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Controller v. CFO.. What’s the Difference?



Let’s face it; when you started your small business your first thought was not to dive into the jargon of the accounting world. As your business grows you may find yourself scratching your head asking yourself “aren’t all accountants the same?” We’re here to help define the lines.

A CFO has duties similar to its controller, but the overall responsibility is different. The CFO is responsible for the overall financial health of a company, while a comptroller or controller focuses on more specific aspects of financial management.


A controller is a tactical position responsible for compliance and reporting, whereas a CFO is a strategic leader responsible for all financial tasks including forecasting, planning and analysis. Controllers often do not make good CFOs, as they lack the out-of-the-box thinking required to innovate financial strategy; whereas CFOs often lack the discipline and rigor required to be a good controller.


A controller prepares financial reports like income statements and balance sheets. They also monitor internal controls, handle compliance audits, assist with budgeting and, to a certain degree, analyze financial information. Some controllers might evaluate and choose the technology to be used in the company’s financial departments.

CFOs tend to be involved in higher-level financial strategies and planning. A CFO will track the company’s growth and capital, provide an analysis of where the business is strong or weak, and develop a plan of action for improvements. While the controller is more typically focused on accurate financial reporting, the CFO is a financial planner.

The difference between controller and CFO duties, in some organizations, may not be well-defined and there may be some overlap.


If you have questions about Controller or CFO Services or the bookkeeping has become too much for you to manage on your own, contact Check & Balance today by scheduling a free consultation! We’ll be happy to ensure your records are always accurate.



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