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What is a financial controller?
Financial controllers are a kind of hybrid between accountants and controllers and have many years of professional experience in these areas. As the name suggests, both departments merge at least partially in this area of responsibility.
Therefore, on the one hand, financial controllers have knowledge of financial accounting, for example the accounting standards according to HGB/IFRS, as well as experience with balance sheets and profit and loss accounts – more in-depth than a conventionally trained controller. On the other hand, due to their initial training, they are mostly university graduates in the field of economics with a focus on accounting/controlling.
The exact field of activity of financial controllers is broad: from the participation in monthly, quarterly, annual and special financial statements to daily queries of certain indicators, almost anything is possible. Depending on the organization and degree of internationalization of the company, financial controllers are responsible for or support the financial and management reporting from the consolidation of the respective individual financial statements.
Communicative interface position
Process optimization in intercompany coordination and basic accounting work can also be part of the area of responsibility such as the creation of company-wide planning scenarios, cash flows and forecasts. The rolling analysis of balance sheet and income statement items can be just as much a part as that of cost structures.
On the one hand, financial controllers have specific specialist knowledge in the areas of accounting and controlling and, on the other hand, they are all-round talents who work very well and enjoy working in both departments.
Financial controllers act as a communicative interface between the accounting and controlling departments and bridge technical differences coherently by transporting the underlying statements to the respective department and transforming them if necessary.
Controllers usually approach numbers differently than accountants – they simply have different perspectives and functions. But in times of ever shorter reporting deadlines and higher throughput rates of documents, departments working hand in hand are often the decisive factor for on-schedule financial statements, coherent evaluations and quickly created ad hoc analyses. This is where financial controllers come in and support or mediate.
In addition, there are various project work from both areas that advance or optimize topics such as digitization, increased efficiency and quality standards in both accounting and controlling. Agile working methods are just as helpful as a structured and precise approach to tasks and questions.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: Completed business studies with a focus on controlling/accounting
- Starting salary: €65,000
- Top salary: €112,000
- Opportunities for advancement: management of the controlling or accounting team, candidate with relevant professional experience as a team leader for a CFO position
What does a financial controller do?
- Preparation or collaboration on all pending financial statements in both the HGB and IFRS accounting standards
- Development and provision of any kind of ad hoc analysis
- Planning of forecasts and cash flows with a short, medium and long-term time horizon
- Cost analysis at product and/or site level
- Support/examination in the creation of reports of any kind up to tax returns
- Project work in the area of accounting and controlling with the help of agile working methods and project management tools
- Development and presentation of presentations in front of a specialist audience from within the company or external interested parties for training and information purposes
- Contact person for both internal and external stakeholders such as CFO or auditors and tax consultants
How does one become a financial controller?
- Completed business administration studies with a focus on controlling/accounting
- several years of professional experience in the field of accounting/controlling
- Knowledge of accounting in both HGB and IFRS
- Safe handling of MS Office applications, in particular Excel, possibly also application experience with common ERP solutions such as SAP
- analytical, independent way of working and quick comprehension
- stress-resistant and problem-solving oriented
- Team player, communicative and empathetic
- mostly good to very good knowledge of English
What does a Financial Controller earn?
up to €112,000
Since financial controllers already have several years of professional experience, they also start with a relatively high starting salary of €65,000. With a large number of successfully completed projects, growing expertise and, last but not least, your own negotiating skills, a top salary of €112,000 is a not too distant and achievable goal. However, external influencing factors such as company location, industry and organizational structure are also decisive criteria for the respective income of a financial controller.
What do you expect from the financial controller?
Financial controllers are to be understood as intermediaries between the accounting and controlling departments. That is why they are absolutely team players and communicative, but also have an affinity for numbers, are analytical and accurate. With their professional experience, they remain calm and level-headed even in stressful and difficult situations. Their constantly growing specialist knowledge, empathy and intercultural understanding enable them to recognize and successfully resolve potential conflicts.
Opportunities for advancement as a financial controller
As already mentioned, financial controllers are multi-talents in the field of accounting and controlling and, with appropriate professional experience and growing expertise, can become team leaders in both accounting and controlling. If they are successful there, they can also be recommended for the post of CFO.
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