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CFO or Financial Controller? The Clear Difference.

While a company's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and its controller both oversee and manage accounting processes for an organization, their roles are very different. Understanding the differences is important when you're considering outsourcing accounting services.

This article will highlight the similarities and differences between CFO and controller positions.

What is a controller?

A controller, sometimes called a comptroller, is a mid-level department manager. A person in this position is involved in the daily processes of documenting financial transactions. Accounts payable, accounts receivable, and payroll staff answer to the controller and follow his or her guidance while:

  • Preparing invoices
  • Posting sales receipts
  • Issuing payroll checks
  • Maintaining cash on hand
  • Making bank deposits
  • And, other operational financial activities
What is a CFO?

A CFO is an executive-level employee. A person in this position uses data provided by the controller to monitor the organization's financial health. Without a controller's oversight and financial statements, a CFO would not be able to make accurate forecasts and identify financial strengths and weaknesses.

The CFO identifies potential risks and creates a plan to protect a company from these risks. The CFO is also responsible for keeping an organization's internal and external stakeholders informed.

Does Your Company Need a Controller, a CFO, or Both?

Most large companies have both an internal controller and an internal CFO. However, many small to mid-size organizations may benefit from hiring an outside partner to assume these roles. To help you decide which off-site accounting services you need, review the information below.

What Does an Outsourced Controller Do?

Outsourced controllers provide day-to-day guidance and oversight to in-house or outsourced accounting staff. They create plans to ensure accounting activities follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

The controller is responsible for supervising accounting staff and maintaining standards throughout the department. This department head focuses on daily operations and ensures all accounts are accurate. The controller is responsible for implementing checks and balances that reduce internal risks and transactional errors.

Other duties include:

  • Creating budgets
  • Preparing financial statements
  • Monitoring and measuring KPIs
  • Comparing working budgets to actual budgets
  • Maintaining regulatory compliance
  • Working with external CPA and auditing firms
  • Identifying internal inefficiency
  • Informing upper-level management of financial status
What Does an Outsourced Chief Financial Officer Do?

While the controller is responsible for day-to-day operations and financial transactions, the Chief Financial Officer is responsible for ensuring a company is prepared for growth and stability. He or she provides insight to company owners and shareholders about the overall organization's health.

The daily responsibilities of a CFO might include:

  • Recommending investment and reinvestment strategies that promote higher profit margins
  • Creating financial strategies for near- and long-term ROI
  • Analyzing past and present financial statements
  • Identifying workplace inefficiency and developing a plan to overcome inefficiencies to improve profit potential
  • Forecasting and providing insight into the various outcomes (best-case, average, worse-case)
  • Providing capital structure oversight
  • Helping the company prepare for funding or loan applications
  • Solving financial obstacles holding back growth
  • Meeting Your Financial Health Goals With Outsourced Accounting Services

It is possible to run a business with a bookkeeper and an outside CPA. However, doing so increases the chance that your company is losing money due to inefficiencies, compliance issues, and many other problems.

Hiring an outsourced accounting service is often less expensive than maintaining a full accounting department, and offers numerous benefits like the ones below.

  • Streamlining workflow, resulting in lower operating costs
  • Eliminating data entry errors, improving invoicing processing
  • No more wasted money on overtime during peak sales periods
  • Improving cash flow and revenue potential
  • Maintaining compliance and industry standards
  • Simplifying tax preparation and reporting's outsourced accounting services allow you to take control of your finances without the expense of hiring an in-house controller or CFO. Contact us today so we can help you achieve your financial goals.

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