Based on the size of a company, the duties of its financial staff vary, usually among three key areas of responsibility: planning, management and auditing. Depending on your interest in crunching numbers and problem solving, a finance career offers multiple job opportunities. Understanding the various roles of financial staff members will help you determine if a career as a finance generalist at a small company or a job as a specialist at a larger business is right for you.
Corporate Financial Staff
Depending on where you work, you might need to be a Jill-of-all-trades or settle for being a small fish in a big pond. Small businesses often hire a bookkeeper to perform simple financial tasks such as paying bills, depositing payments and keeping the company books. As businesses grow, they require more complex accounting procedures, adding more highly trained and specialized staff. At larger companies, you have the opportunity specialize as a staff budget planner or analyst, internal auditor, payroll specialist, risk manager or compliance officer.
If you like looking into the future and making projections and predictions, you might enjoy the planning side of financial work. Working with sales, human resources and production managers to gauge potential revenue and expenses, you'll help create annual budgets, cash-flow projections, debt-service management plans and spending targets. Financial staff calculate overhead and production costs to help set price levels and project credit needs. Risk assessments help protect a company’s assets, while tax planning strategies help businesses reduce their income tax liability.
Corporate financial staff members handle the day-to-day accounting duties of a business, such as paying bills, sending invoices, performing collections, keeping ledgers, performing bank statement reconciliations, managing purchasing processes, approving expense reimbursement requests, bidding contracts and reviewing proposals and aging receivables. You'll create and update financial reports such the company’s balance sheet, cash-flow and profit-and-loss statements, accounts receivable and payable reports and any public documents required of a publicly traded company. In addition, you'll make sure your company pays its sales, payroll and income taxes on time.
If you find detective work and problem solving enjoyable, financial auditing might interest you more than basic bookkeeping and accounting. In this role, you'll regularly review the financial performance of your company to ensure accuracy, prevent fraud, monitor legal compliance and find ways to improve performance. For example, you might review production costs each month, looking to see if the expense of making your product is increasing or decreasing. You might review overhead expenses, which are non-production costs such as rent, phones, salaries and insurance, to monitor their impacts on profitability. Budget variance analyses help you see if the company is performing as budgeted or if you need to make changes due to swings in sales levels, production or overhead costs or cash flow.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.