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What is an investment controller?
Of course, the question can only be answered if one defines investment controlling – and in this case the difficulty of a definition lies not only in the tendency towards Anglicisms, but also in the way in which the users understand the term. Because some mean investments that are part of their business activities – and others just those that are outside of their usual business activities.
One often finds terms such as ‘ participation controller ‘, ‘plant controller’ or ‘ financial controller ‘. However, these terms are by no means comprehensive enough, as they usually mean that it is about existing participations, investments that have already been made or the financial and financing processes currently required by a company. Institutional investors such as insurance companies, pension funds, etc. also use the term ‘investment controlling’ to ‘monitor’ their investment strategies.
What follows becomes most clear if you start with the English term ‘strategic investment controlling’, because it includes both the strategic component and the task of the controller in his double function as ‘steerer’ and ‘controller’. In the following, we use the term investment controller to differentiate ourselves from the above-mentioned controllers and mean the permanently employed persons who advise and manage entrepreneurs and/or private offices in investing funds outside of their traditional and practiced core business. There are also external investment controllers who work for one or more companies – these will not be discussed separately here.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: Economics studies with a focus on controlling, finance, accounting / Several years of professional experience are usually required – in some cases at least five years.
- Starting salary: €56,000
- Top salary: €94,000
- Opportunities for advancement: Depending on the size of the company, up to the level directly below top management
Strategic investment controlling in its most beautiful, i.e. most attractive, most demanding and most challenging form includes the following areas of competence:
- ‘Discovering’ investment opportunities that fit into the company’s investment strategy.
- The review of the financial feasibility, taking into account the financial possibilities of the company – both in terms of existing and in terms of capital to be raised.
- The observation and control of the investments made with regard to the defined investment goals.
- The management of the investment portfolio and the recommendation and implementation of reallocations.
…but please always think strategically!
When looking for investment opportunities, investment controllers mainly deal with areas or markets in which their employer or client is not active. This makes their job particularly difficult, as they have to deal with industries that are often new to them, and they have to explain the benefits of recommended investments to management whose strengths and knowledge lie primarily in running their own company. How difficult this can be becomes clear at the latest when an investment controller suggests to a manufacturing company that it should invest in a service company.
Note: If investment controllers recognize that their own company should or must change in whole or in part from a manufacturing company towards a service company, they can also recommend investments as a ‘learning field’ – then the term ‘strategic investment controller’ gets an additional one Facet…
Conversely, of course, management can also ask its investment controllers to look for strategic investments. Example: A petroleum company is looking for a silent participation in a solar panel or hydrogen manufacturer in order to learn more about the industry that is threatening it…
The investment recommendations must therefore meet financial and strategic goals – goals that investment controllers have usually worked intensively to formulate and against which they are also measured.
The performance of the recommendation is also the measure of all things here, and numbers are the area in which the management of a company is well versed. It may also be looking for additional support in this field – or protection? – by financial controllers and possibly also investment controllers, who deal primarily with the current data of their own company, but can still be consulted when it comes to strategically relevant developments – here experiences intertwine and complement each other.
“How do we want to finance this?”
Companies that are swimming in money (Apple, Amazon) supposedly finance their investments from petty cash. If the available funds are not sufficient, investment controllers have to convince not only their own management but also financial institutions of the correctness of their recommendation and negotiate the conditions, which in turn, one suspects, also have an influence on the overall structure of the investment.
“How soon can we get to closure?”
In addition, some investment opportunities are only available for a limited time and there are several ‘applicants’ for them. Then the pressure to act creates a conflict between speed and thoroughness that investment controllers have to resolve.
Investment projects can drag on for a long time, especially if due diligence checks still have to be carried out, improvements negotiated and/or bidding competitions have to be contested. Investment controllers are at the forefront of negotiations until completion (or non-conclusion), acting as an intermediary between management and third parties; Ultimately, it also depends on their performance whether the deal goes through.
Once all contracts have been signed, investment controllers are also responsible for performance monitoring and reporting – depending on the size of the company, they are supported by financial and investment controllers, but of course they have to represent the results themselves – and look for new opportunities at the same time…
What does an investment controller do?
Investment controllers work primarily in large companies and in the private offices of wealthy individuals. The main task of strategic investment controllers is to help companies in their search for investments outside their own field of activity or to advise private individuals on securing and developing their assets and to carry out and handle all the necessary processes and activities.
- They monitor existing investment portfolios in terms of composition and performance, both individually and as a whole, and make changes and corrections.
- They ensure that all tax and legal requirements resulting from an investment are checked and complied with.
- You initiate, develop or participate in the creation of performance models for planning and evaluating investments.
- You create and improve regular reporting and create special analyses.
- They work closely with the banks and use the strength of their portfolio to maintain ‘healthy competition’.
- You control and motivate a team of controllers and project managers.
How does one become an investment controller?
- Completed business studies with a focus on finance, controlling, accounting, ideally also mathematics and/or computer science
- Several years of professional experience in a relevant position in industry, in or for one or more family offices or in a private equity or WP consulting firm
- Excellent IT skills, especially in MS Excel and in the common controlling tools
- Strong communication skills in English, both written and spoken
When recruiting strategic investment controllers, several years of professional experience are almost always required. This can be acquired in various controlling activities in consulting, service, industrial or trading companies.
What does an investment controller earn?
up to €94,000
Note 1: Bonuses are not uncommon in this professional field in particular and can make up a considerable part of the remuneration. The above information does not include any bonuses or other surcharges.
Note 2: The salary range is based on average values. Experience has shown that salaries differ significantly depending on the industry, location and qualitative and quantitative professional experience.
What do you expect from the investment controller?
Investment controllers need a feel for markets, sectors and developments. They need ‘instincts’ that enable them to read the information between the lines of corporate news and see early on where opportunities lie for those they work for.
Balance sheets and other measurable variables are tools that they use professionally.
They hear what is not said in conversations and can steer conversations to where they want them to go.
They are able to get to the heart of complex relationships in such a way that even those who are not familiar with the subject matter can follow them.
You are a team player and know how to discuss with owners and top managers on an equal footing and how to lead and inspire others.
Opportunities for advancement as an investment controller
The path to becoming a Strategic Investment Controller is not easy, but it is rewarding. Above all, you need experience and ideally proof of performance.
Anyone who has around three years of controlling experience with recognized companies or private offices will earn hardly less than €70,000, possibly supplemented by attractive bonuses.
Investment controllers are in demand because of their versatile talents – they rarely know corporate management responsibility (in the sense of line function) from their own experience, and they may not even want it. They are therefore not likely to be found in the top tier of company management.
As top consultants, they are nevertheless highly sought after and earn top salaries of around €200,000, which can, however, also be linked to performance.
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