Controller vs. Accounting Manager

controller vs cfo salary

Most companies are structured in a top/down structure, which is similar to the hierarchy of accounting positions at a typical business. Stephen Smyth is the founder and Managing Consultant of Chief Financial Interviewer, Inc.

The hierarchy of accounting positions at a small business can vary, but in most instances, there are common positions. Similar to the military, small businesses develop a chain of command, which allows for efficient operation.

Is a controller an executive position?

Many companies opt to hire a Controller when they really need a CFO. These two roles are not interchangeable. Although in the same area of expertise (accounting and finance), these two roles are different. You cannot hire a Controller and expect them to be your CFO.

controller vs cfo salary

Who Can Be A VP of Finance?

controller vs cfo salary

Contact Bench for a free consultation and they will create one month of financial statements for you, free of charge. Download our Executive Growth Reports now to see the kinds of reports a controller or CFO should deliver and keep them handy to compare with reports you receive from candidates. But we we do tend to see CFOs earlier and more often in some industries, such as tech companies with a lot of investor money at stake and where rapid growth is expected.

Benefits of Hiring a Controller

If you are entering the accounting field, you can take your pick from a wide array of positions. Different accounting jobs have different educational requirements, so it’s wise to decide on a career objective right away. A great place to start is by considering the top accounting jobs that are available today.

Leadership and management of the Controller and the finance department’s performance and goals. Influences positive changes to, and compliance with non-accounting business processes that affect financial reporting. Armed with knowledge about core job description and salary affecting differences, management leaders are best equipped to influence these important management structure decisions. This means salary will be competitive and opportunities will increase for nearly all finance professionals. In addition, the compensation package will often include bonuses or profit sharing as a perk of executive position.

What makes a great CFO?

You want a CFO who can keep you honest, who has good character, judgement, and the courage to say things as they are. They are the custodians. Shareholders, the board, and the whole institution depend on their good judgement. Some finance leaders say it’s not easy to get an end-to-end view of a business.

Controller vs. CFO Salaries

The CFO is responsible for managing the financial activities of a company and adhering to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) established by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulatory entities. Often, a CFO is the third-highest position in a company, playing a vital role in the company’s strategic initiatives.

Engineering Management Hierarchy

Meanwhile, just 2% have a doctorate or associates degree, and only 1% of CFOs have only a high school diploma. In terms of salary, there is not much differentiation between a CFO with bachelor or master’s degrees, however. The primary factors that impact the median salary of a CFO include geographic location, and the experience and personal qualifications of the person. Base salary makes up roughly 70% of the total compensation a CFO should receive within a given year. As a business owner, your finances are a key to future success, which is why it’s important to understand the accounting hierarchy at your workplace.

Two Unique Roles with Common Financial Interests

  • The PE firm was looking for someone who could get the company on track financially, but (like any PE firm) the ideal candidate would position the business to fast track from $10 to $50 million.
  • Many times, corporate officers such as the CFO, COO, CIO, CTO, secretary, or treasurer will concurrently hold vice president titles, commonly EVP or SVP.
  • The controller should have a solid background in accounting and the CFO should have a good understanding of accounting plus a finance or banking background.
  • Both controllers and accounting managers may complete paperwork as part of their duties and check the work of others to make sure that it is accurate.
  • Cost accounting is the process of measuring the cost of producing goods and services.
  • Long term perspective and planning are both key for a role in the executive team, as well as the ability to coordinate across departments to achieve a company vision.

Typically, the CFO is the liaison between local residents and elected officials on accounting and other spending matters. The CFO sets financial policy and is responsible for managing government funds.

controller vs cfo salary

chief legal officerCLOResponsible for overseeing and identifying legal issues in all departments and their interrelation, as well as corporate governance and business policy. A controller is an individual who has responsibility for all accounting-related activities within a company including managerial accounting and finance. Per, roughly half of CFOs have a master’s degree, while 45% have a bachelors’ degree.

