CFO or Controller: What do you need for your business? 

April 30, 2023

As a business owner, you understand the importance of managing your finances effectively. However, with so many financial roles and titles, it can be challenging to determine which ones you need for your business. Two of the most common financial positions are CFO and controller. While they may seem similar, there are significant differences between the two roles. This blog will discuss the primary differences between a CFO and a controller.


A CFO is responsible for the company's overall financial strategy, including planning and forecasting, financial analysis, and risk management. They are also responsible for communicating the company's financial performance to stakeholders, including investors and board members. In contrast, a controller is responsible for the company's day-to-day financial operations, such as financial reporting, accounts payable and receivable, payroll, and budgeting.

Strategic vs. Operational Focus

Another critical difference between a CFO and a controller is their focus. A CFO has a strategic focus, working closely with the CEO and senior executives to develop and implement the company's financial strategy. They are responsible for identifying financial risks and opportunities and making decisions that will impact the company's long-term financial health. On the other hand, a controller has an operational focus, ensuring that the company's financial operations run smoothly daily. They are responsible for ensuring the accuracy and timeliness of financial reporting and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Qualifications and Experience

The qualifications and experience required for a CFO and a controller also differ. A CFO typically has a master's degree in finance or business administration and extensive experience in finance or accounting. They have a deep understanding of financial analysis, accounting principles, and financial management. A controller, on the other hand, typically has a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance and several years of experience in accounting or financial operations. They have a solid understanding of accounting principles and financial reporting requirements.

Reporting Structure

A CFO typically reports directly to the CEO and is a member of the executive team. They have a significant role in shaping the company's overall strategy and financial performance. Whereas, a controller typically reports to the CFO or another senior financial executive. They are responsible for managing the company's financial operations and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.


Finally, the salary for a CFO and a controller can differ significantly. CFOs typically earn a higher wage than controllers due to their strategic focus and overall responsibility for the company's financial performance.

In conclusion, while both CFOs and controllers are essential to the financial health of a company, they have different responsibilities, focus, qualifications, reporting structure, and salary. As a business owner, it's important to understand these differences and determine which role(s) you need to achieve your financial goals.

At The Finance Group, our Fractional CFO and Controllers have extensive experience working with organizations across various industries. We act as an extension of our client's team, providing actionable insight and strategic support to help our clients reach their financial goals. Reach out to us today!

Alyssa Huizenga
Director, Business Development
[email protected]

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