An Introduction To: Financial Controllers

Having worked in finance for over 15 years, I thought being an accountant would be the same regardless of where you were employed or what industry you worked in - the fundamental accounting principles apply everywhere, right?

Spoiler: the short answer is ‘wrong’.

Moving from industry to industry and having worked for both large PLCs (publicly listed companies) and SMEs (small & medium-sized enterprises) has proven that I could not have been more wrong; there is so much more to being an accountant than I first realised!

Finance at Fast Web Media

At Fast Web Media, there is only a small finance team. What this basically means is you have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into the nitty gritty; one minute you might be talking to the auditors about the year end statutory accounts in technical language full of jargon, the next you might be reconciling the bank account and pulling your hair out at the penny difference you just can’t find and then you might be sat in a commercial meeting discussing a new client.

Finance really isn’t just sitting staring at numbers, and the diversity of the role and reward it brings means that I never go home feeling like the day has dragged.

Finance folk tend to be very wary of new digital technology - and can you blame us? Mainstream media reporting on finance and market regulations often report on stories where technology has failed in finance. Information security is the mantra for a finance controller, so new software tools and the cloud brings with it new issues around this security.

Working at Fast Web Media, where digital is at the heart of what it does and stands for, has meant as a finance function we have to embrace these new technologies. This has been a whole new learning curve to research to ensure the function supports the business needs, and learning the ins and outs of each technology has been imperative to ensure security and safety for the business.

The finance function of any company is one of the most important departments of the business. As a financial controller, I work closely with the commercial aspects of the business but fundamentally I look after everything financial and run the finance department.

The main functions can be split into four main categories:

1. Capital Management

For a service company like Fast Web Media, where we don’t hold any stock, it is essentially looking after the cash; cash is King after all! Making sure we have enough cash to pay suppliers and staff is our priority, so raising invoices to clients promptly when work is complete and then chasing for the actual payment is a crucial function for running the business successfully - and keeping staff happy!

2. Reporting

Producing relevant monthly management reports designed to give timely information about clients, profitability, budgeting and variance analysis. This is key to providing visibility for senior staff members.

3. Compliance

This means ensuring the company is compliant with statutory principles and requirements. Basically do VAT returns each quarter, meet the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) deadlines for pay as you earn (PAYE) submissions, working with the external auditors to produce year end accounts to be filed with companies house and submitting tax returns on time - seriously, this is important!

4. Adhoc

This may mean researching new offices, potential new clients, being part of the leadership team, creating service level agreements, client commercial agreements, supplier terms and conditions, employment contracts or researching new software tools to support the business.

Skills Required

One of the biggest skills you need when working in finance is communication. Communication is key. You need to be able to communicate at all levels of an organisation both internally and externally. You need to understand the business, not just from a what-they-do perspective, but also the dynamics and the culture of the organisation and then you need to apply the accounting principles, processes and policies to ensure the best information is being supplied and the accounts are as accurate as possible.

Conclusion

I have had to improve my own understanding of what constitutes digital so that I can understand the business and add value to the conversations and meetings I am involved in. I have learned that you should never be too shy or embarrassed to ask a question, I am lucky to be surrounded by a great team of experts who are all fantastic at explaining terminology used and who try very hard to not over-complicate matters and most importantly never laugh at my stupid questions!

Are you a finance professional working in the digital world? Or about to start your journey? Tweet us your experiences @FastWebMedia

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