What is a 'Controller'

A controller is an individual who has responsibility for high-level accounting], managerial accounting and finance activities. A controller typically reports to a firm's chief financial officer (CFO), although these two positions may be combined in smaller businesses. The duties of a controller include assisting with the preparation of the operating budgets, overseeing financial reporting and performing essential duties relating to payroll.

BREAKING DOWN 'Controller'

Controller functions vary across companies due to the size and complexity of the business and the industry. A variation of the controller position is called a comptroller. A comptroller is typically a more senior position that is more commonly found in government or nonprofit organizations. Smaller companies demand more versatility of the controller, while larger companies are able to disperse the following job responsibilities across other employees, including the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer.

Controller’s Duties: Budgeting

The controller prepares budgets and outlines important budgeting schedules throughout an organization. This includes the collection, analysis and consolidation of financial data. Although the controller doesn’t always maintain the annual budget, the controller position monitors variances, summarizes trends and investigates budget deficiencies. The controller reports material budgeting variances or expenditure variances to management.

Financial Reporting and Auditing

The controller is often the individual responsible to monitor the financial condition of a business. The controller works with external auditors to ensure proper reporting standards are being utilized. In addition, the controller establishes, monitors and enforces internal control over financial reporting. Controllers of publicly traded companies are often delegated the task of public financial filings.

Controller’s Duties: Regulators and Taxing Authorities

The controller of a business monitors future legislation that impacts taxation and operations. This duty includes monitoring for future risk and ensuring proper permits, licenses or operating requirements are met. Along with filing financial reports, the controller may be assigned tax preparation duties, including filings for state taxes, federal taxes or industry taxes.

Controller’s Duties: Development

The controller of an organization may partake in the recruiting, selection and training of staff. The position requires appraising job results, leading employees and performing disciplining actions as necessary. The financial controller often maintains educational levels by pursuing continuing professional education through seminars, webinars or training opportunities.

Required Education and Experience

When recruiting for a controller position, companies often require candidates to possess at least 10 years of direct accounting or finance experience. A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or business administration is often required, while holding a master’s degree is not required but preferred. Professional certificates, including the Certified Public Accountant license, may not be required but are typically preferred.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Internal Controls

    Methods put in place by a company to ensure the integrity of ...
  2. Detective Control

    A type of internal control mechanism intended to find problems ...
  3. Control

    1. The use of power to influence an outcome. For example, working ...
  4. Administrative Accounting

    The financial reporting of factors that influence decision making, ...
  5. Comptroller

    A comptroller is a synonym for financial controller. Comptrollers ...
  6. Accounting Control

    Methods and procedures that are implemented by a firm to help ...
Related Articles
  1. Managing Wealth

    Controller: Job Description & Average Salary

    Learn about becoming a controller and what the job entails. Understand the education and skills required, and how much money you can expect to make.
  2. Personal Finance

    Controller: Career Path & Qualifications

    Find out what it takes to become a financial controller, starting with undergraduate educational requirements and moving into professional certification.
  3. Personal Finance

    Career Advice: Accountant Vs. Controller

    Learn about the differences between controllers and accountants, how the two are related and which is the best career choice for aspiring bookkeepers.
  4. Small Business

    How Do Internal Controls Work?

    Essentially, internal controls limit fraud and other illegal activities.
  5. Personal Finance

    Common Interview Questions for Controllers

    Learn more about the job description of a financial controller and questions that may be asked of applicants applying for this position.
  6. Personal Finance

    Accountant: Job Description & Average Salary

    Discover what the job description of an accountant entails, along with education and training, salary and skills necessary for success.
  7. Investing

    Explaining Cost Control

    For a business, cost control entails managing and reducing expenses.
  8. Managing Wealth

    Keeping Control of Your Business After the IPO

    Taking a company public doesn't mean founders must completely give up calling the shots. Before the IPO, consider these tactics to keep control after it.
  9. Financial Advisor

    Top 4 Most Competitive Financial Careers

    If your goals include a big paycheck and working for a Wall Street firm, then you need to learn how to meet employers' expectations.
  10. Small Business

    Explaining Quality Control

    Businesses use quality control to ensure their products and services meet a certain standard, as well as any industry regulations.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What are common concepts and techniques of managerial accounting?

    Understand the difference between managerial accounting and financial accounting. Learn about the common concepts and techniques ... Read Answer >>
  2. Other than accounting, what does a corporate finance job involve?

    Understand the various levels of positions and titles of a corporate finance job. Learn what a corporate finance job involves ... Read Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between managerial accounting and financial accounting?

    Discover the differences between managerial accounting and financial accounting. Both work in tandem to make the business ... Read Answer >>
  4. What are common scenarios in which managerial accounting is appropriate?

    Understand the difference between managerial accounting and financial accounting. Learn common scenarios in which managerial ... Read Answer >>
  5. How does financial accounting differ from managerial accounting?

    Learn about the main differences between financial accounting and managerial accounting, including why one is highly uniform ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. IRS Publication 970

    A document published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that provides information on tax benefits available to students ...
  2. Federal Direct Loan Program

    A program that provides low-interest loans to postsecondary students and their parents. The William D. Ford Federal Direct ...
  3. Cash Flow

    The net amount of cash and cash-equivalents moving into and out of a business. Positive cash flow indicates that a company's ...
  4. PLUS Loan

    A low-cost student loan offered to parents of students currently enrolled in post-secondary education. With a PLUS Loan, ...
  5. Graduate Record Examination - GRE

    A standardized exam used to measure one's aptitude for abstract thinking in the areas of analytical writing, mathematics ...
  6. Graduate Management Admission Test - GMAT

    A standardized test intended to measure a test taker's aptitude in mathematics and the English language. The GMAT is most ...
Trading Center