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CFO VS.Controller

There are many important positions in a company, but two of the most essential are the CFO and controller. These roles often get confused, so we want to clear up the differences so you can ensure you pick the right financial support for your business. 

Read on to find out, as knowing these differences is critical for businesses who want to make sure they are putting the right person in charge of their finances. 

In this blog, you will learn: 

  • The 3 biggest differences between CFOs vs. Controllers 
  • Why these positions are similar, but differ greatly in roles and responsibilities 
  • Why it is crucial to ensure you receive the right financial help, at the right time 
Wondering where to get started? Get in touch with us today!

What are CFOs?

Before we look at the key differences between CFOs and Controllers, let’s first break down the roles and responsibilities of each position. 

A CFO is a top-level executive that is responsible for long-term financial planning and strategy. CFOs often have advanced degrees, such as a master’s in finance or economics. Those in this role have significant input on a company’s investments, capital structure, and the company’s overall financial management. Some of their duties include: 

  • Developing plans to increase profits, reduce costs, and minimize risks.  
  • Work alongside the CEO to set financial goals and objectives for the company. 
  • Assist with forecasting, cost-benefit analysis, and obtaining funding. 
Woman working through accounts for Rooled client

What are Controllers?

The controller is responsible for overseeing the accounting operations of a business. They ensure accurate financial records and compliance with regulations.  

Controllers may have a wide range of education and experience, as there is no one set educational requirement for who can become a controller. However, most do not become controllers right out of school, as the position requires a great deal of entry to mid-level accounting and auditing experience. 

A controller’s duties are quite broad. Some of their responsibilities include: 

  • Keeping track of all income and expenses 
  • Preparing financial statements and filing taxes.  
  • Work with auditors to ensure all relevant laws and regulations are followed. 

Key Differences Between CFOs VS Controllers

Knowing these three key differences between a CFO and controller is essential for businesses who want to make sure they are putting the right person in charge of their finances. 

1 – A CFO must have a deep understanding of both accounting and financial strategy. 

CFOs are responsible for setting the strategic direction of the organization and advising stakeholders regarding important business decisions. The controller then carries out strategies that help the accounting department run smoothly on a day-to-day basis. This then enables the CFO to achieve the company’s strategic goals. 

2 – A controller only needs to be well-versed in accounting. 

Since a controller deals more with the day-to-day operations, rather than the high-level financial strategy, they typically don’t require the same level of financial expertise as a CFO. While controllers can benefit from having a deeper understanding of financial strategy, it is not typically a part of their job duties if they are working with a CFO. 

3 – A controller often reports to the CFO, and a CFO typically report directly to the CEO. 

Another major difference between CFOs and controllers is who they report to. In terms of chain of command, a CEO is at the top, the CFO is next, and the controller follows. A controller will look to the CFO to determine financial strategy, and the CFO determines the financial strategy based on the goals of the CEO. 

CFO VS Controller: Putting it all Together

Though these roles work closely together, they have different job duties and responsibilities. Depending on your company, you may benefit from having one type of hire versus another. Controllers are a good option for companies that are expanding quickly and need to supplement their accounting.  

A CFO is ideal if a business needs someone to take charge of their capital, especially if their business is struggling to grow, and uses strategic planning to help the business thrive. 

Accountants at Rooled looking at projection on an ipad

Work with Our Experts

If you are unsure which role is right for your company, consult with an experienced accountant or business advisor who can help you make the best decision for your business. 

Check out these other great resources from Rooled: 

Ready to work with one of our CFOs or Controllers? Contact us today!

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