Difference between CFO vs Controller
CFO is the official abbreviation for Chief Finance Officer in a company and is usually ranked just below CEO (Chief Executive Officer). With the skills of a CFO, he or she not only control and manage everything related to finance in the company but are also prominent at managing the day to day business operations and product pricing, along with a sense of other activities such as marketing, advertising, human resources, etc.
The controller is more of a Chief Accountant, and this person reports to the CFO of a company. The controller’s duties involve managing the day to day finances of the business while coordinating the income and expenses. While some organizations combine or merge the two roles, a business with scale and size has a need for both the roles separately, as they serve dedicated functions.
Who is CFO? (Chief Finance Officer)
In terms of skillsets, a CFO’s skills may be the same as a Controller, but a CFO must be certainly involved with both, the business and the numbers from an early stage. A CFO needs to develop a deep understanding of the synchronization between numbers and business operations, so as to have a pulse of the functioning of all the departments and keep the entire structure of the business well-oiled and smoothly functioning.
The CFO reviews past financial reports and has the critical responsibility of managing the business’s various risks and yet growing in a targeted manner in the future. Some day to day activities of the CFO include the tasks of financial analysis, forecasting, finalizing financing, fund management, planning, implementing, strategizing, and coaching the rest of the finance team.
A person suitable for the role of CFO needs to be a great financial strategist and data-backed critical thinker.
Who is Controller?
As mentioned earlier, Controller is more like the Chief Accountant of the organization, and hence needs to have sound professional experience in the field of accounting and financial reporting. The controller is usually responsible for maintaining the accounting books in order and continuously evaluating past performance and deriving lessons that could assist in the future.
The entire accounting department reports to the Controller. He or she is responsible for assigning duties to every department within accounting, and hence responsible for accounting, budgeting, compliance, generating reports, ensuring accuracy in the reports, analyzing data, and giving these reports and models to the CFO for decision making.
Head to Head Comparison between CFO vs Controller (Infographics)
Below is the Top 5 Comparison between CFO vs Controller:
Key Differences between CFO vs Controller
While some large organizations may refer to the controller being the CFO, it may not exactly be true.
H&M India does not have any rank such as CFO. In H&M India, “Controller – India” reports to “Country Manager / CEO – India”. However, this structure is so because H&M is a Swedish company, and its planning and decision making for the future course of business is set by the senior executive team that is located in Sweden. Hence, H&M has its CEO and CFO ranks based in Sweden, while each country will have a Country Manager (equivalent to CEO for that country) and Controller (equivalent to CFO for that country). This is so because, despite the decision making powers that Country Manager and Controller of a country might have, they have to be working within the defined broader guidelines set by the Senior Management in Sweden.
The key differences between the CFO vs Controller are as follows:
- CFO of an organization is ultimately responsible for anything and everything that has got to do with finance, and the position ranks just below the rank of CEO. Controller, on the other hand, reports directly to the Country Head in the case of MNCs or to the CFO of the organization and the position ranks 3 to 5 ranks below the rank of CEO.
- The main function of a CFO is to ensure that the future projections of cash flows and financial strategies and decisions taken are the most favorable ones for the company’s future growth. A controller is responsible for all accounting and finance operations on a day to day basis, which includes managing weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports, budgeting, and compliance management.
- The key roles that report to a CFO include controller, treasurer, and tax manager. Whereas, the key roles that report to a controller include an accounting manager, financial planning manager, accounts receivables manager, and accounts payable manager.
Comparison Table of CFO vs Controller
The table below summarizes the comparisons:
|Chief Finance Officer (CFO)||Controller|
|1. CFO is a strategic role in any organization that is responsible for managing the overall financial health of the organization going ahead.||1. Controller is responsible for all accounting and finance operations on a day to day basis.|
|2. CFO ranks just below the CEO in an organizational structure.||2. Controller usually ranks below the CFO in an organizational structure.|
|3. The key divisions or ranks or departments that report to a CFO include controller, treasurer, and tax manager.||3. The key roles that report to a controller include an accounting manager, financial planning manager, accounts receivables manager, and accounts payable manager.|
|4. Some of the key duties of a CFO include financial analysis, forecasting, finalizing financing, fund management, planning, implementing, strategizing, and coaching the rest of the finance team.||4. Some of the key duties of a controller include accounting, budgeting, compliance, generating reports, ensuring accuracy in the reports, analyzing data, and giving these reports and models to the CFO.|
|5. Since the rank of a CFO is just below the CEO, it is similar in positions to ranks such as COO (Chief Operating Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).||5. A controller’s rank is similar in positions to ranks such as Head of Treasury and Chief Tax Manager in an organization.|
A CFO is ultimately responsible for anything to do with the finances of a company. However, since a single person cannot manage everything, there are further sub-divisions within the finance department. One of the important sub-divisions is headed by the Controller, that manages the day to day financial operations of the business while allowing the CFO to manage the macro-level decisions for the future path of the business.
This is a guide to the top differences between CFO vs Controller. Here we discuss CFO vs Controller key differences with infographics and a comparison table. You may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –