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Hiring your first Financial Controller

By Simon Bennett. Simon is a Principal Consultant at Zeren, within the Senior Finance division, operating from our London office.

“When, what do they do and what to look for”

Every business decision made has a financial impact on your company.

Whilst things like tracking revenue, staying on top of accounts payable and receivables, and administering payroll are essential to your business, having the ability to quickly see your businesses financial results and define its position allows any leader to make better, quicker informed decisions.

While it may have been easy for the business owner to manage these various tasks when they were first starting out, it becomes increasingly difficult as the business grows and this requirement distracts the owner from the vital revenue-generating activities founders are normally best to focus on.


When do you need a Financial Controller for your business?

Founders, CEOs and leaders have historically wanted to hold onto control of the finances for as long as they can. This is normal behaviour as it is such a sensitive and important subject. However, eventually, the business will grow to a size whereby proper automation and controls are necessary as the volume of financial data becomes too vast to properly comprehend and manage.

This growth may also bring unique positive challenges, such as the raising of finance or the opening of international entities or offices that become too complicated for a non-finance professional to manage or understand.

At this stage, Technical Expertise and understanding are required to tackle these challenges whilst protecting the business and translating the numbers into a cogent financial message that can be incorporated into the organisation’s overall conversation and strategy.


What is an in house Financial Controller (FC) responsible for?

True Financial Controllers are responsible for the financial management and regulatory compliance of a company, overseeing accounting operations and record-keeping. They may also be responsible for managing other business-wide initiatives, including IT, HR, insurance, VAT and income tax reporting, amongst others.

The value they will bring, having a full understanding of the overall day-to-day financial aspects of the business, establishing robust financial control in an organisation, automating most daily financial tasks as best they can, reducing the time for monthly and yearly reporting and providing a technical knowledge expert that a team can be built around.

Some of the core job responsibilities of a Controller include the following:

  •  Keeping balanced books and filing your annual taxes
  • Deep understanding of accounting standards and compliance-related topics.
  • Implementing controls and processes to refine and automate the function.
  • Cleaning up, refining and improving the companies’ financial systems so that the data being inputted is correct and accurate.
  • Deep understanding of cash flow and business KPIs and how better to manage and improve them.
  • Collating accurate budgets for the company.
  • Forecasting and projecting accurate results.
  • Translating the company’s basic story behind the numbers so they can be used to form a strategy.
  • Managing whatever financial team exists and developing them.

Controllers become part of the higher-level management team and, therefore, help direct the business towards achieving its goals. They will take on in-depth financial reporting, develop and track key performance indicators and make recommendations to those ends.

Because a lot of their time is spent understanding the financial systems of the business and using that information to create better processes and plans for future growth, FCs won’t necessarily take the lead on responsibilities that typically fall under bookkeepers and accountants. They will manage the accounting department and those employees as well as be a key bridge and ‘interpreter’ of financial activity with key external stakeholders such as auditors, funders, tax authorities, customers, and suppliers.


What to look for in an FC on their CVs.

It is important to identify a great candidate in this field as they can add huge value to your business and be a strong member of the leadership team. Spotting a candidate who embraces this type of work and clearly revels in it, is key.

Ways of spotting this quality on a prospective CV,

  • Reference of “Hands-on” accounting.
  • “Top to bottom” accounting.
  • Relevant transferable business size.
  • Strong implementation of controls and process improvement.
  • Mention of month end – reduction or improvement.
  • Mention scaling the function to keep pace with growth.
  • Technical accounting standard representation. (GAAP or IFRS).


Zeren’s Financial Controller Network

Zeren is a well-established recruitment platform that exists within the High growth or Investor backed space. We are Technology specialists who regularly speak with financial controllers all over the UK, US and Europe as part of our network.

We partner with businesses who are commonly SEED funded, through Series A-D and have a huge amount of experience and a successful track record placing people into this space.

If you’d like to ask me any questions about this topic, feel free to reach out on my LinkedIn or by email.