Controller vs Accounting Manager: What’s the Difference?

Within an accounting department, there are distinct job titles and responsibilities with a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Controller, Accounting Manager and Staff Accountant. Controllers and Accounting Managers are supervisors within the department and are responsible for ensuring that financial tasks are completed accurately and on-time. With both roles close to one another within the department, how can we tell them apart and what’s the difference? You’re about to find out!

Key Takeaways:

  • The main job responsibility of a Controller is to ensure the accuracy of the financial statements, interpret the results, communicate the financial results in a manner that management and non-accountants can understand.
  • The main job responsibility of an Accounting Manager is to be the financial accounting expert and deliver 100% complete and accurate financial accounting statements to the Controller.
  • At TGG, our Consulting Controllers lead the engagement with our clients. They are often the Client Lead which requires much more focus on preserving the relationship with the client.
  • Our Accounting Managers are the bridge between TGG and the client as they assist with implementing processes, addressing the needs of their client(s) and relaying that information back to the TGG team.

The Controller

The main job responsibility of a Controller is to ensure the accuracy of the financial statements, interpret the results and communicate the financial results in a manner that management and non-accountants can understand. Controllers will also make suggestions on how to improve the business in order to drive results and achieve goals that have been set. At TGG, our Consulting Controllers lead the engagement with our clients. They are often the Client Lead which requires much more focus on preserving the relationship with the client. Controllers will also spend a more of their time trying to work smarter, not harder, to ensure teams are efficient and utilization is maintained.

The Accounting Manager

The main job responsibility of an Accounting Manager is to be the financial accounting expert. They deliver 100% complete and accurate financial accounting statements to the Controller. At TGG, our Accounting Managers are the bridge between TGG and the client as they assist with implementing processes, addressing the needs of their client(s) and relaying that information back to the TGG team.

Financial Statements

As previously mentioned, Accounting Managers deliver 100% complete and accurate financial accounting statements to the Controller. They have an in-depth understanding of financial accounting including all accounting requirements, GAAP rules, accrual accounting, etc. They oversee and review the work of the Staff Accountant, implement operational efficiencies and document standardized procedures. Not only do the financial statements the Accounting Manager delivers to the Controller need to be complete and accurate, but they must also be delivered timely i.e. before the 15th of the month.

Once the Controller receives the financial statements from the Accounting Manager, they review and share them with management or ownership of the business. Their job is to translate the story that’s being told in the financials by the numbers. This includes being responsible for forecasting, budgeting and benchmarking. The Controller will communicate metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) through charts, graphs and trend analysis.

The Controllers heavily rely on the Accounting Managers to provide accurate information because they are making decisions based on the financial data that they’ve been presented with.

Client & Team Relationships

As a Consulting Controller, they are both the main point of contact between the Client and their internal team. They talk to their clients about budgets, their plan for the month ahead and ways to improve their business. They are also the Team Lead and make sure that everyone on the team is doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s a role with a lot of responsibilities and is different from an Accounting Manager who won’t quite be at the level of leading a team or the communication with a client yet.  Compared to an Accounting Manager, the Controller is a mentor for the Accounting Manager and Staff Accountant and mentors them because the hope is that one day, they will become Controllers themselves.

Job Prospects

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of jobs for financial managers will grow 17% from 2020 to 2030. This is much higher when compared to the average for all other jobs. At TGG, we’re always hiring top talent at the Controller and Accounting Manager level. We provide a flexible work-from-anywhere policy, unlimited PTO and additional benefits.

Conclusion

The job responsibilities of a Controller and Accounting Manager have their differences, but both are focused on using the numbers to help achieve the goals for the business. They must work together within the accounting department, along with the CFO and Staff Accountant, in order to make sure the accounting work is being done at the appropriate levels and financials are produced accurately an on-time.

This post was reviewed by our team of accounting and financial experts. TGG’s mission is to make business owners’ lives better through excellent financial management. We strive to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on accounting-related topics so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All posts undergo a review process with at least one member of our Leadership Team to ensure accuracy.

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