Financial Controller Skill Development and Talent Management

Financial Controller Skill Development and Talent Management

Financial Controller Skill Development and Talent Management

Upskilling is crucial and has become a critical part of talent retention. Financial controllers are being increasingly encouraged to develop new skills, primarily within digital tools and data analytics, along with agile team management. The role of financial controller has evolved drastically in recent years with growing expectations for strategic leadership, alongside traditional accounting, and financial responsibilities.

At FD Capital, we work with financial controllers to help them take the next step in their careers. Whether you’re recruiting a financial controller or looking for a new opportunity as a senior financial professional, our team is here to help. Contact our team at or call us on 020 3287 9501 for a no-obligation consultation.

We’re exploring the role of financial controller and how skill development is crucial to talent management.

What is a Financial Controller?

A financial controller is a senior financial professional who is responsible for the company’s financial activities and reporting. The role has evolved beyond number crunching and bean counting to a strategic position with financial planning and risk management. A financial controller is an advisor to the CEO and leadership team, working to develop the company’s financial resilience and ensure regulatory compliance.

While accounting used to be the primary function of a financial controller, this is now only one part of their role. Talented financial controllers are active communicators with strong IT skills and strategic planning, including business development.

A financial controller may be the most senior financial position at a smaller company, but in larger organisations, they will typically report to the chief financial officer (CFO).

The Role and Responsibilities of Financial Controller

A financial controller is responsible for a company’s accounting, ensuring that records are accurately maintained with all filings made on time in accordance with legislation and accounting standards. They’re main responsibilities include coordinating and overseeing the company’s annual budget and forecasting.

They work with the CEO and CFO to develop the company’s financial strategy, including internal policies and systems to streamline financial operations. A financial controller will oversee a risk management plan, ensuring financial systems are fit for purpose and maintained.

Understanding the role and responsibilities of a financial controller allows you to identify opportunities for skill development.

  1. Financial reporting and analysis

Financial controllers are responsible for producing accurate financial reports and analysing data. This data is used for forecasting, identifying trends, and providing insights to inform strategy and decision-making.

  1. Budgeting and forecasting

Day-to-day responsibilities include developing and managing the company’s budgeting. Data insights allow a financial controller to forecast future spending and budget accordingly. They’ll also have to predict financial trends to build resilience and adaptability into their budget.

  1. Risk management

Mitigating potential financial risks and building financial resilience. Responsibilities include identifying potential risks and developing a risk management strategy.

  1. Strategic financial planning

Financial controllers will often oversee the financial department, requiring them to show strong communication and leadership skills. They’re a key strategic advisor to the CEO, ensuring that the overall goals align with the company’s financial objectives and position.

  1. Internal controls and compliance

A financial controller develops and establishes internal controls to ensure regulatory compliance and meet industry standards. They’ll typically conduct an annual audit and work with third-party auditors.

  1. Team leadership

Financial controllers have to be collaborators, working as both a leader and a team player. They’ll be expected to work with other departments to understand their finances and operations to align objectives and financial goals.

What Skills Does a Financial Controller Need?

The roles and responsibilities above showcase how versatile a financial controller needs to be. Lifelong learning and skill development are crucial to ensuring that candidates continue to meet the evolving expectations of the role and can use it as a stepping stone to more senior leadership positions.

A financial controller can take the next step in their career by becoming a CFO or expanding their existing role as the head of a financial department.

The skills that a financial controller needs to develop include:

  1. Accounting skills

Financial controllers typically come from an accounting or auditing background with experience in business intelligence and data analysis.

  1. Technical proficiency

Accounting and financial reporting require technical proficiency and the ability to use accounting software for in-depth financial analysis. Financial controllers need to continue to evolve their technical skills, including learning to operate new software.

  1. Communication and leadership

Communication is crucial for financial controllers. They have to translate complicated financial information to everyone from the CEO to potential investors and stakeholders. They must be able to motivate their finance team and collaborate with other departments.

  1. Analytical skills

Data is king and financial controllers play a crucial role in dissecting it. They must continue to develop their skills in data analysis to be able to identify trends and provide insights that ground the CEO’s decision-making and strategy.

  1. Strategic thinking

While numbers are a financial controller’s bread and butter, they must be able to contribute to the company’s strategy with critical thinking. Their goal should be to align the company’s long-term objectives with its financial goals.

  1. Adaptability

Financial controllers have to be dynamic and able to adapt to challenges with problem-solving skills. Recent events, like the pandemic and current inflation, show the scale of the challenges financial controllers have recently faced.

Today’s Financial Controllers, Tomorrow’s CFOs

Companies that choose to invest in the skills development of their financial controllers may choose to do so as part of their talent retention strategy. Today’s financial controllers may well be tomorrow’s CFOs. Transitioning a financial controller into the role of CFO would be a relatively seamless succession plan with minimum disruption.

Financial controllers often act as a second-in-command to the CFO in larger organisations. However, they may take on the responsibilities typically reserved for a CFO at smaller organisations where the role is combined.

Many of the skills financial controllers are continuing to develop are crucial for the role of CFO, such as strategic financial planning and technical proficiency. The position of CFO is becoming more operational and less financial, increasingly taking on the responsibilities of a COO.

