Director of Finance or Finance Controller: Which Is Best For You to Hire?


When companies are looking to grow their operations, they can reach a size where it becomes impractical to rely on a single bookkeeper or accountant. This is often when a more advanced manager is sought in the form of a finance controller or a director of finance. The two roles serve different purposes within a company, and it is important to understand how they differ from one another in order to make sure you are hiring the best type of employee for your company’s needs.

What Is a Finance Controller?

A finance controller is a manager who oversees your company’s accounting operations. This involves everything from creating budgets, generating financial reports, tracking and reporting accounting operational controls, managing accounts payable/billing, and more. One of the more crucial roles a finance controller fills is that they ensure your accounting system complies with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which are important for establishing trust and maintaining consistent financial statements. Finance controllers are also involved in various internal controls and will help design, review, and audit different financial systems. In terms of strategic planning, finance controllers are often involved in creating risk management strategies.

What Is a Director of Finance?

A director of finance is similar to a finance controller in the sense that they will oversee other accountants and clerking staff, and they can be called on to issue various financial statements, audit reports, and ensure tax compliance. Where the roles diverge is when the director of finance begins interacting with other departments. A director of finance is a type of executive role that is sometimes described as more “forward-focused.” This refers to how a director is often relied upon to develop initiatives and financial plans, participate in strategy discussions with other elements of the company, engage in more financial analyses and projections, and take an active role in investor relations. Directors of finance are also more involved in contract negotiations for business deals and will report to the board of directors if you have one.

Director of finance or finance controller

Which Is Best For You?

Whether your company will benefit more from a finance controller or a director of finance tends to be a matter of scale. Small- to mid-sized companies do not necessarily need a director of finance since their operations are more limited and financial matters are more straightforward. As operations grow and your business dealings expand in turn, the need will develop for a financial executive to become more involved in company affairs and offer aid in forging directions.

This is an unfortunately vague description since there is no hard and fast threshold a company will pass when it absolutely needs a director of finance or finance controller. While some indicators—like a push to begin offering stock or the development of a board of directors—strongly suggest a finance director will be necessary, anything before this can be a much greyer area.

It may help think about the matter in terms of what you are actually looking for. If you want someone to coordinate a group of accountants and clerks and be a manager who can be trusted to keep your finances running smoothly, a finance controller will suit your needs perfectly. If you are seeking someone to take a more active role in developing your company’s direction, perform high-level financial analyses and forecasts, establish treasury financing, and work on capital budgeting instead, a director of finance will be what you are looking for.

Resolve Recruit is one of the leading employment agencies in the Mississauga, Brampton, and Toronto areas, with over 20 years of experience recruiting in the financial industry. We match skilled workers with employers across a variety of industries with an emphasis on bilingual talent. Contact our team of expert recruiters to discuss your finance recruitment needs by emailing us at or calling
(905) 568-8500