25. 02. 2023

What makes a good Financial Controller?

What makes a good Financial Controller?

In recent years, the role of a financial controller has evolved beyond balancing the books into a much more strategic leadership role. A good financial controller needs to be able to wear several hats with ease, from chief accountant to data analyst and financial strategist. To find someone capable of success in this complex role, there are certain key qualities you need to look for.

1. Accounting Experience 

Despite the evolution of the role, high-level accounting experience is still the no.1 prerequisite for a good controller. Look for at least a decade’s experience in senior or managerial accounting roles. 

This experience will give them the business insights and advanced skills they need to supervise those who do the actual number-crunching and make sure it gets done as accurately, efficiently, and securely as possible. 

They need to be up to speed with the latest accounting technology and look for new tools to support the work of their department, as well as being up to speed with industry regulations and managing compliance.

2. Data Analysis

A good controller will clearly understand the workings of payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and clearing, and be organised and detail-oriented enough to keep accurate data on all of them. 

More than just compiling data, though, they also need to be able to analyse it, spotting both errors and growth opportunities and taking appropriate action They must be able to translate the numbers into insights and translate those insights into language that’s easy for stakeholders to understand, even those who don’t have a background in finance.

3. Useful Reporting

Reporting is the no.1 way a financial controller adds value, so their reports need to be useful as well as accurate. They should include actionable insights that can drive business strategy, rather than just numbers. Ernst and Young say a useful report should:

Include non-financial KPIs

Be delivered electronically, with interrogation tools

Provide added-value commentary

Be relevant and brief

4. Leadership and Soft Skills 

While technical skills are important, it’s equally important for your controller to be a strong and compassionate leader. They need to be able to command respect, inspire action, and keep everyone aligned with the company’s vision and values. 

During the month-end, quarter-end, and year-end reporting periods, everyone in the finance team will be stressed. Your controller needs to stay calm under pressure and support the team in delivering on deadline without compromising on accuracy or compliance. They need to be a good communicator, a great listener, a problem-solver, and a peacemaker.

5. Process Optimisation  

A good controller doesn’t just improve efficiency in the finance department but across the whole company. They find ways to improve and streamline internal business processes, whether through accounting tactics, transformation initiatives, or accounting automation. They cut costs, boost profits, and improve change readiness. Again, they’ll need great communication skills here to make sure everyone understands and implements these new efficiencies.

Hiring your first controller shows your company is really growing–and your choice can make or break your company’s continued growth. Contact us today for expert, personally tailored support in finding your ideal candidate.