What to Look for in a Financial Controller

Written by: Natalie Evans, CPA, CGA, LPA | GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants

There comes a time when owner-managed businesses can grow beyond the point where all aspects of the business are effectively manageable by the owner.

The financial aspect of a business will always take a significant amount of time, which, in turn, can result in neglect of the operational side.

There is the point in the life of a growing business when hiring a competent financial controller starts to make sense. The job comes with significant responsibilities. Financial controllers are expected to deliver accurate and timely information to the users of the information, such as owners, banks, and governments. In an everchanging accounting and tax environment, this can present a huge challenge.

Financial information needs to be prepared precisely and communicated and presented clearly. Though he or she may work with a team, the financial controller will ultimately share in the accountability for all aspects of the financial management of the business.

Because the position bears such heavy accountability, a lot of thought should go into determining what characteristics and skills the successful candidate should possess. What traits should come to mind when you think about your ideal financial controller?

For starters, he or she should be:

  • trustworthy,
  • detail-oriented,
  • a problem-solver,
  • an effective communicator,
  • technically strong with regards to accounting ability, and
  • capable of meaningful financial analysis and reporting.

He or she should be able to explain the financial information in a way that is understandable, is useful to all decision-making processes, and allows the business owner to act on it quickly. As well, the financial controller should be able to effectively manage a group and demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills that will motivate a team.

So, how do you attract the best applicants? By ensuring the work is engaging; offering an attractive salary with incentives; and, depending on the size of the company, providing an opportunity for career progression.

How much power will the controller have? The very definition of ‘control,’ as defined by Merriam Webster, includes “the power to make decisions about how something is managed or done; the ability to direct the actions of someone or something.” This is how a financial controller will want to operate, and will need to be given the authority to do so. It is important to hire someone who will fit into the current organizational culture and bring out the best in their team. They will need to be aligned with the company’s vision and values, and will have to work within the corporate norms and systems.

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