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New Survey Finds Financial Controller Evolving into Strategic Risk Manager Role

Controller’s Job Dramatically Shifts to Internal Controls Oversight and Strategic Planning; 9 Out of 10 Controllers Report Role is More Stressful

New Survey Finds Financial Controller Evolving into Strategic Risk Manager Role
FloQast, Inc., a provider of close management software created by accountants for accountants to close faster and more accurately, just released its 2019 survey “The Modern Controller: A Survey of Financial Controllers.” The research which includes survey results from more than 300 accounting and finance professionals, including over 200 controllers, reinterprets the controller’s role within a company as one far more complex and strategic than ever before.

Sponsored by FloQast and conducted by Dimensional Research through January 2019, the survey sought to identify the impact of controllers within today’s accounting vertical as well as understand how and why their roles have evolved. As new technology and business outcomes add to the stressors of maintaining a company’s financial health, the controller’s responsibilities now overlap with those traditionally given to the CFO.

“The modern financial controller does not fit the stereotype of the number-cruncher who hides in his office with his or her spreadsheets and ledgers and sends incomprehensible reports to the CFO who interprets those for the C-suite,” said Diane Hagglund, senior research analyst of Dimensional Research. “As the role of the CFO and the overall finance team has expanded, the controller understands how good data about business operations — both financial and non-financial — directly impacts the quality of decision making.”

Key finding in the report include:
  • The role of the controller has expanded to include risk management and internal controls: Almost all (95 percent) of respondents say their role is more strategic; while 69 percent characterize the controller as a risk manager that oversees internal controls. 
  • The CFO requires the controller to be more strategic: With the CFO taking on a more strategic role themselves as the right hand of the CEO, the controller has to backfill a lot of traditional CFO responsibilities and aid the CFO in planning. 73 percent say the controller’s role is changing because the CFO role has changed, while 90 percent report controllers are spending more time on strategic planning — a job historically done by the CFO. 
  • Advancements in technology mean required software competency: Given how core accounting is to most ERP systems, the controller now has to manage many IT systems. 78 percent of respondents say controllers now spend more time on IT management. Controllers say close management software is the innovation with the greatest potential to positively impact controllers, even when compared to cloud ERP or online accounting software. 
  • Job stressors have changed...and increased: 89 percent say the controller’s job is more stressful. Top stresses include management demands for speed (67 percent), higher volume of work (64 percent) and compliance demands (63 percent). More concerning, 64 percent have experienced pressure to “cook the books.” 
  • The controller is no longer a lone wolf: According to the survey, only a small number (31 percent) of controllers view themselves as the individual that prepares necessary financial reports. In midsize (74 percent) and large enterprises (82 percent), respondents were much more likely to view the controller as a risk managers with oversight of internal controls. 

“There’s a lot resting on the controller’s shoulders now. As complex software becomes more integrated into the accounting department’s daily lives and executives expect a faster month-end close, the controller is forced to get out of the nitty gritty and figure out how to manage a team that can perform a really fast close,” said Mike Whitmire, CPA*, co-founder and CEO of FloQast. “Leveraging close management software and other cloud-based financial tools allows them to be more efficient and strategic, providing more time to spend on planning.”

That said, despite the rapid transformation and steep expectations in maintaining satisfactory job performance, very few controllers are dissatisfied with their job. While 88 percent of the survey respondents have been offered outside job opportunities in the last year, only 11 percent of controllers are actually looking for jobs.

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