General Inquiries

CFO vs. Controller duties

  • 1.  CFO vs. Controller duties

    Posted 25 days ago
    I am curious about what duties the controller has vs. the CFO in other companies?  Also, how much autonomy do CFOs give to controllers to make decisions?  We have an accounting staff of 4 (including controller), so not big, and I feel like I am too often stepping on my controller's toes.  I'm trying to find the right balance of responsibilities.  Any ideas are appreciated!

    Brandon Porter
    Overley's Services
    Gilbert AZ
    (480) 650-5552

  • 2.  RE: CFO vs. Controller duties

    Posted 24 days ago
    It really depends on the size of the company and the level of complexity involved in transactions/running the business. With only 4 people in the accounting department you as the CFO are probably more hands on in the day to day transactions rather than spending more time on strategic and operational matters. The skillset and willingness to take on new or difficult tasks by each individual is going to drive what responsibilities each person will have. Putting my public accounting hat back on you want to ensure there is proper segregation of duties and appropriate internal controls to prevent and detect errors/fraud when assigning tasks and determining levels of authority. Talking to your public accounting firm assuming you use one would probably give you better insight as long as they know the company and accounting personnel well enough.

    Adam Stanard CPA
    Chief Financial Officer
    RW Dake Construction
    East Rochester NY
    (585) 381-2500

  • 3.  RE: CFO vs. Controller duties

    Posted 20 days ago
    Duties vary widely between companies. I have seen some companies give the "Controller" title in instances where that person's responsibilities and skill sets reflect more of a Head Bookkeeper. Likewise, I have seen a some performing in a CFO role that still maintain the title of Controller. In the end, it's all about what you do in your company.

    A Controller's primary responsibility should be to ensure that proper accounting controls are in place to safeguard the assets of the Company, and then, to direct, plan, manage and control all activities that are necessary to accomplish these responsibilities including the preparation of periodic reports and analyses as well as an annual financial report to management.

    I would agree with Adam's thoughts that a CFO is more strategic. a CFO should prepare or supervise the preparation of all budgeting and forecasting necessary to support the strategic and operational plans of the enterprise. Additionally, most construction CFO's are involved in planning, managing and directing the firm's (1) banking and surety relationships, (2) cash resources, investments and credit arrangements, (3) contract administration, review and negotiation, (4) risk assessment and mitigation such as credit approval and insurance (risk) management, (5) legal matters, (6) human resources and employee benefit plans, and (7) information technologies (IT) strategies and investment (enterprise resource planning and programs).

    In short, a CFO is taking a view anywhere between 10,000 to 30,000 feet while a Controller is bouncing along at anywhere between 10 to 1,000 feet (depending on the functions and size of the company/staff). A CFO should be distanced enough from the details so he/she can advise the Owner(s), the Board, and/or any other senior officers or members of a management team on any impending issues that might otherwise affect the smooth operation of the business. A CFO must remain objective and not drift into the details that a Controller should be handling. At 10,000 to 30,000 feet, one should be easily able to spot any impending doom from above the clouds that a Controller may eventually hit when only flying at 1,000 feet.

    One critical mistake I have seen in my 40-plus years in the construction business is that Controllers who are appointed or promoted to CFO's do not find a way to get out of their "Controllership comfort zones" of crunching numbers. Here's the question: "Do you want to add value or just add up the trial balance?"

    Be a difference maker. It's a lot more challenging and fun!

    Doug Hutchison
    Chairman & CEO
    Meisner Electric, Inc.
    Delray Beach FL

  • 4.  RE: CFO vs. Controller duties

    Posted 19 days ago
    Thanks Doug - I've heard many explanations of the differences between a CFO and Controller, but this is the best so far.

    You nailed it on the last question - "Do you want to add value, or just add up the trial balance?"

    Thanks for the insight...

    Randall E. West, CCIFP
    Tanner Construction Co., Inc.
    Ellisville MS
    (601) 477-3820

  • 5.  RE: CFO vs. Controller duties

    Posted 11 days ago
    Most of us work in smaller companies, but the CFO role is content-based, regardless of what you're called. If internal accounting controls are in place and monitored, you need your controller to carry that out, or you need to assure that it's in place. "Tone at the Top" is critical for you to accomplish what you have set out to do. Your relationship with the owner(s) can make or break your role.

    The specific tasks of: Treasury Management, Risk Management and Safety, New Business development, budgeting, information systems design & implementation, and timely financial reporting communicated simply,  bring you to CFO levels. And, if you're good at it, it won't matter if you have 4 or 40 people.

    Daniel DiNardo
    Daniel J DiNardo CPA
    Penn Valley PA
    (610) 664-4385