Task list of a controller – part 1

Given the huge interest in the topic, I will be spending some more time fleshing out the details of the controller role.

Month end is the peak period for any controller. Most people in a company have a vague idea of what he is working on, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to make a small overview of what a typical task list of a business controller might look like.

Let me make it clear I am focusing on the repetitive tasks only, any ad-hoc assignments will come on top of this.

Let’s start with the normal month end activities, commonly referred to as ‘closing the month’.

Trial balance: from the accounting system, a monthly trial balance will be generated at the end of each accounting period. Typically, the controller will go through the trial balance and perform the following checks on the P&L:

  • revenue: has all revenue been recognised, did everything get invoiced as planned
  • depreciation: is it booked and is the amount in line with prior months
  • accrue costs when not all invoices have been received. From operational departments, eg shipping, you should get an idea what they have been purchasing the last days of the month and that will serve as a basis to accrue unreceived invoices.
  • payroll: are all social charges booked in accordance with the information from the HR department
  • Tax: make a preliminary calculation of the tax amount and post an accrual
  • Exchange rate: if the rate of your international operations changes significantly, and it has a negative effect on your bottom line, you should recognise that asap in the the books.
  • Deferrals: sometimes invoices have been booked which pertain to more than 1 period. Their cost needs to be ‘spread out’ over several months. Then a part of the invoice will be deferred to next month.

Some check on the Balance Sheet need to happen as well, the most basic being:

  • Accounts Receivables: A business controller will need to go through the list of open invoices (Account Receivable) and determine the ‘quality’ of it. If any of the outstanding claims become doubtful, it’s the controller’s responsibility to book it to bad debt. See also an additional post I wrote on managing net working capital.
  • Stock: at closing of the month, the amount mentioned in the books needs to be a realistic reflection of what the company has in its possession. Just like with A/R, any superfluous, outdated or damaged items need to be taken to the cost line.
  • Investment and fixed assets: during the month, even fixed assets can change. New investments may have been made – was the business case approved and properly recorded? If an asset was taken out of business, was scrapped or sold – have procedures been followed to take it out of the books?

More to follow in my next post… and as usual feel free to post comments!


About curiousmanager

In life there are generalists and specialists. Although your job pushes you down towards a certain specialization, I feel it's important to keep your eyes and mind open for new stimuli. And I want to share my journey through arts, literature and sciences with other knowledge workers and managers. You don't have time to read. Let me do that for you and present only the best of the best in my blog!
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3 Responses to Task list of a controller – part 1

  1. Pingback: The difference between a Business Controller and a Financial Controller (and their typical job description) | The Curious Manager

  2. Metrina says:

    Hi Curiousmanager,

    Thank you very very much for these helpful posts. I myself am a business-major student and find your posts very helpful in the sens that they tell me things beyond what I could learn from class.

    Could you please also explain the treasury function in the corporate? How do financial controlling, audit, accounting and treasurers interact with each other? As I’ve read more and more on these functions, I get a bit confused. Your insights would be much appreciated!

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Metrina,
      interesting questions, I might write something on how these corporate officers interact. As to the function of the treasurer: she focuses on cash management: how much is coming in and going out, the timing of it etc. In some companies this is very actively managed and great efforts are done to optimise the returns of any temporary cash surplus. Yet in other companies this is a very passive or non-existent function that is covered by the controller himself.

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