Controller moves her role from transactional to strategic and carves a path for professional growth

The Situation

PE-backed SaaS company with $48M in revenue was experiencing rapid growth. Future acquisitions were part of their growth strategy and they knew it was necessary to address the finance function. The goal was to have one streamlined process to quickly onboard and manage all entities.

  • Finance function was stretched after initial acquisitions
  • Internal processes could not scale as the company grew
  • No holistic visibility into all entities
  • Controller was buried with inefficient systems and processes with no time to add value to the CFO

The Consero Solution

Consero Finance as a Service (FaaS) provides:

  • Efficient finance & accounting software and workflows which include one GL for all entities with multidimensional views
  • Experienced and on-demand finance team to address fluctuating needs
  • Accurate, timely audit-ready financial reporting
  • Consistent and reliable back-office services including, transaction processing, closing and reporting, to scale as needed

“I would recommend Consero to other controllers. You are partnering with an extended team. You can let go of those transactional areas and grow yourself more operationally and strategically. It just opens up more opportunity to strengthen yourself personally and professionally ” – Michele Iovino (Senior Controller)

The Client’s Results

  • New Systems: Updated with best-in-breed systems and proven processes mapped to the business within 30-90 days. This improved the quality, efficiency, and cost structure of financial operations.
  • Quick & Accurate Reporting: SIMPL’s standardized and accurate financial reporting provides a clear financial picture of all entities and enables sharp decision making.
  • Scalable Team: Consero’s finance professionals tackle the routine back-office tasks and become part of the team with everyone working together to achieve the business goals.
  • Repeatable Results: An acquisition-ready ready finance function that can easily onboard and manage new acquisitions.
  • Professional Growth: Controller’s time freed up to focus on more strategic work such as budgeting, forecasting and more.

How the CFO role is evolving with the corporate controllers becoming more crucial

Finance and accounting teams in high-growth companies cannot operate without high-level strategic guidance from a finance executive, like a CFO. In recent times, this is changing to include the corporate controllers as well.

In traditional terms:

  • The CFO is responsible for managing the entirety of financial actions and strategies in the company
  • The corporate controller is responsible for the company’s accounting operations

What’s more, the controller is often described as the CFO’s right hand, or their second in command, in a similar way to how the CFO is the right hand to the CEO.

However, as much as the CFO’s role is changing in today’s landscape, becoming more of a strategic position, so is the role of the controller evolving.

The two are connected:

  • The CFO is taking on more tasks – they are orienting towards making strategic decisions vital for the advancement of their company and overseeing human resources, operations, and technology.
  • The controller is thus taking on more of the CFO’s other tasks. The CFO is delegating more and more of the traditional processes that were once the core of what CFOs did in their day to day work.

The evolving role of the corporate controller

Corporate controllers mostly had to do the same tasks in the past:

  • Closing the books
  • Supervising regulatory compliance
  • Reporting results
  • Making sure that every accounting employee follows the same processes, especially when it comes to financial reporting

Today, the controllers are still expected to cover all of these tasks. However, the change is in the fact that they have to do more. They are leaving their traditional focus on accounting and moving towards covering new CFO processes while focusing on efficiency.

What does this mean for the controller?

In one part, they are starting to:

  • Have a more significant role in overseeing the implementation of new technology.
  • Help the CFO in some of the strategic operations like financial planning
  • Identify business changes or process improvements
  • Third party relationship management (corporate insurance broker, auditor, bank, etc.)

However, this doesn’t mean that their focus on controls is diminishing. That part is still as vital as it used to be, but controllers have to find a way to embed it into their evolved role.

Many agree that the evolution of the role of a corporate controller was spearheaded by the change in technology in the finance sector. It makes sense as controllers are often in the front lines when new technology is introduced to the company. What’s more, new technology is usually introduced by the controllers themselves.

They tend to push for a technological change in the financial department as they are on the lookout for improving financial reporting in their company. The usual way of achieving that today is through data strategies and process automation, both of which make financial reporting more efficient and faster.

What’s going on with other corporate controllers?

Many controllers have turned to methods that involve more commercial things.

For example, some controllers have stayed with their traditional roles like technical accounting and external financial reporting. However, they have also started overseeing several essential things in their company, like tax and finance shared services groups. It used to be a task that only the CFO of a company did. Now, controllers can do it as efficiently as they do.

