what is a comptroller

Five Common Comptroller Job Duties

  • Management
  • Transactions
  • Reporting
  • Auditing
  • Training

A comptroller is a high-ranking professional, usually with a finance degree, who oversees the quality of accounting and finance operations. Comptrollers are like a chief financial officer (CFO) in a public organization or a chief audit executive (CAE) in a corporate organization. Here are five common duties of comptrollers.

1. Management

Comptrollers will have various management duties based on their position and industry. They are usually expected to maintain a system of accounting policies and procedures. They may supervise accounting staff and operations, which may involve employee training, development, termination and performance evaluations. Some may redesign the organizational structure to achieve financial goals and departmental objectives. Some comptrollers manage outsourced services to CPAs, external auditors, and financial firms. In the corporate world, comptrollers may oversee the accounting activities of subsidiary companies and their policies, procedures, transactions, control systems and daily processes.

2. Transactions

There are many transactions that comptrollers may oversee every day. These may include payroll, general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, cost accounting, financial planning, and accounting analysis. Comptrollers may be expected to ensure that accounts payable are properly collected, processed and posted. They may review daily activities to ensure that all reasonable discounts were applied. They may be asked to maintain the chart of accounts, an orderly filing system and a system of internal controls. Some comptrollers ensure that periodic bank reconciliations are completed and that required debt payments are made.

3. Reporting

Comptrollers may issue scheduled financial statements, manage the creation of budget forecasts and coordinate the preparation of annual reports. They sometimes recommend benchmarks to measure operational or departmental performance. On any given day, they may calculate budget variances, operating metrics and financial data to report significant issues to management. Some comptrollers may help maintain asset schedules, depreciation schedules and inventory management systems. Executives may ask them to provide financial analysis reports for pricing decisions, contract negotiations and major capital investments.

4. Auditing

Comptrollers are financial managers who work for public or government agencies may conduct audits of employer records to determine compliance with state and federal requirements. They will require them to review records, quarterly tax reports and internal documentation to identify and calculate potential penalties and owed interest. They will inform the employer of audit results and mandatory corrective actions. This may involve educating employers about accurate and proper reporting of tax and wage information. They must submit tax and wage adjustments to official agencies. They must be able to manage audits at different stages within prescribed timelines.

5. Training

As senior accountants and financial professionals, comptrollers are often a source of educational direction and support. In corporations with hundreds of accounting and financial staff, they may help develop in-person courses and online modules to train about company policy, proper procedures, professional ethics and state and federal laws. They sometimes train non-financial staff in accounting operations, so they must be able to create presentations that are user-friendly, well-organized and straightforward for non-technical audiences. Training activities will involve ongoing internal surveys and continuous improvement activities.

A comptroller holds a high-level position within an organization, so they are expected to have an undergraduate or graduate finance degree. These educational programs teach students how to apply best practices in financial management to make plans, organize projects, address situations, evaluate portfolios, monitor outcomes and provide financial leadership.

Related Resources:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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