How do successful financial controllers get promoted? 

In the accounting world, financial controllers are the technicians who work at the top of the corporate pyramid, just below the CFO, or chief financial officer. They are usually the hub of everything “finance” within the organization. Their duties range from preparing financial reports to forecasting future income and expenses. So, armed with industry expertise and experience, is a financial controller the automatic beneficiary of the CFO position? 

Research on promotions to a CFO position indicates that companies looking to hire do not often hire financial controllers for CFO positions. The reason? The job of a CFO has grown from just numbers and accounting to other aspects. How do financial controllers earn a promotion with such blatant facts? This article offers career advice for financial controllers aiming for a senior position in an organization. 

Strategic positioning for a promotion 

The problem with most financial controllers is that they become so obsessed with reconciliations, accounts receivable/payable, and other technical accounting tasks that they fail to develop a long-term vision for their careers. Such professionals are doing themselves a great disservice and may not be appealing for a promotion. Conversely, the successful ones strategically position themselves for promotion by taking on assignments from different parts of the company.

Ideally, savvy financial controllers aspire to gain a range of experience, including in accounting, finance, operations, and investor relations. They must prove their skills beyond a limited service area. Practically speaking, they need to start thinking about business strategy, implementation, and value creation. 

Develop good communication skills. Senior roles in any organisation require professionals with impeccable communication skills. As a CFO, you will be tasked with providing investor briefings and even communicating with other stakeholders. Because of this, you need to learn how to communicate well before you can move up in your organization. 

gain operational experience. 

Increasingly, finance directors and CFOs oversee functions previously managed by human resources and operations. With COO roles disappearing from most companies, CFOs and CFOs are now taking on the responsibilities that come with the position. 

Hiring managers who perform high-level accounting and financial recruiting are always looking for operationally savvy professionals. Financial controllers with proven experience have an advantage in recruiting because they have broad knowledge of other functions such as treasury, sales, logistics, etc. Hiring managers will want to promote financial controllers who have worked in every part of the business within the organization. 

Develop strong relationship skills. 

The CFO role requires someone with impeccable relationship skills. Successful candidates start to get better at these skills by getting along well with their bosses and building trustworthy finance teams. 

In addition, financial controllers who position themselves for promotion within their organisation must gain the trust of their colleagues. Without trust, colleagues may not provide the support needed to get the promotion. So, it’s important to keep good relationships with everyone inside and outside the organisation by building strong teams and working together. 

In conclusion, successful financial controllers position themselves for higher roles in the organisation simply by learning a “different language.” They do this by understanding business activities beyond accounting and the numbers associated with them. 

Are you an accounting professional feeling frustrated with job mobility? Do you want to avoid regretting wasting your career and not living up to your full potential? We have a solution for you. 

How we can assist you in finding your next finance position

We help finance professionals like you move roles and develop their accounting careers. from CV and application advice to finding your next position. 

To get started, set up a quick career interview with us at BTG Recruitment by calling 0115 960 700 or emailing us here.