Controller vs. CFO: What’s the Difference?

A financial controller and a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) may be players on the same team, but they each have their own important roles to play. In short, controllers organize a company’s finances and keep track of money coming in and going out, while CFOs are more concerned with growing revenue and meeting financial goals. Together, they can work to keep your company’s finances running smoothly.

Read on for more information about these roles and how they differ from each other—and how each of them can benefit your business.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Controller vs. CFO: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between a controller and a CFO is a CFO is responsible for the overall financial health of the company while a controller is responsible for managing the daily financial tasks. The CFO holds the top financial position in the company, and the controller reports to the CFO.

While there may be some overlap in their responsibilities, especially in smaller businesses, both roles are uniquely valuable in their own ways.

What Does a Financial Controller Do?

A financial controller is an essential part of an accounting team, overseeing the day-to-day financial operations of the business and ensuring that all accounting systems are in place and working correctly.

The controller is also responsible for ensuring that all financial reports are accurate and up-to-date and that all transactions are correctly recorded and reported in compliance with relevant regulations and laws.

Typical Financial Controller Duties

  • Maintaining internal control systems
  • Developing and monitoring accounting policies and procedures
  • Preparing financial reports such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements
  • Analyzing trends and providing insights into the financial performance of the business
  • Providing advice and recommendations on how to improve financial performance and manage risk

In short, a controller will always know what’s what when it comes to the company’s finances. Because they oversee all aspects of the company’s accounting, the controller is often the first person to spot a problem due to simple human error or even accounting fraud. If something is amiss in the books, it’s up to the controller to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

For some businesses, it’s more practical and economical to hire an outsourced financial controller, rather than have an internal role.

What Does a CFO Do?

A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a senior-level financial executive who helps the CEO oversee the company’s finances. A CFO is responsible for the overall financial health and success of the company, focusing on long-term growth and profitability.

The CFO is primarily focused on where the business is headed. They provide financial guidance directly to the CEO and executive team, keeping them up-to-date on any financial issues that might have an impact on the business.

Typical CFO Duties

  • Developing financial strategies to grow revenue and meet financial goals
  • Creating budgets and financial forecasts
  • Monitoring risk and compliance requirements
  • Overseeing the accounting, budgeting, and financial reporting processes
  • Analyzing market trends with regard to competition and expansion into new markets

In addition, the CFO is constantly looking for ways to cut costs and maximize profits for the company. This may involve finding ways to streamline operations, reducing overhead costs, or renegotiating contracts with suppliers.

Like the role of financial controller, many companies find outsourced CFO services to be a more cost-effective option than hiring, training, and paying for an in-house controller.

Controller vs. CFO: What’s Best For Your Business?

The decision of whether to hire a financial controller or a CFO for your business can be a difficult one, but it doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. Businesses of all sizes can potentially benefit from hiring both a controller and a CFO, whether they’re in-house or outsourced roles.

Both a controller and a CFO play essential roles, bringing their unique perspectives and skills to the table to ensure a successful financial future for any business. If you’re considering hiring one or both, pat yourself on the back. You’re doing the right thing by prioritizing the financial health of your business and seeking expert help.

Like a lot of small and medium-sized businesses, however, you might not have the resources to hire both roles at the same time. That’s okay! But choosing which position to fill first can be tricky. This will depend on the size and complexity of your business operations, as well as your financial goals.

When It Might Be Time To Hire a Controller

You should consider hiring a controller if you need more on-the-ground help with managing your daily financial operations, such as:

  • Supervising your accounting and bookkeeping staff
  • Monitoring your accounts payable and receivable
  • Ensuring the accuracy of your financial statements
  • Staying in compliance with accounting standards and regulations
  • Developing and maintaining financial policies and procedures
  • Addressing inefficiencies in your internal processes

When It Might Be Time To Hire a CFO

You should consider hiring a CFO if you need help with big-picture financial planning and oversight, such as:

  • Implementing financial strategies and plans
  • Improving cash flow issues
  • Negotiating better terms with vendors
  • Exploring potential investment and partnership opportunities
  • Preparing for major business transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions

Keep in mind, however, that a CFO is a senior-level position, which will typically come with a larger price tag than a controller, especially for an in-house position.

Save Time and Money By Outsourcing

The outsourced accounting solutions from FusePhase make it easier and more affordable for small and medium-sized businesses to beef up their finance and accounting teams. By outsourcing your controller and CFO functions to FusePhase, you can have the critical support of financial experts when you need it—at a cost that won’t break the bank.

Ready to explore your outsourcing options? Get in touch with us today for a free consultation!

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