How Successful Financial Controllers Get Promoted?


In the accounting world, financial controllers are the technicians working at the top of the corporate pyramid, just below the CFO or finance director. Typically, they are the pulse of everything ‘finance’ within the organisation. Their tasks range from preparing financial reports to forecasting future earnings and expenses. So, armed with industry expertise and experience, is a financial controller the automatic beneficiary of the CFO or financial director position?

Research on promotions to a CFO position indicates that companies looking to recruit are infrequently hiring financial controllers for CFO roles. The reason? The work of a CFO has increased from just numbers and accountancy to encompass other aspects. With such glaring facts, how do financial controllers earn a promotion? Well, this article provides career advice for financial controllers eyeing a higher position in any organisation.

Strategic Positioning For a Promotion

The problem with most financial controllers is that they become obsessed with reconciliations, accounts receivables/payables and other technical accounting duties to the extent of failing to develop a long-term career vision. Such professionals are doing themselves a great disservice and may be unattractive for a promotion. Conversely, the successful ones strategically position themselves for promotion by taking on assignments from different parts of the company.

Ideally, smart financial controllers will aim to get a range of experience, including accounting, finance, operations and investor relations. They have to prove that their skill sets transcend a limited area of service. Practically, they must start thinking about business strategy, implementation and value creation.

Developing Good Communication Skills

Higher roles in any organisation require professionals with impeccable communication skills. As a finance director, you will be tasked with addressing investor briefings, and even communicating with other stakeholders. You must, therefore, learn how to be an excellent communicator before you receive a promotion to prominent roles in your organisation.

Acquiring Operational Experience

Increasingly, financial directors and CFOs are overseeing functions that were previously managed by human resources and operations. Also, with roles such as COO disappearing from most companies, CFOs and finance directors are now taking on the responsibilities associated with the position.

Hiring managers undertaking high-level accountancy and finance recruitment are always on the lookout for operations-savvy professionals. Financial controllers with demonstrable experience have an edge during recruitment because they have a broad knowledge of other functions, such as the treasury, sales, logistics, etc. Therefore, when it comes to promotions, hiring managers will be interested in financial controllers with experience in every aspect of operations within the organisation.

Developing Strong Relationship Skills

The role of a finance director requires someone with impeccable relationship skills. Successful candidates begin honing these skills by having a splendid working rapport with superiors, and in building credible finance teams.

Additionally, financial controllers positioning themselves for a promotion within their organisation must gain trust from their colleagues. Without trust, workmates may not give the support required to get the promotion. Therefore, nurturing relationships with all stakeholders within and outside the organisation by building effective teams and collaborations is a prerequisite.

Conclusively, successful financial controllers position themselves for higher roles in the organisation by merely learning a “different language.” They do so by understanding the business operations beyond accounting and its attendant numbers.

Are you a professional in the accounting field and feel frustrated by job mobility? Do you want to avoid the regret of wasting your career and failing to live up to your full potential? Well, we have a solution for you.

How We Can Help You Find Your Next Finance Role

We help finance professionals like you move roles and develop their accountancy careers. From CV and interview advice to finding your next position.

To get started, you can set up a quick career discussion with us at BTG Recruitment on 0115 960 700 or email us here.


Business woman at home by marcoverch licensed under Creative Commons 4.0

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