Skills to Seek When You’re Hiring a Financial Controller

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Your company has grown so quickly recently that you need expert financial leadership and oversight. You need someone who can monitor the accounting and finance departments' policies and procedures, set budgets, provide guidance on complex tax and compliance issues, and contribute to the financial strategy discussions at your company. In other words, you need a financial controller.

In most companies that employ a controller, the person in the position plays a crucial role. Usually, he or she oversees the day-to-day operations of the finance department and manages financial reporting. The controller has input and influence on most of a company's important financial decisions and can have a strong hand in determining the health of the company.

With so much riding on the controller's position, it's critical to make sure you hire the right person for the job. Here are some of the skills and attributes that should top your list of must-haves when you're looking for a financial controller:

A firm grasp of the numbers – First and foremost, a controller must have a strong understanding of all functions of the typical accounting department, including accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll and clearing. But the right candidate will not simply show competence in accounting procedures. He or she will also be able to answer tough questions and manage others in your financial department. In fact, most controllers have a master's degree in accounting or business administration, and many are Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs).

In-depth knowledge of the entire finance function – Look for someone who has the expertise necessary to maintain all financial aspects of your company, even if your company already has a CFO. Your top candidates should be comfortable negotiating contracts and insurance policies, reviewing invoices, and meeting with tax advisers and auditors. If you find a controller with experience establishing and executing internal financial controls, that person will be less likely to be intimidated if he or she is asked to step in and help with the administration of financial planning and reporting.

A passion for the details, and an ability to explain them – Perhaps one of the most important skills a successful controller can have is the ability to stay organized. Controllers have to keep up with so much information, often tracked in complex spreadsheets, that orderliness is vital.

Excellent communication skills are crucial as these individuals also must be able to relay difficult, dense information to upper management in a precise and easy-to-understand way. Controllers who are good communicators can also provide your company with valuable analysis and expert opinions on financial topics.

The personality to get along with co-workers – It's easy to focus on the technical skills required of a controller, but business skills such as the ability to work with a team, solve conflicts and negotiate successfully are equally important. Your company's controller will be given a great deal of responsibility and will work with many departments throughout the firm, so it's imperative to make sure he or she will fit in with your current employees, particularly those in upper management.

Hiring a controller can be a big step. Depending on the size of your company, whoever lands the position could be in charge of the firm's entire financial state. Start by seeking organized team players who excel in accounting and are not intimidated by the thought of providing complete financial support.