Financial Controller and Finance Director: What’s the Difference?

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 22 Dec 2022


Sitting at the top of the finance and accountancy career ladder, both a Finance Director (FD) and Finance Controller (FC) hold a great deal of responsibility.

Financial Controller jobs and Finance Director jobs contain a lot of overlap, requiring similar skills, such as leadership and team management skills, the ability to make sound commercial decisions and an outstanding technical accounting ability.

This article will guide you through the differences between Finance Director and Financial Controller roles, advising you on job responsibilities, salaries and the art of scoring a promotion.

  • Finance Director vs Financial Controller:

    To put it simply, a Financial Controller is responsible for reporting financial performance, allowing the Finance Director to act on the results, strategically supporting the business.

    A Finance Director, positioned at the head of the finance team, is tasked with providing conclusive financial information to the board. To function profitably, the Finance Director must detail how much money the business has to spend, how they are performing and what they must do to generate revenue. Holding overall responsibility for the direct or indirect management of the finance and accounting function, conducting an influential position that affords exposure to key business figures.

    As a senior position, Finance Controllers look after a company’s finances, make influential decisions on behalf of the business, and hold responsibility for mentoring and managing the finance team. An attractive role due to the high earning potential and demand, a Finance Controller role is often the goal for many accountants and finance professionals.

  • Job Responsibilities:

    The Financial Controller is accountable for the finances of a business and the development of the finance team. Their duties will often overlap with that of a Finance Director, regarding risk management strategy, project cash flow and the reviewing of policies and procedures. Their day-to-day varies greatly, however, the duties will usually include:

    • Generating budgets
    • Observing performance against budgets
    • Managing audits and liaising with external auditors
    • Drafting monthly management accounts
    • Conducting short and long-term forecasts
    • P&L calculations and costs analysis
    • Preparing periodic and ad hoc financial and KPI reports
    • Supervising tax, payroll, bank reconciliations, purchase and sales ledgers
    • Assessing processes/systems, recognising issues and applying improvements
    • Communicating financial concepts to non-finance colleagues and managers
    • Communicating financial concepts to non-finance colleagues and managers
    • Recruiting, training, and mentoring the finance team


    Utilising the findings of the Financial Controller and finance team, the day-to-day duties of a Finance Director would include:

    • Overseeing meetings with department leaders to establish, review and adhere to budgets
    • Assessing cash flow, business activity and performance, suggesting changes or improvements
    • Providing a financial and commercial opinion on the validity of ideas for new products, projects or services, and challenging or disputing those without a sound financial foundation
    • Evaluating risk and reward potential of mergers & acquisitions and other growth strategies
    • Certifying that all financial activity, processes and practices are in line with regulations and the law
    • Interpreting complex data and communicating it in a way that can be understood by non-finance colleagues
    • Managing the preparation of reporting for the board
    • Devising, maintaining and promoting policies and internal audits to minimise risk and ensure compliance


  • Salaries

    Finance Controller:

    According to data gathered in our annual salary survey, assessing the results of over 1,400 accountancy and finance professionals, the average Financial Controller salary stands at £70,790 per annum. Salaries for Financial Controllers vary across the UK, with those in London earning £79,557 on average, compared to those in Wales earning £45,000 on average. Naturally, salaries adhere to other factors, such as company size, tenure and experience level.

    Finance Director:

    Stepping up to a Finance Director role could see you earning up to £104,422 per annum. A 10% increase on 2021 statistics, Finance Director’s have re-established their position as six-figure earners. Influenced by the same factors that affect Financial Controller roles, salaries are malleable to location, company size and tenure.

  • How to Gain the Experience Needed for a Finance Director Role:

    Being promoted to a Finance Director position will require you to have a wealth of experience and the right qualifications for the role.

    Your main focus should be on acquiring the skills tailored specifically to a Finance Director, namely business strategy, implementation and value creation. When seeking an individual for a senior management position, recruitment professionals will look for a candidate with operational experience, as well as strong communication skills.

    With Chief Operating Officer roles disappearing from most companies, Chief Finacial Officers and Finance Directors are now taking on additional responsibilities when it comes to operations. Financial controllers with demonstrable experience will have a natural edge during the recruitment process, due to their expansive knowledge of other functions such as sales, logistics and treasury.

    Your position for promotion will be boosted further if you can demonstrate strong management and communication skills. Addressing investor meetings, communicating with stakeholders and pitching the board requires an excellent art of communication and persuasion.

    Finally, a Finance Director role requires you to see beyond the numbers and accountancy of a business. You will need the ability to build rapport with colleagues, gain respect, and secure trust. Nurturing relationships within your team must also extend to relationships with stakeholders, and other external parties.