Controllers and treasurers are both financial managers. For the most part, they have similar backgrounds and skills, though their duties and job descriptions are very different. The controller is considered the head accountant for the company. They supervise other accountants and manage the proverbial books. Treasurers, on the other hand, are more like full-time financial advisers for their companies.
A controller is one of the top-level accountants in a company. They report directly to the Chief Financial Officer, if the company has one. They often develop and implement accounting policies for companies and are in charge of the audit, accounting and budget departments. One of their main jobs is to put together financial reports. These reports assess the current state of a company's finances and make predictions about the financial future. They give presentations to chief executives about finances and forecasts, and advise executives on accounting matters. Other financial reports that controllers are in charge of assess the company's compliance with laws and regulations. Controllers are often the people who submit compliance reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission or other regulatory bodies.
Treasurers are in charge of the finance or treasury departments, and they may also be called vice presidents or officers of finance. They are the people who are in charge of helping a company grow its funds and invest those funds. They do this by issuing stock through public initial offerings, issuing debt securities -- like bonds, or negotiating loans from lenders. Treasurers seek out sound investments to grow the capital they raise, so they must be competent financial analysts. In addition to these duties, treasurers are usually the people who make sure acquisitions and mergers go smoothly.
Common Traits and Similarities
Treasurers and controllers need many of the same skills to be successful. They are both managers, so they need demonstrated leadership abilities. On the other hand, they are part of a team of top-level executives, so they need to know how to work well with colleagues and superiors. The resumes of applicants for treasurer and controller jobs are also similar, and in some cases, they may be identical. Both professions require at least a bachelor's degree in business, economics, finance or a closely related field, though employers prefer treasurers and controllers with an MBA or master's in finance. Either professional may have a background in accounting, auditing, financial analysis or related fields.
Treasurers and controllers may start off in the same entry-level positions, but usually their career paths diverge before they become financial managers. Treasurers need experience in jobs that deal with investing corporate funds, corporate debt financing and cash management. Because they deal with securities, they may also need experience in financial reporting and compliance. Financial reporting and compliance experience is important for controllers, particularly as it relates to Generally Accepted Accounting Principals and Securities and Exchange Commission. They often build these skills in lower-level roles in the accounting, audit and budget departments.
2016 Salary Information for Financial Managers
Financial managers earned a median annual salary of $121,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, financial managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $87,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $168,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 580,400 people were employed in the U.S. as financial managers.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Financial Managers
- Indeed: Corporate Treasurer
- St. Lawrence University: Vice President of Finance and Treasurer
- Health Plus: Controller, Accounting and Financial Reporting
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Financial Managers
- Career Trend: Financial Managers
Jon Gjerde worked as a journalist in northern California where he covered topics ranging from city, county and tribal governments to alternative transportation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Davis.