Insights & Ideas

Taking control: The rise of controllers in mid-sized organizations

Loralee Wick is Salo’s senior managing director of finance and accounting. She knows about controllers firsthand—early in her career, she was one! Today, Loralee manages Salo’s biggest division—helping our finance team bring finance and accounting clients and consultants together.

Think the controller role isn’t exciting? Think again. In organizations nationwide, a quiet renaissance has been underway for almost a decade. The controller—formerly known only as the ruler of reporting, the foreman of financials, or the captain of closing the books—is becoming a major strategic player.

In fact, controllers are some of today’s most sought-after finance professionals—especially at mid-sized businesses (between $10 million-1 billion) where CFOs often rely on the controller as a crucial collaborator.

So, how’d this happen?

Wondering how the controller got to be such a hot ticket? Here are three key reasons:

  • Automation changed the game: Not long ago, controllers were responsible for a variety of important—but repeatable—tasks. Today, most of those rote tasks can be automated, giving controllers more time for higher-value activities.
  • The CFO’s role changed, too: CFOs used to be more like CPAs. Today, they’re an integral part of the leadership team, with influence throughout the organization. As a result, controllers are taking on some of the work CFOs used to do, like budgeting, forecasting, and analysis to inform major corporate decisions.
  • Growth of M&A and private equity activities: After a brief pause during COVID, mergers and acquisitions are back on the rise. In addition, the private equity market has been hot for years and it’s predicted to stay that way. In both cases, skilled controllers are critical assets—doing due diligence, integrating financial systems, optimizing efficiency and expenses, and more.

Who are today’s controllers?

Controllers may (literally) have the skills to pay the bills, but these days a controller needs a lot of other skills, too. To support the business, controllers need to be:

  • Savvy tech managers who know how to use financial systems to automate up to 80% of the finance function.
  • Expert data analysts who canget their hands on relevant (and validated) data with speed and accuracy.
  • Good decision-makers with the ability to make time-sensitive strategic decisions that impact the top and bottom line.
  • Cross-functional partners who can collaborate with colleagues throughout the organization—from the c-suite to leaders in various business functions.
  • Innovative team builders who attract employees with business/technology acumen and help existing finance employees evolve their skillsets.

Controllers: Looking forward (and looking back)

Controllers used to spend most of their time looking backward—reporting on what happened in the past. While they still manage reporting today, they also spend a lot of time looking forward, too. With their expanded skillsets, they’ve become visible business partners strategically helping their organizations grow and succeed.

Need help with the controller function? Salo can help.

We have experienced controller consultants who can help your business move forward. From assessing your accounting function and improving processes to managing technology implementations and making strategic finance hires—our consultants bring a wealth of best practices and past experiences. Contact Salo to learn more!

Loralee Wick

Senior managing director, finance