CFO vs Financial Controller: Understanding the Differences

June 24th 2024 | Posted by Phil Scott

Are you looking for advice about roles within your finance function and seeking information about the responsibilities of a CFO vs Financial Controller?

In this article, we will explain these roles and how they fit within an organization. We will also help you understand what your organization’s requirements are in terms of these professionals. Do you need a Financial Controller, a CFO, or both?

Chief Financial Officer: Roles and responsibilities

A CFO is a strategic role within an organization that commands a salary that reflects its size. Average salaries range from $195,230 for a $10-29 million turnover corporation to $423,019 for a $1-5 billion turnover corporation.

Responsibilities that come with this salary include;

  • Developing a financial strategy that aligns with the organization’s overall business objectives.
  • Overseeing corporate financial operations, such as mergers and acquisitions, investment, and capital structure.
  • Identifying and managing financial risk.
  • Managing investor relations.

To undertake these responsibilities, a CFO must be a strategic thinker with strong leadership skills. They must also be able to analyze data and communicate their findings effectively.

Financial Controller: Roles and responsibilities

A Financial Controller is an operational role with an average salary of $141,000-$144,000. Responsibilities that come with this salary include;

  • Overseeing the preparation of financial reports, ensuring they are accurate and adhere to required standards.
  • Implementing and maintaining internal controls to protect the financial integrity of the organization.
  • Creating and managing the company’s budgets.
  • Managing internal audits.

To undertake these responsibilities, a Financial Controller must have accounting expertise and be technically proficient. They must also have strong attention to detail and excellent organizational skills.

Financial Controller vs CFO: Which one do you need?

Large companies will need both a CFO and a Financial Controller. Smaller organizations may manage without a CFO, or they may be able to outsource the CFO role.

If your organization requires strategic leadership in the finance function, then a CFO is a must. Filling this role gives you the leadership in long-term financial planning that you need.

Conversely, if your need is for accurate and timely financial reporting, you require the services of a controller. A professional Financial Controller manages your finance function and ensures you adhere to regulations and mitigate financial risks.

For larger organizations, having both a CFO and a Financial Controller provides effective strategic financial management and accurate day-to-day financial control. This means that your organization has a comprehensive financial management framework.

CFO vs Financial Controller

CFOs operate at a strategic level in an organization, whereas a Financial Controller is an operational role. Smaller businesses may find that they can operate with only a Financial Controller in place. However, an organization with a strategy for growth and change benefits from the services of a CFO who can provide financial strategic direction.

The CFO role can be outsourced initially, but larger organizations benefit from having a full-time CFO who develops their financial strategy, oversees corporate financial operations, and identifies and manages financial risk, in addition to managing investor relations.