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  • What is a Controller?

  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a controller as “a person in charge of expenditure esp. a steward or comptroller.”  According to Wikipedia “a comptroller is a management level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization.” In Canada we often use the title Controller in a broader sense but I find that many businesses focus on the accounting requirements. Many concentrate on the minimal requirements – to provide the information necessary to file various tax and similar returns and satisfy their bankers.

    In medium-sized businesses, I see the role of a Controller as the head of the finance function, who is usually responsible for all the accounting and financial issues of the business. Sometimes this includes additional responsibilities such as IT, Human Resources and Administration.

    If the executive body of an organization has a narrow view of the Controller’s role and does not take full advantage of the depth and breadth of the skill set available to support the company, it is depriving itself of critical information and opportunities.  All the recognized accounting designations require courses in subjects beyond financial accounting, including ongoing learning A controller who is only relied upon and has become accustomed to fulfil only the narrow definition of the accounting role is selling him/herself short.

    Some of the areas that a Controller should be focusing on are:

    • Financial analysis
    • Cost analysis
    • Budget variance reporting and analysis
    • Maintenance and monitoring of internal controls
    • Cost reduction
    • Providing financial insight to management
    • Risk management

    If your Controller (head of the accounting/finance function) is not fulfilling the needs of the business and needs guidance to broaden their perspective, please call me at (416) 726-8256 or email me James@MastermindSolutions.ca

    James Phillipson is a Chartered Accountant and a Principal of Mastermind Solutions Inc. with over twenty years experience in large and small businesses.  He has provided financial counseling to his clients since 1996, often in the role of a Controller or Chief Financial Officer, for both public and private corporate clients.  James has experience in financial roles in a wide variety of businesses and industries.  This includes several large corporations and many medium-sized public and private companies.