The CFO & Controller Relationship
Justin Winchiu, Multiview CFO, describes the CFO relationship to a Controller through the metaphor of the intertwined chain of events when building a house. The CFO plays the role of architect and designer, then the Controller acts as the general contractor – oversees the construction, deals with regulatory procedures, ensures quality of the contractors who participate in building. The house building is the ideal metaphor since it highlights the need for trust and close, ongoing communication in the relationship between a Controller and CFO. It emphasizes their reliance and dependencies on each other in the workplace.
How The Right Finance Software Can Improve The CFO & Controller Partnership
An excellent foundation for building and strengthening this relationship is leveraging an ERP system that can provide comfort for both sides, knowing that the information being looked at comes from the same place.
In leveraging Multiview Financials, what a CFO benefits from is the Controller having access to the full stack of financial tools. The Controller can help the CFO understand and refine the kind of information that gets shared across the broader management group. To do that, the Controller needs to leverage multiple software solutions through a single BI portal to build informative reports that measure the organization’s performance. Having one portal that links multiple data sets provides quicker analysis and highlights when actions need to be taken.
“You almost want to, you know, I joke about this – but you almost want to be in a position where Controller and CFO’s roles may be combined, so if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, there should be no real impact,” says Winchiu. Multiview’s Controller, Christina Ullett, quickly commented, “Please don’t.”
All joking aside, technology can increase and strengthen trust and give each person timely access to information without needing the other person. However, like any relationship, open and honest communication is essential to achieving and maintaining a productive working relationship.
Ullett stressed the importance of identifying and understanding Winchiu’s needs, “Ongoing communication between Justin and myself really helps me understand what he requires to assess risk and make decisions for the organization.”
Traditionally, the Controller reports to the CFO, who relies on this person to present accurate, timely, and fulsome financial statements. Ongoing communications between them help to determine what outputs are key in facilitating the CFO role in driving strategic initiatives across the organization. The Controller needs to have a clear understanding of the company’s overall objectives so that the key performance metric can be reported on and delivered to the CFO.
A combination of technology and communication is essential for the CFO to provide long term strategic guidance. A Controller has more detailed knowledge of the variety of tools and operational data inputs that can be brought together in a systematic way to support the CFO’s strategic decisions.
When this is done efficiently, accurately, and timely, it builds a trusting relationship between the CFO and Controller.