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CFO or Controller?

Bijal Patel

The roles of a controller and a CFO are often confused, as both positions are responsible for managing a company's financial operations and reporting. However, there are some key differences between the two positions that are important to understand.

A controller is typically responsible for the day-to-day financial operations of a company.

This includes tasks such as preparing financial statements, managing the accounting team, and ensuring that the company's financial transactions are recorded accurately. A controller may also be responsible for developing and implementing financial policies and procedures, as well as preparing budgets and forecasting future financial performance.

A CFO, on the other hand, is responsible for strategic financial planning and analysis.

This includes working with the CEO and other senior leaders to develop long-term financial goals and strategies for the company. A CFO is also responsible for evaluating potential investments and partnerships, and advising the company on financial risk management. In addition to these responsibilities, a CFO may also be involved in fundraising and investor relations.

One key difference between a controller and a CFO is the level of strategic decision-making involved in the role.

A controller is more focused on the day-to-day financial operations of the company, while a CFO is responsible for developing long-term financial strategies and making strategic decisions that will impact the company's financial performance.

Another key difference is the level of experience and education required for each role. A controller typically has a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, while a CFO is often expected to have an advanced degree, such as an MBA, and significant experience in financial management. This difference shows up in compensation as well. According to salary data from Glassdoor, the average salary for a CFO in San Francisco is $209,252 per year while the average salary for a controller in San Francisco is only $124,159 per year.

From an availability perspective, there are actually more CFOs than Controllers in the market - for example, according to LinkedIn there are almost 10k CFOs in the San Francisco Bay Area but only 6k controllers.

In summary, a controller is responsible for the day-to-day financial operations of a company, while a CFO is responsible for strategic financial planning and analysis. While both positions are important for the financial health of a company, they have different areas of focus and require different skill sets and levels of experience.

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