What’s the difference between a Finance Manager and Financial Controller?

By Robert Half on 17 April 2023
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

When it comes to hiring a finance professional for your business, understanding the different types of roles available is an essential first step to finding the right fit.

A common question asked by many employers in Hong Kong is: what is the difference between a Finance Manager and Financial Controller?

While elements of their roles may cross over, there is a distinct difference in the focus and scope of their work.

So, to help you uncover which finance professional your company needs, we have collated some key facts below.

What is a Finance Manager vs. Financial Controller?

As an important member of the finance team, the Finance Manager is responsible for overseeing the financial activities of the company, as well as budget planning, producing reports, developing business plans, liaising with external auditors and tax agents, and looking for ways to strengthen and improve current financial processes.

Depending on the size and structure of the company, financial controllers can perform some of the above tasks as well, including budget preparation and forecasting, working with auditors and external stakeholders, and identifying efficiencies and improvements in operations. However, their responsibilities extend to also ensuring compliance to applicable laws and regulations, overseeing accounting procedures and documentation, and working alongside the executive team to plan future projects.

What is driving demand for these roles in Hong Kong today?

While finance professionals are always in demand as an integral part of all mid-size and larger companies, the current need for experienced, qualified and capable Finance Managers and Financial Controllers is high.

This could be due to a range of factors related to the ongoing effects of the pandemic in Hong Kong which saw a mass exodus of finance talent, including the need for tighter financial controls and agility to thrive in these uncertain times.

A reduction in available local Hong Kong talent due to migration, and a lower number of non-resident talent as those from overseas have been impacted by border restrictions could also be a factor in driving up current demand.

Related: Looking for the next step up? Here is how to become a CFO in Hong Kong.

What is the key difference between a Finance Manager and Financial Controller?

As mentioned, while the two roles may at times overlap, the difference between a Finance Manager and Financial Controller in terms of their focus and scope is quite distinct.

Finance managers are the main drivers behind the operational side of the finances of the business, making sure that the daily financial activities of the company are running smoothly and are in line with longer term budgets and forecasting. They may oversee a team or work independently, and are a crucial member of the finance team, supporting management with reports and insights that guide them towards making sound decisions for the business.

Financial controllers may also do this in small to mid-sized business, while in larger organisations they will generally take on a more strategic role, that involves working closely with the executive team to map out future directions that will see the company meet its financial goals. Importantly, financial controllers are also responsible for monitoring compliance to relevant laws and regulations, as well as applicable company policies, which requires them to closely monitor for timely and accurate monthly and quarterly financial closing.

What should you look for when hiring a Finance Manager?

Any potential candidates for a Finance Manager role should hold ideally hold a degree qualification, alongside several years of experience in a Finance or Accounting role. Suitable tertiary qualifications include accountancy or finance, mathematics, economics, management and business studies.

In addition to the above, an ideal candidate would possess excellent business acumen, high-level communication skills, good organisational abilities, sound negotiation skills, attention to detail and an analytical mind.

What should you look for when hiring a Financial Controller?

When hiring a Financial Controller in Hong Kong, look for a candidate who is suitably qualified with a degree or professional qualification in accounting or similar, and with proven experience and a solid work background in a controllership role of five plus years.

Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are a must as well as a sound understanding of current technical accounting practices and compliance requirements.

How much do finance managers and financial controllers earn in Hong Kong?

A Finance Manager salary in Hong Kong may range between HKD$92,000 and SGD$122,000 in 2022. Financial controllers on the other hand can expect to earn between HKD$811,000 and HKD$956,000 in small and medium businesses and HKD$956,000 to HKD$2,028,000 in large companies in 2023.

For more information, access the Robert Half Hong Kong Salary Guide.

We can help you find the right fit

The difference between a Finance Manager and Financial Controller is subtle, yet quite distinct, meaning choosing the right role to match your needs is paramount.

At Robert Half, we have helped many businesses in Hong Kong find the ideal person to fill their Finance Manager or Financial Controller roles. To find out how we can help make the hiring process easy and connect you with the best candidates in Hong Kong so you can fill your role faster, get in touch with our team today.

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