Controller vs. VP Finance/CFO

Many businesses do not fully understand whether they have or need a Controller or a true VP/CFO.  One of HR’s important roles is to help senior management or the Owner decide this and other similar management structure issues – ideally before either promoting from within or hiring from outside.  Since senior business titles have compensation ramifications, it is important for HR and/or the Owner to clearly understand the important differences between such similar management roles and their accompanying job expectations. Armed with knowledge about core job description and salary affecting differences, management leaders are best equipped to influence these important management structure decisions.
Controller core job responsibilities:   VP/CFO core job responsibilities: 
  • Financial reporting – compliance, stewardship.
  • Management & supervision of accounting staff.
  • Management of finance dept. process improvements.
  • Influences positive changes to, and compliance with non-accounting business processes that affect financial reporting.
  • Customer credit & cash management.
  • Avoid & prevent the realization of risk.
  • Leadership of finance services to inside & outside customers.
  • Leadership of banking, insurance, outside accounting & regulatory authority relationships.
  • Sr. executive risk management stewardship.
  • Business advisor to the President/CEO or Owner to help the executive to chart paths towards greater profitability while also ensuring proper compliance.
  • Leadership and management of the Controller and the finance department’s performance and goals.
In summary, Controllers manage toward improved efficiencies and financial risk avoidance and VP/CFOs strategically lead for successful growth and help keep the organization out of the ditch by effectively managing, rather than avoiding, risk.  Management versus Leadership.  Stewardship versus Strategic Guidance.  Controller versus VP/CFO.  What does your company have or truly need and, what are the other roles that require greater clarification in your organization?
Stephen Smyth is the CEO & Managing Consultant of Chief Financial Interviewer, Inc.