Controller vs. Comptroller vs. CFO: Key Differences to Understand

What is the Difference Between a Comptroller and a Controller

A business’s financial health is of utmost importance. No matter what stage your company is in, it’s crucial to have a team in place that can help with making sound financial decisions. With so many titles such as CFO, controller, and comptroller floating around, it’s not always clear what roles a finance team should be comprised of.

In this blog, we’ll break down the key difference between comptroller and controller, explain the role of a CFO, and help you determine which roles are essential to your business’s finance team.

What is the Difference Between a Comptroller and a Controller?

The main difference between a controller and a comptroller is that a controller focuses on the accuracy of financial reporting while a comptroller focuses on overall financial management.

However, those differences may not be readily apparent to everyone. This is largely due to the number of similarities found in both roles and that many businesses use the two words interchangeably.

When using the traditional definitions of a comptroller and controller, there are key differences. Examples of these differences include:

  • Who they report to in an organization;
  • The type of industry they work in, either profit, nonprofit, or public sector;
  • Average salary; and
  • Who holds them accountable.

Let’s explore further the difference between a comptroller and a controller.

What is a Controller?

First, controllership is the collecting, analyzing, and reporting of financial information to help a company make informed business decisions. A controller is a person who is assigned this responsibility.

Generally, a person in the controller role oversees their business’s accounting department and liaises between upper management and the finance and accounting teams.

Where does a controller work?

Controllers are usually employed in for profit organizations. Therefore, controllers typically earn higher salaries than their counterparts in the public sector. In this position, they often report to the company’s CFO, executives, and shareholders.

What does a controller do?

A controller is responsible for maintaining the accuracy of an organization’s financial records. This includes:

  • Preparing detailed financial statements;
  • Managing the accounting department; and
  • Ensuring that all financial reports comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

What is a Comptroller?

A comptroller is responsible for an organization’s overall financial management. This includes developing financial plans, overseeing investments, and managing bookkeeping tasks such as accounts payable. A comptroller also provides advice on how to reduce costs and improve revenue.

Where does a comptroller work?

Comptrollers usually work in the public or nonprofit sector. They most often report to the organization’s CEO or board of directors in the nonprofit sector or senior government officials in the case of the public sector.

What does a comptroller do?

A comptroller is responsible for an organization’s overall financial management. This includes:

  • developing financial plans;
  • overseeing investments;
  • managing cash flow; and
  • advising on how to reduce costs and increase revenue.

indinero Has a Full Suite of Financial Services for Businesses of All Sizes

CFO Services
Tax Services

How is a CFO Connected to the Comptroller or Controller?

The CFO, or Chief Financial Officer, is the head of an organization’s finance team. A CFO has duties similar to its controller or comptroller, but the overall responsibility is different. The CFO is responsible for the overall financial health of a company, while a comptroller or controller focuses on more specific aspects of financial management.

Additionally, the CFO reports to the CEO and is part of the organization’s senior level / executive team. A controller or comptroller oversees the finance department and reports to the CFO.

What is a CFO?

A CFO is responsible for an organization’s financial strategy. This includes developing long-term plans, setting financial goals, and overseeing the company’s financial health. A CFO also provides advice on how to reduce costs and improve the bottom line.

Where does a CFO work?

Businesses usually employ a CFO in the private for profit sector. They often report to the organization’s CEO or board of directors and oversee the company’s financial controller in addition to other executive-level tasks.

What does a CFO do?

A CFO’s duties include developing financial plans, managing cash flow, reviewing financial statements, overseeing investments, and advising on ways to reduce costs and increase revenue. A CFO also works with the CEO to develop long-term plans for the company and sets financial goals.

Controller vs. Comptroller

Credit: Adeolu Eletu

Is a CFO necessary if my company has a comptroller or controller?

Yes. Even if the company employs a qualified and efficient controller and finance team, a CFO is necessary. A CFO’s value goes above being able to run the company’s books cleanly. Their ability to think long-term and develop creative solutions to financial challenges sets them apart.

How do I know if my company needs a CFO?

If your company is growing rapidly, or if you’re looking to take it public, then you’ll need a CFO on board. A CFO can also help turn around a struggling company.

If you’re unsure whether your company can afford to bring on a full-time CFO, then indinero’s fractional CFO services may be a more viable solution.

Can I substitute a full-time CFO with a fractional CFO?

A fractional CFO is a CFO that works for your company part-time. They can provide the same level of expertise and experience as a full-time CFO but, at a fraction of the cost.

Fractional CFOs are an attractive option for small businesses or startups that can’t afford a full-time CFO. They can also be a good solution for companies undergoing a transition period, such as a merger or acquisition.

Grow Smarter with Fractional CFO Services

indinero’s fractional CFO services can help your business grow smoothly. We’ll work with you to develop a financial strategy that meets your specific goals. Our team of experts will help you make smart decisions about how to best allocate your resources. We’ll also provide advice on ways to reduce costs and improve revenue.

To learn more about how indinero can help your business grow, contact us today.

Featured Photo Credit: Scott Graham