound unclear? Well, it is! Most of the companies have general and broad job descriptions for their finance controllers, in order to capture as many responsibilities as:
- making sure that the accounting policies of the company are implemented properly throughout the area of responsibility (the so called GAAP observance);
- ensuring that the company’s activities are properly financed and that the investments projects are evaluated and have enough available funds (the financing function, also valid for the finance managers of most companies);
- developing and maintaining a proper financial planning cycle for the organization (this also includes forecasting the future P&L’s for various companies) – the budgeting function;
- analyzing the business results in various ways (financial analysis, developing down from the sales analysis to the full P&L evolution over a certain period of time);
- supplying adequate information for the business managers so that they can have a proper decision-making process;
- participating in strategic or tactical projects (such as acquisitions or divestitures of business lines, staffing, market analysis etc);
- act as internal consultants whenever needed – for example in various functions of the business or as strategic consultants etc.
The last point is quite interesting – both for the employing companies and for the incumbent of the finance controller job. For the company, the consulting part of the finance controller’s responsibilities obviously adds a lot of value with no incremental costs (to use the finance legalese). Simply, a company can save a lot of time and consulting fees by using its smart finance professionals to analyze their internal business. And of course, for the above mentioned finance professionals, internal consulting is valuable business expertise outside of their profession, which they can easily gain and capitalize upon.
Not convinced yet? Please share your thoughts by commenting please, thank you