A controller is a senior financial manager of an organization. Most finance controllers come from a background in accounting, and they typically have a broad set of duties relating to accounting, taxes, audits, budgets and regulatory compliance. Larger businesses might have a controller, treasurer and a chief financial officer, but the controller is frequently the top financial manager in smaller organizations.
Financial controllers typically have at least an undergraduate degree in accounting, finance, business or economics. A significant percentage go back to school at some point in their careers to earn a master's in accounting or business administration. Many controllers also earn a financial industry certification, such as the Association for Financial Professionals' Certified Treasury Professional credential.
Accounting and Business Performance Reports
The main duty of a controller is to prepare reports detailing an organization's financial status and performance relative to an established set of goals. Controllers prepare a variety of reports to summarize the current financial position, such as income statements and balance sheets. They also develop analyses of future earnings and anticipated capital expenses. Some of these reports are for internal purposes, but most are created for tax and other governmental authorities.
Auditing and Regulatory Compliance
Controllers are typically responsible for conducting regular audits of company finances. Except in large organizations with a C-level compliance officer, the controller is usually also responsible for regulatory compliance. In lightly regulated industries, this might just entail renewing a license or filing a couple of reports, but in highly regulated industries such as securities or banking, complying with the many federal and state regulations can be difficult and time consuming.
Pay and Prospects
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers including controllers earned a median annual salary of $107,160 in 2011. Extended slow economic growth means employment prospects are somewhat weak for controllers and other financial management professionals, with only 9 percent job growth projected by the BLS from 2010 to 2020. The BLS expects the average growth rate for all U.S. occupations to be 14 percent, by comparison.
2016 Salary Information for Financial Managers
Financial managers earned a median annual salary of $121,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, financial managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $87,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $168,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 580,400 people were employed in the U.S. as financial managers.