A Plus

Getting ahead of the competition as a financial controller

August 2018


Dennis Fullgrabe, Course Director of the Institute’s Financial Controllership Programme on how financial controllers’ broader, more strategic role today should push them to revisit their skill set



A financial controller (FC) is no longer expected to merely handle accounting matters such as month-end or statutory reporting. Companies are expecting their FCs to be not only a strong finance professional but also a key strategic business partner, able to work across the company.

This broadening role provides many opportunities but also challenges to an individual’s skills development and priorities. New skills and knowledge expected of a financial controller are needed, along with a willingness to work outside the traditional comfort zone of numbers and reports.

Corporate governance best practice

The risk management and corporate governance module of the Institute’s Financial Controllership Programme (FCP) focuses on the principles of good corporate governance as set out in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s Corporate Governance Code for listed companies. The principles, which should apply to all companies, have been developed in line with international best practice. Key areas that companies must look at include: the duties, composition and balance of the board; separation of chairman and chief executive roles; supply of and access to information; corporate social responsibility; and corporate governance-related transparency, and the independence of independent non-executive directors.

Being able to recognize the issues and difficulties of applying corporate governance best practice will greatly enhance an FC’s confidence and ability to interact with senior management and independent directors. This proactive approach will also better enable an FC to understand what essential data and analysis senior management and the board require in order to make informed decisions. Also, by having a closer interaction with the FC, the management and independent directors will have a clearer appreciation of the important role the finance function plays in achieving mutual objectives.

Risk management and internal control

It is also important in today’s environment for an FC to understand how risk management and internal control play an integral part in the broader need for good corporate governance. The board has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the company has adequate and effective risk management and internal control systems, including determining the nature and extent of the principal risks it is willing to take to achieve its strategic objectives.

As CPAs, we are already well trained in financial systems and controls. Using this knowledge and experience at the wider operational and strategic levels is a significant opportunity for FCs to build cross-functional relationships, and to increase their visibility as a true business partner across the company. To achieve this, however, FCs need to think beyond financial risks. They need, for example, to consider regulatory risks, such as unexpected new legislation, and how to deal with them.

The risk management and corporate governance module provides participants with practical tools and the confidence to advise on their companies’ risk management and internal control systems from an integrated, enterprise-wide perspective, where the focus is on the consequence for the whole enterprise and risk management is more closely aligned to the strategy of the organization. With such an approach, FCs will be able to encourage treating risks in a more holistic, comprehensive way, ensuring that all business decisions are based on proper risk assessment and management that defines the overall effect of uncertainties on the company’s objectives.

Enhancing your skill set

The FCP is a tailor-made and practical training programme to help more Institute members gain new all-round skills essential for an effective FC. It is highly recommended for those looking to move into an FC role and for those recently appointed or more experienced FCs who wish to refresh their skills. Graduates have commended the programme, saying they gained valuable hands-on experience and knowledge (see A Plus May 2018 issue, The Career Controllers).


The four-day risk management and corporate governance module, which runs from September to October, explores the practical issues of corporate governance and risk management in a company through content and case studies augmented by guest speakers who share their wealth of experience. Institute members can register for this as an individual module. Undertaking this further learning will help to diversify and enhance your skill set and will give you an upper hand to get ahead of the competition, and increase your overall future value to your business.  The four-day risk management and corporate governance module, which runs from September to October, explores the practical issues of corporate governance and risk management in a company through content and case studies augmented by guest speakers who share their wealth of experience. Institute members can register for this as an individual module. Undertaking this further learning will help to diversify and enhance your skill set and will give you an upper hand to get ahead of the competition, and increase your overall future value to your business.

 


“New skills and knowledge expected of a financial controller are needed, along with a willingness to work outside the traditional comfort zone of numbers and reports.”