A controller, also known as a comptroller, is the chief accounting officer of a company or organization. The controller is usually responsible for analyzing, interpreting, and controlling the organization's accounting and financial records. As the chief accounting executive, the controller's duties cover all of the accounting functions in the organization. These may include general accounting, cost accounting, budgeting and forecasting, accounting methods and procedures, taxes, and internal auditing.
The top finance and accounting positions in an organization are usually the vice president of finance, also known as the chief financial officer (CFO), the controller, and the treasurer. Whereas the controller is concerned with accounting matters, the treasurer is usually responsible for financial matters, such as handling corporate investments, managing relations with creditors, and meeting capital needs. The treasurer may be responsible for handling the company's funds, following procedures established by the controller. In smaller organizations the CFO may assume the duties of controller and treasurer.
The controller is responsible for reports to management on the financial operations of the company. These may include regular reports on the firm's performance in terms of sales and revenue. The controller may prepare special reports on specific operational areas undergoing change or targeted for reorganization. Operational areas suspected of inefficiencies or malfunctions may also be investigated by the controller.
Management reports issued by the controller typically compare actual performance with planned performance. It is the controller's duty to establish, coordinate, and administer a plan for the control of operations. The plan is usually based on budgets and forecasts received from operational managers in the company. The controller's plan may include budgets and forecasts for the entire company and its component operations, programs for capital investing and financing, cost standards, profit planning, and other factors relating to measuring the financial results of the company's operations.
As part of the management team, the controller evaluates and consults with other managers. The controller's special area of interest is meeting the objectives of the company's operating plan. Other managers may consult with the controller regarding such matters as plan objectives, operating policies and procedures, and organizational structure.
In addition to providing internal accounting reports, the controller is also responsible for reporting the financial results of operations to the appropriate government agencies. The controller makes sure that the company's accounting system provides the necessary information for the preparation of all tax returns. Outside financial reports and tax returns are usually prepared in consultation with a public accountant.
Other duties typically handled by the controller include protecting the company's assets through internal control and auditing. The controller may be responsible for proper insurance coverage. In addition the controller may be responsible for keeping track of relevant government regulations and outside economic and social forces that may affect the company's operations.
SEE ALSO : Operations Management
[ David P. Bianco ]