It might be a bold prediction, but we’ll put it out there. The Controller is going to be the hottest job in the coming decade. Every single skill developed in the past two years in response to the pandemic, financial and labor crises have honed existing and new skills to work with in your current or future roles. Now companies of all types and sizes seek the battle-tested new breed of Controller and their corporate finance counterparts.
From great resignations to modern outlooks, it’s important to understand just how valuable companies are considering their Controllers and plan your next decade accordingly.
The Shortage is Real: Qualified Finance Professionals in Demand
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics expecting 7% growth in accounting jobs between 2020 and 2030, the shortage may not sound too bad. After all, it’s only an “average” increase in jobs to add in the decade—nowhere near as fast as 15%+ gains in data science, technology, or financial examiners.
But if you’ve ever tried to hire an entry-level accountant—let alone a skilled one, you already know that it’s not exactly an easy proposal.
Our recent blog about the shortage of accountants and CPAs, identified some of the causes of the shortages including a mass exodus via retirement, fear over automation, a decade of declines in students taking the CPA exam, and accounting as an “un-sexy brand”.
The law of supply and demand supports that accountants and CPAs will witness increased demand and improved compensation. Both scenarios should bring attention to the accounting profession, and the executives that manage corporate accounting, Controllers.
The Pandemic Changed It All
Controllers and accounting professionals were already in demand before the pandemic. But 2020 and 2021 hit and things… changed. Early 2020 brought a recession and rise of remote work. Mid-2020 challenged accountants to do more with less. Then along with all the pandemic-driven change came business failures in many sectors (growth in other sectors), record inflation, and a supply chain crisis. In 2021 the “extended pandemic” became the new norm, and 2022 is about to be the year that everything comes to roost.
The Great Resignation
Businesses and organizations of all types have experienced a rapid increase in turnover in the past year. Though this seems to have been a longstanding problem for those in the accounting community according to Accounting Today, 2021 kicked the trend into overdrive.
Per Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, some 41% of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, and 49% plan to make a major career change.
As experts in the accounting profession point out, this isn’t a simple issue, it’s an exodus of professionals that represents something else entirely.
The Diversifying Role of the Controller
Controllers have continued to see their roles change in the past decade. No longer is the Controller the chief number cruncher, he or she is expected to do even more than ever. As we identified in our 2020 Contemporary Controller: Changing Roles Study, and our 2021 Digital Controller/CFO Study, the responsibilities of Controllers, CFOs and related titles are evolving rapidly, with these finance professionals trying to balance the roles of steward, technologist, and project manager.
Not only does this require Controllers to take on new and unexpected responsibilities, it provides the opportunity to round out their resumes when the time comes.
The Increased Challenges of Operating in the Unknown
The past few years have been quite foggy for finance professionals. Budgeting was once a somewhat simple proposal. Use the past few years, go through the annual challenges of setting increases, and forge ahead with some confidence. 2020 flipped the script.
Then 2021 came. Not only were controllers trying to operate with limited historical data, there was not much consistency in planning—no one knew when the next lockdown or regulation was coming. Many Controllers and CFOs report weekly or even daily budgeting and forecasting vs. pre-pandemic monthly frequencies.
Three New Ways Controllers Have Driven Change
It’s clear now that the with seismic change of the past couple of years comes added responsibilities which should results in greater financial opportunities. Intuitively, there should be a corollary increase in demand for Controllers and CFOs who have adapted to the new normal and the broadened responsibilities.
Per the aforementioned Contemporary Controller and Digital Controller/CFO studies, corporate finance executives now have the opportunity to show off their crisis management, technology, and digital transformation chops en route to expanded roles or new opportunities. Following are just some of the skills companies want to see:
Technology Implementation and Management
The Digital Controller/CFO is now a reality. Once a task set aside to IT, more and more finance leaders see technology as an important part of the bottom line—and see successful implementation under their prerogative.
Though AI might not be in the mainstream just yet, automation is. With accounting/CPA shortages, finding professionals has been hard, and automation has solved many problems for companies in need. Controllers have likely seen a need to manage projects that can save time and money—and this will only increase in the future.
Controllers in charge of technology decisions aren’t just focusing on the finance back office— they’re working across the organization to lead the company. In fact, according to our Digital Controller study, nearly half of respondents are leading or supervising digital transformation initiatives beyond their own department.
Join the Controllers Council
Controllers Council is a national community and platform of Controllers, Accounting and corporate Finance professionals focused on career development, information and resources, recognition and networking. Both individual and corporate memberships are available. Membership has many features and benefits to propel your career and expertise, and to be an active participant in our exciting community. Questions? Contact Controllers Council via email or call Neil Brown, Executive Director at 312-869-2180. Click here to join.