Suits The C-Suite


• The traditional duties of financial controllers, which used to focus on historical financial reporting and regulatory compliance, now demand a broader range of skills and responsibilities.

• Modern controllers must excel in accounting and be capable of managing data, participating in strategic corporate conversations, and acting as reliable counselors.

The financial controller role has transformed dramatically, with emerging technologies and advanced data analytics, along with the growing importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations, introducing a fresh perspective to company planning. The duties of financial controllers, which used to focus on historical financial reporting and regulatory compliance, now demand a broader range of skills and responsibilities.

Their responsibilities have broadened beyond basic bookkeeping — they are now expected to adopt a proactive and visionary mindset, taking on the role of strategic business overseers. Modern controllers must be well-versed in a variety of competencies; they must excel in accounting and be capable of managing data, participating in strategic corporate conversations, and acting as reliable counselors. Their role has progressed into one that focuses on directing and ensuring the achievement of value, positioning them at the core of financial strategy.

The increasing need for real-time and predictive financial reporting has been a major catalyst for this shift, with the role now including elements of financial planning and analysis (FP&A). Though controllers used to focus on internal transactional duties, technological advancements and evolving business expectations are pushing the role to become more extroverted.

As ESG factors gain prominence in corporate planning and risk evaluation, it is essential for controllers to weave them into the fabric of financial forecasting and disclosure practices. This integration should be in harmony with the company’s sustainability objectives and effectively communicated to all stakeholders.

Some organizations are now appointing ESG-specific controllers, positioning the controllership role at the vanguard of this pivotal strategic initiative. With the growing need for verified ESG reporting, controllers are well-placed to spearhead this domain within their companies. This marks a considerable shift from previous times when compliance with statutory or similar regulatory reporting might not have been at the forefront of many corporate controller agendas.

Familiarity with non-financial reporting standards, such as those set by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), is becoming indispensable. These standards provide a blueprint for evaluating and disclosing sustainability efforts, tasks that now fall under the purview of financial controllers.

In a globally intertwined business environment, the challenge lies in ensuring adherence to a variety of regulations across various markets while keeping financial management practices consistent with both international benchmarks and local mandates. Controllers are expected to perform thorough due diligence and maintain a comprehensive international outlook to protect the company’s cross-border activities.

The controllership should embrace a “glocal” (globally local) operational framework, capitalizing on centralization to enhance value while also ensuring that compliance, resilience, and risk management are supported at the local level. This new model for controllers aims to strike a balance between shared services and business partnership roles, with compliance functions remaining centralized. To adapt effectively, controllers must integrate strategies that utilize technology and data to streamline and standardize processes, all while upholding a local presence that supports compliance and risk oversight.

In the era of digital finance, the sheer volume and velocity of financial data add unprecedented complexity to the task of ensuring precision in financial reporting. Controllers have the critical responsibility of guaranteeing that financial statements are free of material misstatements and reflect a true and just representation of the company’s financial status. The rapid evolution of technology and regulatory frameworks demand that financial controllers dedicate themselves to continuous learning, enabling them to anticipate trends and challenges by adapting their knowledge and practices to stay relevant and efficient.

The expanding role of the financial controller now encompasses a more prominent role in strategic decision-making processes, including steering investment approaches, navigating risk, and pinpointing growth opportunities. They are emerging as pivotal figures in formulating business strategy, charged with navigating their companies through market volatility with a decisive grip on fiscal instruments.

Moreover, they must master sophisticated financial software platforms that not only simplify financial processes but also unlock the potential for detailed data analysis. Controllers must become fluent in the language of technology, providing a nuanced perspective on the financial well-being of the company, and facilitating predictive insights. They should approach their role with an open mind and curiosity, ready to embrace new tools, functionalities, and technologies. At the same time, they must exercise discernment in choosing technologies that are appropriate for their organization and specific circumstances.

Controllers must cultivate a dual expertise: a deep grasp of financial principles coupled with skills in data analytics. With these capabilities, they can translate intricate data into clear insights, formulate corporate strategies, spur innovation, and promote ethical leadership. By nurturing sustainable business operations and maintaining the integrity of financial disclosures, controllers establish themselves as vital consultants within their organizations, equipped to manage the intricacies of today’s business landscape.

From traditional bookkeepers, financial controllers can become “value articulators” — guardians of value delivery who evaluate the financial outcomes of investments. Today’s controllers transcend transactional duties, embracing data and technology with a forward-looking mindset crucial for steering sound decisions, ensuring regulatory adherence, and propelling the organization towards resilience and expansion.

To navigate the evolving landscape of controllership and prepare for its future, financial controllers must proactively refine their expertise and adapt to new challenges. A commitment to continuous professional development is essential, with a focus on acquiring knowledge in data analytics and mastering advanced financial software platforms. Controllers should immerse themselves in the latest fintech innovations, selecting tools that align with their company’s specific needs. This discernment will ensure they remain competitive, leveraging automation and predictive analytics to drive business success.

Additionally, understanding and integrating ESG principles into financial strategies is becoming increasingly important. Controllers should become well-versed in non-financial reporting frameworks, enabling them to align financial strategies with sustainability goals and communicate these efforts effectively to stakeholders.

In our interconnected global economy, maintaining awareness of international regulations is paramount as well. Controllers must develop strategies that ensure compliance across various markets while harmonizing financial management practices, safeguarding company operations across borders. Cybersecurity vigilance is another critical area. Financial controllers must prioritize financial data security, implementing robust data governance measures and staying informed about the latest cybersecurity best practices to protect the company’s financial information and reputation.

Finally, controllers should actively engage in strategic business discussions and investment decisions. By doing so, they position themselves as chief value officers and vital business partners, contributing significantly to the company’s strategic direction and value creation. This strategic business involvement ensures that controllers are not just number crunchers — but key players in shaping the future of their organizations.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.


Aaron C. Escartin is a Global Compliance and Reporting (GCR) tax partner of SGV & Co.