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What’s the difference between the CFO and controller?

Posted by Neeraj Patel on October 10, 2017

Do you know the difference between the CFO and controller? Which do you need for your business? This is what each accountancy and financial professional offers your company:


Read more: The Modern CFO: What business leaders need to know


Internal Bookkeeper

A bookkeeper follows existing processes to record data about your business, such as revenue and expenditure transactions, as well as looking after documentation relating to the company’s compliance obligations. They are often described as the “boots-on-the-ground” financial professional, as they tend to be the person who is at the coalface of data entry and collection. Essentially, they administrate your books and help you close them.


Who needs one: If you are just starting a business or only have a small number of employees, a bookkeeper can be all you need.


Internal Company Accountant

An accountant can do everything that a bookkeeper can do, but can also translate that data into information. The difference being that data is simple recorded facts, whereas information is a little more useful and can be developed into business insights. Accountants create reports based on this information, and these reports in turn can provide the framework for forecasts and audits. What the bookkeeper records, an accountant processes.


Who needs one: As your business grows and becomes more complex, you may need to hire an accountant in order to ensure tax compliance and business efficiency.


Financial Controller

A financial controller oversees all the accounting practices of your company and also implements some policies as well. They operate on a more strategic level than other financial professionals, and can provide analysis and strategic advice as well. The biggest difference between a controller and a CFO is the scope of their role: a controller is in charge of the accounting department; a CFO is in charge of an entire company’s financials and its operations in regards to finances.


Who needs one: Companies of a certain size that are going through moderate to fast growth and are already well-established would do well to create a financial controller role.


Chief Financial Officer

A chief financial officer performs the highest strategic financial role in a company. They don’t just provide advice and analysis though: they implement practices and processes as well. They work with external stakeholders, such as your bank, as well as your board of directors and auditors. They also provide assistance in one-off discussions, such as mergers or acquisitions. Essentially, they provide strategic analysis as well as advisory support on all financial matters in your business. CFOs are true advisors and should be working closely with the board on all economic decision making.


Who needs one: If your business is reaching multi-million dollar levels of revenue and continuing to grow fast, or has hit a point of high complexity, you should look at hiring a CFO.


Learn more about making the most of your CFO with our free ebook below:

The Modern CFO: What business leaders need to know

Topics: CFOs