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Discover leading insights from our finance experts at The Finance People. Use this financial advice to enhance your strategy, to overcome common financial challenges within SMEs, or to better understand key areas of finance for business. 

Finance Controller vs. Finance Director: What's the Difference?

A Financial Director (FD) and a Financial Controller (FC) are both roles within the finance department of a business. A Financial Director (also known as a CFO) and Financial Controller can have some overlapping responsibilities, which can make it hard for SME’s to know the difference between the roles, and to know whether they need the support of an FC or FD.

At The Finance People we are often approached by companies who believe they need a Financial Director, however upon further discussions it is apparent they actually require a Finance Controller, Finance Manager, Accountant or another level of finance support.

We offer a consultation service which is completely bespoke and will allow us to establish exactly what kind of support it is that your business needs. Contact us to book a consultation.

Nevertheless, we are going to guide you through the difference between a Finance Controller and a Finance Director in this article.

What is a Finance Controller?

The Finance Controller of a business may be their lead accountant, they will be ‘the do-er’ and responsible for day to day operations. Typical tasks for a Finance Controller will be around accounting and reporting, as well as other necessary functions such as internal financial processes.

A FC is responsible for the operational side of a businesses finances, they will look at data, trends and performance and provide this information to those that need it - such as the FD or Directors.

Some examples of key responsibilities include:

  • External financial reporting - such as tax statements

  • Internal financial reporting and analysis

  • Approving invoices

  • Accounts payable, accounts receivable and managing accounting department

  • Payroll

A Finance Controller is there to manage the traditional financial duties of a small business, however they are not best equipped to support growing businesses.

A Financial Director and a Financial Controller are both roles within the finance department of a business.

What is a Finance Director?

Also known as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in the USA, a Finance Director is the financial leader of a business, with authority only superseded by the Directors or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). A FD will be relied upon for strategic financial and business advice, working with shareholders and directors they will have a wider company view and authority.

A FD’s role goes beyond the reporting and maintenance of a FC’s job requirements. A Finance Director will look to implement strategies to grow a business and reach financial goals.

Some examples of key responsibilities include:

  • Liaising with the Directors/CEO

  • Strategic planning

  • Negotiate contracts

  • Manage investor relationships

  • Creating plans for revenue growth

  • Staff management - finance, HR, IT etc

  • Managing debt

  • Market analysis

There is some crossover when it comes to Finance Controller and Finance Director. For example, both roles are responsible for the risk management strategy, action plans from management reports, projecting cashflow and to review policies and procedures.

To put it simply, the main difference between the two is that the FC is responsible for reporting financial performance, whereas the FD will act on the results supporting the business strategically.

Do I need a Finance Controller or a Finance Director?

For many businesses, there is not the demand to have both a Finance Controller and a Finance Director. A Finance Director when required, can take on many of the responsibilities of a Finance Controller.

Whether your business needs a finance controller or a finance director (or both) can be established through a consultation with The Finance People, we can take a detailed look at what responsibilities you need assistance with and the goals you would like your business to achieve. We can then combine that with your current resource and make a recommendation for the support we believe you could benefit from.

We can offer flexible options when hiring a finance expert to suit your companies needs, from interim FD/FC, part-time FC, or a freelance Finance Director. Contact us today to arrange your consultation.

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