Skill development and talent retention go hand-in-hand to allow companies to invest in their financial professionals and for candidates to progress in their careers.

Financial Controller Skill Development

Upskilling is crucial for financial professionals hoping to advance their careers. Continual learning is one of the biggest trends among professionals across every industry. A financial controller plays a critical role within any organisation, regardless of its industry segment, jurisdiction, or size.

Companies hoping to progress their financial controller into the role of finance director, CFO, or even CEO must invest in their skills development as part of their talent management. Therefore, financial controllers must develop more than just their accounting skills. These roles are increasingly calling for ‘digital natives’ with financial controllers who need to upskill to learn new software and automation tools.

Leveraging digital tools is essential to ensuring accuracy in financial reporting and driving up efficiency. Skill development for financial controllers can positively impact businesses with automation helping to streamline systems like invoicing, minimising the risk of manual errors. Developing digital skills allows financial controllers to focus on developing the strategic aspect of their role.

Why Financial Controllers Need Skill Development

Financial controllers need skill development to keep pace with the evolution of their job description. Several factors, such as data accessibility and evolving technology, are making the role of financial controller increasingly more strategy-focused and data-driven. Companies that invest in skill development can retain their financial controller and benefit from enhanced efficiency.

  1. Data accessibility

Companies are gathering data at a faster amount than ever before. McKinsey & Company estimates that the world’s data will hit 175 billion terabytes by 2025, up 66% from 2018.  This data growth represents opportunities for financial controllers to develop their careers by learning how to implement data strategies to enhance their financial planning.

Data accessibility will allow financial controllers to align data across multiple departments with technology like machine learning producing higher-quality data. Integrating data enables financial controllers to gather data using cloud-based systems to support better analysis.

  1. Evolving technology

Financial controllers need to be experts in data, including using evolving technology as part of their financial planning and reporting. Companies are increasingly focusing their IT spending on cloud-based technologies, including accounting software.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence allow for automation and advanced analytics, tools that can give financial controllers real-time data that they can convert into business insights to enhance performance. Financial controllers who develop their skills in line with evolving technology can eliminate error-liable tasks.

  1. Data analysis

Financial controllers have to be storytellers with data, leveraging strong communication and interpersonal skills. Telling the story behind data is crucial when financial controllers are reporting their findings to the company’s leadership team and stakeholders.

It’s a critical skill that almost 50% of companies lack. Financial controllers can develop a narrative with data analysis that nurtures stronger relationships with colleagues, stakeholders, and business leaders.

  1. Changing business models

Since the pandemic, almost every business has had to adapt to stay alive, keeping pace with the rapidly evolving global situation. For example, companies within the tech industry have increasingly shifted to subscription-based services, looking for new ways to monetise their platforms.

These changed business models are here to stay with technological skills being crucial for financial controllers to give their companies a competitive edge. Cloud-based software can be easily customised and scaled in line with the company’s growth.

  1. Global expansion

Companies looking to expand globally need a financial controller who can navigate the challenges this presents. Tax rules and regulatory compliance changes between countries and jurisdictions, requiring companies to plan accordingly to ensure they meet all these requirements. Financial controllers will also have to navigate financial reporting tools, insurance, customs, freight costs, and currency conversions.

If a financial controller has developed their technology skills, they can utilise software to streamline this expansion and use digital solutions across jurisdictions. This software has the potential to provide real-time visibility and consolidation to ensure accurate reporting, compliance, and analysis.

Talent Retention and Skill Development for Financial Controllers

Employee retention is something companies are increasingly focusing on, particularly in the wake of the ‘great resignation’ during the pandemic. It’s a top concern for financial managers and C-suite leaders. Burnout and lowering morale are two of the factors contributing to declining levels of employee retention.

Companies that offer skill development can reduce burnout amongst their financial controllers and boost morale to increase employee retention. Upskilling is crucial for roles like that of financial controller, which have seen a rapid evolution and change in the last decade. Although they’ll still need the same accounting skills, today’s controllers need an ever-expanding skill set, including more strategic skills.

Upskilling with a focus on digital tools, technology, data analytics, and compliance is essential to developing finance teams who have the potential to be promoted within the organisation. Today’s CFOs believe that analytical tools are crucial for financial professionals at every stage of their careers. Finance controllers who prioritise skill development are more likely to progress in their careers and develop a speciality within an industry.

The Future of Financial Controllers

The role of financial controller is no longer just about crunching numbers. It’s an increasingly strategic role where the financial controller is becoming a key advisor to the CFO, CEO, and the rest of the C-suite.

Skill development is beneficial to both financial controllers and their organisations, encouraging employee retention and career progression. Today’s financial controllers need to have the strategic and technological skills to evolve with the role.

At FD Capital, we work with companies and candidates to recruit financial controllers.

Start the recruitment process for a financial controller by reaching out to our team today. We’ll work with you through every step of the process to find a specialist financial controller with the skills to unlock your company’s potential.

If you’re looking to take the next step in your career as a financial controller, you can join our talent pool by submitting your CV to our recruitment team.

Contact our team at or call us on 020 3287 9501 for a no-obligation consultation.