Comptroller

Updated on April 11, 2024
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Comptroller Meaning

A comptroller is a top management official who looks after the financial aspects of government, profit-making, and non-profit organizations. The person in charge is responsible for various financial affairs, starting from keeping a watch on accounting professionals to monitoring the financial reporting procedures of an entity.

Comptroller Meaning

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A comptroller is different from a controller, who is only responsible for the costs of the final products of a business. Usually, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) acts as the comptroller of a corporate firm besides planning and managing the organization’s finances, including the related risks. In some corporate frameworks, they are separate professionals considered equivalent to the CFO.

Key Takeaways

  • Comptroller is a top management official found in a profit-oriented, non-profit, or government organization to look after the accounting and financial reporting of the concerned entity.
  • It is different from a controller, who is only accountable for the finances related to the final costing or pricing of the company’s final product.
  • Their types depend on where the individuals work – in a business, non-profit firm, or government.
  • These professionals should acquire either a Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Financial Analyst, or Certified Management Accountant degree.

What Does a Comptrollers Do?

A comptroller plays a vital role in taking care of the financial reportingFinancial ReportingFinancial reporting is a systematic process of recording and representing a company’s financial data. The reports reflect a firm’s financial health and performance in a given period. Management, investors, shareholders, financiers, government, and regulatory agencies rely on financial reports for decision-making.read more of any profit-making or non-profit-making entity. As a result, the concerned person checks all important financial documents before the final publication or presentation. Such important financial publications of a government or corporate organization include the balance sheetBalance SheetA balance sheet is one of the financial statements of a company that presents the shareholders' equity, liabilities, and assets of the company at a specific point in time. It is based on the accounting equation that states that the sum of the total liabilities and the owner's capital equals the total assets of the company.read more, income statements, cash flow statements, etc.

These professionals report to the CFO or the President or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). They become a single point of contact for the business owner or the government for all the financial matters, making the decision-making process easier. They conduct variance analysisVariance AnalysisVariance analysis is the process of identifying and analyzing the difference between the standard numbers that a company expects to accomplish and the actual numbers that they achieve, in order to help the firm analyze positive or negative consequences.read more to figure out ways to improve the entity’s financial performance.

These top financial executives are the final decision-makers in matters involving a huge outflow of money to ensure companies or the government remain prevented from heavy losses.

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Roles & Responsibilities

As a link to financial matters, the need to keep note of every accounting functionAccounting FunctionAccounting functions are financial systems that help in the bookkeeping of financial information in an organization, financial analysis, summary creation, reporting of transactions and act as the backbone for almost any business. Accounting as a system tries to identify, assess and record the transactions of financial nature in a very systematic approach.read more and economic activity for correctness and accuracy. Here is a list of roles and responsibilities they shoulder:

Comptroller Functions

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Qualifications & Skills

Besides having deep knowledge of financial techniques, accounting principlesAccounting PrinciplesAccounting principles are the set guidelines and rules issued by accounting standards like GAAP and IFRS for the companies to follow while recording and presenting the financial information in the books of accounts.read more, and commonly practiced business tactics, a comptroller also needs specific qualifications and degrees. Whether it is a comptroller in Texas or Maryland or in any other region of the United States, they either acquire a Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Financial Analyst or Certified Management Accountant degree.

In addition, they are free to opt for advanced certifications, including Certified Government Financial Manager or Certified Internal AuditorCertified Internal AuditorA certified internal auditor (CIA) is an accountant recognized as a certified internal auditor conferred by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) in internal audits after passing CIA exams and upon completing the required work experience.read more.

Types

Comptrollers can be classified into different groups based on where they function. They are either found in a profit-oriented company, a non-profit organization, or the government. In a business premise, they oversee the accounting and financial processes.

In a non-profit firm, these professionals ensure that donations and expenses are recorded well. On the other hand, as government professionals, they offer their financial insight into the financial functioning of an entity. In addition, their role might vary based on the nature and function of the government firm.

Examples

Let us consider the following examples to understand how these professionals work:

Example #1 – The Comptroller of the Currency

The office frames, charters, regulates, monitors, and supervises all the national banks in the United States. In addition, it keeps a watch on the branches and agencies of the foreign banks operating in the nation.

Example #2 – The Comptroller of Public Accounts

These professionals in Texas serve the citizens virtually. Their range of services extends from collecting taxes to estimating revenue, managing treasury, etc. In addition, it has the right to write checks and keep the books for major businesses in the state. The duties and responsibilities are specified in the Texas Tax Code and Texas Government Code’s Chapter 403.

Comptroller vs Controller

According to Cornell University, the word comptroller came into existence in the 1800s as a result of misspelling the word controller. However, as both the terms are prominently in use to date, the ones using them face confusion about their proper usage.

While the term comptroller refers to someone who looks after the overall financial aspect of an organization, the controller is the one who is accountable for the costs or expenses related to the final product that a company offers. Normally, the comptroller’s position is senior to that of a controller.

Moreover, there is one more major difference between controller and comptrollerDifference Between Controller And ComptrollerA controller is responsible for managing the organization's financial affairs like financial analysis, reporting and holds the position of the financial head in the private organization. In contrast, the comptroller performs the exact duties and simultaneously manages the financial affairs of the government organization.read more with respect to where the finance official works. The former is the term for the finance professional at a corporate firm, while the latter is how people address these high-rank executives in a government organization.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a comptroller?

These are individuals that work as top management professionals in a business, with the government, or in a non-profit organization. They are responsible for supervising the financial reporting procedures to help organizations maintain accuracy in the financial statements and other documents.

They need to acquire either a Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Financial Analyst, or Certified Management Accountant degree and may wish to obtain advanced certifications.

Are comptrollers elected?

They can either be elected or appointed with respect to the nation or state they wish to work. For example, the comptrollers of Maryland, New York, etc., are elected at regular intervals, while the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is an appointment-based position.

Who is the comptroller of currency?

The current acting comptroller of the currency is Michael J. The office frames, charters, regulates, monitors, and supervises all the national banks in the United States.

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