Career Advice Columnists

Eyes on the whole board

As a risk consultant and mergers and acquisitions adviser, Rupert Purser is used to private equity firms asking him to supply information about senior management personnel, such as chief executive officers and chief financial officers, in target companies. 

But now, says the head of business consulting and risk for Asia, Middle East and Africa at construction management company Hill International, potential investors are demanding to see a list of the target company’s financial controllers and their background. 

“They supply the data up to the CFO,” says Purser, a Hong Kong Institute of CPAs member, explaining that financial controllers have assumed a much higher profile role in recent years. 

The rising prominence is also driven by the ever-changing and more sophisticated accounting and financial reporting standards, according to Dickson Tsang, CFO of Hong Kong-listed China Financial Leasing Group. “My feeling is the role of financial controller is getting more demanding,” says Tsang, an Institute member. “Especially at smaller-scale listed companies, a financial controller is no longer expected to merely handle accounting issues. They have to be an all-rounder.” 

Those all-round skills include in-depth knowledge of a company’s operations, human resources, sales and marketing departments. “They need to understand what makes people tick and be good communicators about what data they need from a financial perspective, and be able to deal with a crisis,” says Purser. 

Financial controllers have long been regarded as the first line in accounting management. Traditionally, the role was process-driven and governed by routines, such as month-end and statutory reporting. However, a recent report by Robert Walters, a recruitment company, suggests that as the role has grown more challenging and interesting, it has become a more popular goal for accountants.

The Institute is doing its part to help ensure that more members have the all-round skills required. Financial controllership will be the subject of a new Institute course, to be rolled out in 2014.


Source: : HKICPA's APlus Magazine – October 2013