What does a Group Financial Controller (GFC) do?
A Group Financial Controller is an essential part of any Group finance team, taking responsibility and ownership for the implementation of appropriate policies, procedures and processes to ensure an effective control environment; providing key strategic information to the leadership to inform decision making and drive business performance.
A Group Financial Controller will also ensure strong accounting and reporting are in place throughout the group.
Often (but not always) the ideal candidate will be somebody with an ACA qualification and experience of working within a listed environment or a head office finance function.
Proven experience in managing and developing teams as well as in working alongside external stakeholders, including auditors, lenders and business owners or private equity investors is often required.
Core Role and Responsibilities
Ownership and development of a group finance function, including group reporting, management reporting, tax and treasury and in some instances also FP&A;
Internal reporting, including consolidated monthly management accounts, and ad hoc reporting to business with the ability to refresh and develop reporting to ensure it remains insightful and fit for purpose;
External reporting, including drafting of board packs and management of reporting to lenders, investors and other key external stakeholders;
Day-to-day relationships with lenders and funders, including covenant compliance and robust cash forecasting;
Management of external audit and development and documentation of strong internal controls framework to support rapid future growth;
Maintenance of up-to-date technical knowledge of IFRS within the team – ownership of group and subsidiary accounting policies;
Ownership of statutory accounts and tax filings in the UK and overseas; and
Treasury management, including multi-currency FX and hedging strategies.
Are there any similar roles to a Group Financial Controller?
The most similar role to a Group Financial Controller would be a Group Finance Manager (often the step before a GFC role) or a Financial Controller in a larger business without a Group dynamic.
How do I become a Group Financial Controller?
Most but not all Group Financial Controllers tend to start their careers within accountancy practices. In the case of listed PLCs, most Group Financial Controllers will come from a Big 4 Accountancy firm background earlier in their career as the audit clients that they will have worked with whilst completing their ACA/ACCA training will typically be those PLC and complex larger private businesses that require a Group Financial Controller and therefore a level of understanding of this type of business is pre-existing.
A classic route would being trained at a Big 4 Accountancy firm then moving onto a Financial Accountant/Group Accountant/Financial Reporting role within industry before advancing to a Senior Financial Accountant/Finance Manager/Group Finance Manager position to gain further senior experience. After a number of years you could then move up to a Divisional Financial Controller or Group Financial Controller position.
Having trained in an Accountancy firm, it is possible to transition straight into a Group Financial Controller role in industry, however it is unlikely to happen this way unless you are moving at a senior level, say Senior Manager or Associate Director/Director from the Audit discipline.
It is also possible to progress to a Group Financial Controller role from a CIMA or ACCA trained industry background, once qualified, again taking the Financial Accountant/Group Accountant/Financial Reporting role within industry, Senior Financial Accountant/Finance Manager/Group Finance Manager, Divisional Financial Controller, Group Financial Controller route.
The attributes that most employers look for in a GFC are:
Exceptional levels of technical accounting knowledge coupled with the desire and ability to be the ‘subject matter expert’;
Ability to be the ‘right hand’ person to the Finance Director/CFO;
Understanding of larger and complex business structures and groups;
A proven track record in group structures;
Experience of leading and developing teams; and
The ability to manage external stakeholders.