Controller vs Comptroller vs. CFO: Key Differences to Understand

CFO vs Controller

Accounts payable automation speeds the monthly close process for financial reporting. This efficiency lets the controller spend more time on higher-level decision-support tasks using non-financial and financial information. The CFO, with top responsibility for all financial functions, reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). A useful Chief Financial Officer performs a strategic finance function and contributes to raising financing, completing M&A deals, and improving business metrics and performance.

  • On should note, however, that a CFO can not do their job with good financial information.
  • Although they may be used interchangeably and have some skill and job crossover, they’re different positions.
  • A controller, also known as a financial controller, is a senior-level exec responsible for managing a company’s accounting activities.
  • This takes us to the CFO and financial controller, two finance-leadership positions that collaborate closely.
  • The ideal candidate will have strong financial planning, risk management, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.
  • This technical role can include managing accounts receivable, conducting operations oversight analysis, and creating and monitoring internal controls.

CFOs and controllers are both seasoned professionals, with backgrounds in accounting or finance. In small companies where there is only one role, responsibilities tend to blur together, based on the needs of the company and its CEO. When there are distinct roles, their respective duties tend to line up as follows.

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Controller salaries vary depending on experience, the size and location of the company, and the complexity of the industry. Controllers at small companies (~$10MM in revenues) typically make $150,000 annually. Factor in variable compensation, benefits, and taxes, and you’re looking at a total cost of approximately $200,000 per year. On the other hand, middle-market companies can expect to spend closer to $300,000 per year all in. The fifth difference between CFO, finance director and controller is about the focus of their duties or their experts. The three actually have slight differences in their respective responsibilities.

CFO vs Controller

Some investor-backed companies, such as Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses, have more sophisticated needs than other companies with the same annual revenue. That sophistication means the business may need contract CFO services at $500K, rather than $1MM, and could hire a full-time CFO at around $35MM, rather than $50MM. The earliest you would likely hire a part-time controller would start at the $500,000 revenue threshold. But most companies will have one by the time they hit the $10 million mark. And at that stage, the job is far more concentrated on managing internal controls, report generation, and closing processes. First, controllership is the collecting, analyzing, and reporting of financial information to help a company make informed business decisions.

Can a Company Have a CFO and a Controller?

They provide insight, guidance, support, financial foresight, industry expertise, and friendship to clients. The most important thing is for an outsourced or fractional CFO to build trust with the business owner(s). To do so, they provide strategic advisory to create that trusting relationship. So, if you reviewing job ads or if you are planning to advertise for some skilled financial controllers or a CFO, know the difference. The CFO is an executive who works to protect the overall financial health of a company. However, don’t assume in all cases bookkeepers or accountants should also perform Controller functions.

Is a controller a boss?

The controller is a senior manager with input into the company's strategy and planning. An MBA and years of senior-level accounting are the usual prerequisites.

They are more in line with financial reporting than financial planning. We do not recommend this for smaller companies, as most startups at the seed or Series A stage don’t have enough tasks to require 40+ hours of work from a full-time CFO each week. The major issue here is that companies who hire a CFO too early end up paying someone a full-time, CFO-level salary to carry out tasks that aren’t CFO-level, and should be carried out by another role.

CFO vs Controller: Key Differences & When to Hire Which Role

This provides business and operational acumen and boosts their ability to snag high-paying, highly competitive roles. However, while the CFO role may sound glamourous, it’s not for everyone. Many controllers are content to forego such a transition and stick to accounting. When looking to hire a controller, seek candidates with at least ten years of experience. They should be able to show a progression in their responsibilities and an eventual transition into management. They should also be able to provide references who can attest to their trustworthiness, technical abilities, and management skills.

  • Whether you require the services of a CFO, a controller, or both, it’s now easier than ever to find the professional your company needs to keep progressing.
  • The controller reports to either a CFO or CEO and supervises staff accountants and bookkeepers.
  • They are vital contributors to setting financial policies and procedures, which can help ensure company success by providing a roadmap for healthy financial practices.
  • Even though the CFO reports their job directly to the CEO, they still have the same position as the executive of the company.
  • Many people confuse the controller and CFO roles in financial management.
  • A CFO is not simply a more experienced and higher paid controller – the roles are different and require a different level of experience and a different way of operating.
  • Their ability to think long-term and develop creative solutions to financial challenges sets them apart.

CFOs should possess strong leadership and communication skills, monitor the performance of the accounting team, and review financial statements. A CFO’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the company’s financial goals are met and that the company remains financially stable. The CFO must understand the company’s financial history, current status, and future projections. They must also be able to analyze and interpret financial data to provide guidance on critical financial decisions. When a business reaches a particular level of maturity, executives want assistance in managing the company’s finances and moving the company ahead.

How Much Does a Controller Make?

This strategic leader works with financial reports but is more interested in analyzing financial data and growing a company’s profitability. You may need an in-house CFO at either a large public corporation or a small private company, and while the financial strategies may differ, the responsibilities are similar. When your company needs more than accurate accounting and reporting, it might be time to consider hiring a CFO. Many companies find themselves at an inflection point where they would benefit from having a senior finance leader involved in making and executing key strategic decisions. Your CFO has a broader role that is focused more strategically and forward-looking. The Controller function typically reports to the CFO and is just one element of the CFO’s role.

CFO vs Controller