Some investor-backed companies, such as Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses, have more sophisticated needs than other companies with the same annual revenue. That sophistication means the business may need contract CFO services at $500K, rather than $1MM, and could hire a full-time CFO at around $35MM, rather than $50MM. By $10MM, the controller is more involved with managing internal controls, closing processes and report generation, as these tasks are more intensive and time-consuming than in smaller companies.

It’s very difficult to nail down an average salary for mid- or upper-level accountants, but the majority of career accountants earn above $60,000 within three to five years after becoming CPAs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for accountants and auditors in 2018 was $70,500 ($33.89 per hour).

Some positions, such as tax managers or internal audit managers, can earn as much as $100,000. Many accountants aspire to be partners at accounting firms, where they can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. Life as an accountant isn’t particularly glamorous, but few career paths match its combination of solid pay, low stress, job security, and opportunity for advancement. Few accountants ever worry about burning out or feel compelled to switch industries, and many will move into positions of prominence and importance in an organization. One such position is the controller (sometimes spelled “comptroller,” but always pronounced “controller”), who is the person responsible for a firm’s accounting-related activities.

Do I need a CFO or a controller?

As stated before, because the CFO vs Controller has more responsibilities assigned to the job, the pay is also better as well. According to, the maximum salary for a financial controller is $126,373 while the average maximum salary for a Chief Financial Officer is $237,051.

1 University of Pennsylvania

At this size, there are many more moving parts in the accounting function, so the role is that of a classic controller. If the CEO can’t take the lead on building and telling the financial story required in fundraising, a CFO is often asked to join the team to support these efforts and round out the C-level expertise of the company. A business owner may marjorie baer clip earrings need help with financial strategy such as pricing decisions, long-term projections or strategy formulation/refinement. The CFO becomes part of the executive team and participates in – and often leads – important planning sessions. If you aspire to hold one of these positions someday, begin by enrolling in and completing the appropriate degree program.

How many hours do financial controllers work?

The CFO reports to the chief executive officer (CEO) but has significant input in the company’s investments, capital structure and how the company manages its income and expenses. The CFO works with other senior managers and plays a key role in a company’s overall success, especially in the long run.

chief technology officerCTOResponsible for technology and research and development, overseeing the development of technology to be commercialized. (For an information technology company, the subject matter would be similar to the CIO’s; however, the CTO’s focus is controller vs cfo salary technology for the firm to sell versus technology used for facilitating the firm’s own operations.). The responsibilities of the CPO are inclusive of product vision, product strategy, user experience, product design, product development, and product marketing.

CFOs must also adhere to regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that include provisions such as fraud prevention and disclosing financial information. The CFO must report accurate information because many decisions are based on the data they provide.

However, when you are first starting out, it makes sense to hire a bookkeeper or consider hiring a bookkeeping services firm. We recommend Bench to small business owners who are looking for a company that can manage their day-to-day income and expenses.

They also often provide advice to their clients on how to get the best return on their taxes. Often, tax accountants are either self-employed with their own firm, work for accounting firms or work within a large company. Senior accountants are typically promoted from the position controller vs cfo salary of staff accountant or accounts payable specialists. They are in charge of financial bookkeeping activities for companies both small and large. Their duties also include preparing financial reports, crafting budgets and keeping track of an organization’s financials.

I’m a junior manager (2 steps above entry level, 3-4 steps away from junior executive). Corporate finance/FP&A controller vs cfo salary modeling is quite different because it is mostly budgeting and comparing actuals to projected numbers.

A board of directors is a group of individuals elected to represent shareholders and establish and support the execution of management policies. Leadership in business alludes to the ability of a company’s management to make sound decisions and inspire others to perform well. The chief operating officer (COO) is a senior executive tasked with overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a business. As the other tier of the company, the management team is directly responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations and profitability. Boards of directors most often include inside directors, who work day-to-day at the company, and outside directors, who can make impartial judgments.

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