In other cases, controllers tend to land their expertise to help solidify a deal their company is making. They would do things like:

  • Integration planning
  • A whole suite of many back-office tasks
  • Leading in a way that only the CFOs used to do

Additionally, companies that do not have controllers are realizing that they need one in the changing world of finance. Many of them are turning to third-party providers as they see that outsourced controller services can be equally beneficial for them. They tend to save costs and time, yet obtain the same quality of work.

When it comes to the overall picture, some statistics are telling us that much of this has been going on for quite a while:

  • 82% of corporate controllers feel that their role has become more challenging than it was in the past.
  • 89% of corporate controllers also think that their job is increasingly stressful, mostly due to a larger number of tasks. However, there’s also an increasing need for speed and more compliance demands.
  • 90% of corporate controllers say that they spend more time on strategic planning now, compared to a decade ago.

Even though many feel that their job is now harder and more challenging, they are well aware of how necessary the evolution of their role is. Controllers also understand that if they are successful in their new roles, their futures are bright, as they are likely to become CFOs at some point.

Controllers are encouraged by the fact that at least a fifth of CFOs in Fortune 500 companies used to be corporate controllers or chief accounting officers in their previous positions.

What should corporate controllers do to evolve and improve their position

Even though the evolving role of the controller can be difficult and stressful, it’s very beneficial. Besides turning controllers into leaders in their departments and eventual CFOs, they also get to improve their skills and knowledge.

It’s vital to strive to keep up with the evolving role because it leads to the controller becoming more vital to the company.

All of that means that the controller needs to keep up with the new duties being delegated to them. They need to learn to change their approach to their role and start managing and thinking differently. The changing mindset makes the new role much easier and far more successful. It also prepares the controller for their future role as the CFO.

The change can be achieved by:

  • Networking and learning from other controllers
  • Expanding skills by performing new roles and learning
  • Keeping up with all regulatory developments

All of this and the desire to improve leads to better controllers and more efficiency for the whole company.



Strategic controller vs. operational controller

A day in the life of a Controller can be diverse. The basic function of the controller position is to be responsible for the accounting operations of the company. In high-growth middle market companies, the Controller can be pulled into more responsibilities. Therefore, in the modern world of finance and accounting, it’s important to have the right type of controller.

Most companies have operational controllers with some strategic thinking mixed in. However, we are here to argue the importance of having a strategic controller, while delegating operational controls to someone else.

The essential differences between the two controllers

An operational controller focuses on day-to-day operations.

  • An operational controller is concerned with internal operating factors. They often deal with issues that arise every day, like technology meltdowns and personnel problems.
  • Operational controllers have to worry about things on a day-to-day basis as they have to examine problems as soon as they arise and start fixing them.
  • Operational controllers look at the sales figures, production numbers, and other daily operations which can be solved quickly.
  • A strategic controller is concerned with both internal as well as external factors. These often include the environment and the market.
  • Strategic controllers have to worry about things over time. They can look at different steps and determine the best course of action.
  • Strategic controllers look at more significant organization issues, and it thus takes them longer to do research and make reports.
  • Many controllers like to take care of commissions calculations which come up in the sales process. However, we’ve found that it’s much better to have someone else prepare the schedule, and the strategic controller to review it.
  • A strategic controller gets to analyze business lines and margins, not historical information. That makes them a forward thinker.
  • A controller who has help from Consero gets to direct and run many processes, but they don’t have to do them. That part is Consero’s job.
  • Custodian
  • Analyst
  • Business partner
  • Number cruncher

A strategic controller, on the other hand, looks at the strategy of each process. They look at its entirety and analyze how effective the strategy is and how it can be improved.

In essence, both variations of the role have their advantages. Operational controllers are often faster, but only strategic controllers can deal with bigger issues and make more significant advances in their position for the company.

The solution?

The solution is relatively simple. You can have both. You can keep an in-house controller who will turn to the strategic side of their job, while the operational side will be delegated to an outsourced party.

With Consero, you can have a strategic controller who won’t have to create historical information; they will only use and analyze it. Your new strategic controller will be able to develop ideas and do the analysis that will help things move forward efficiently and much more quickly.

Essentially, your controller won’t have to do many of the day-to-day operations; they will only have to manage.

Here are some examples of how this works:

In most companies, a controller is four different things:

The last role is a very time-consuming one, yet it doesn’t have to be done by the controller. That part becomes Consero’s job.

All in all, delegating part of what your controller does enables them to focus on the vital parts of their job. That lets the company move forward with its growth.