Differences Between Treasurer and Controller: a Detailed Comparison

By: Henrique Bertulino

9 min



Differences Between Treasurer and Controller: a Detailed Comparison

Quite often, in corporate work, the functions of the treasurer and the financial controller are identified. In contrast, treasurer and controller positions are distinguished only in large organizations with a complex management structure and a large volume of financial activities.

Often, small business companies do not have the positions of controller and corporate treasurer. Their duties are performed by the chief accountant or CFO. However, in the classical understanding of financial management standards, the functions of the treasurer and the controller are separated. Each has a different role and area of responsibility. They will be considered in the article, along with the required qualifications and specific examples.

What Are the Treasurer’s Tasks?

A modern treasurer is a specialist who interacts with financial risk management. Also, they are involved in controlling the liquidity of an organization and tracking its payments. At the same time, a treasurer doesn’t interact with real company funds — the work is carried out with financial data securities.

Interestingly,  the post of treasurer is also available at the federal level. The country’s chief financial officer is responsible for tracking budget expenditures and issuing payments based on statutory regulations.

Salary level: above average. For 2020, the average specialist salary was $215,000 per year. Earnings level ranged from $175,000 to $266,000 per year, depending on the company’s size and the country of location.

Duties and Responsibilities

Top-level treasurers should:

  • Do the financial analysis and manage all cash flows of the company;
  • Control the financing of projects and track potential investors' offers; 
  • Manage bank accounts;
  • Monitor all payments;
  • Do the financial reporting on cash flow and accounts receivable and payable;
  • Form a loan portfolio;
  • Reconcile credit companies’ accounts;
  • Develop measures to protect the business from financial risks, including currency fluctuations.

In general, the spectrum of responsibility of a modern treasurer goes far beyond the limits of the "coin master" or the finance manager.

In fact, if you seek to join the ranks of corporate treasurers, then be prepared for a high degree of responsibility - money is the blood of all business activities. The role of the treasury is to maintain the functioning of this circulatory system to get enough energy not only for survival but also for development. Also, this specialist strives to raise equity capital.

Required Qualifications

The financial duties described above require certain skills from the employee in the position of treasurer. Whether it is a CFO, a financial manager, or another specialist, it is important to:

  • Have leadership qualities;
  • Be punctual;
  • Deal quickly and efficiently with financial matters;
  • Be able to conduct and document auditing work;
  • Maintain cash management.

Previously, these specialists may have simply been tracking financial statements, but now the treasurer should be much more advanced in macroeconomics. Also, this position involves constant cooperation with the CFO, vice president of the company, and other key analysts.

In general, becoming a treasurer or a CPA (certified public accountant — a treasurer in non-profit organizations) requires a specific training course of at least 150 hours and a four-part exam. Only then can the specialist submit requests to the company and have a chance of getting their desired financial position.

Who Is a Controller?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a financial controller is a specialist who closely maintains bookkeeping by all of the transactions conducted by a corporation. Interestingly, in large companies, the scope of a specialist's duties is rather narrow (much narrower than treasurer’s). On the contrary, the smaller the company, the more the job description includes.

Salary level: above average. According to statistics for the previous year, the salary of a specialist ranges from $120,000 to $130,000 per year. However, the level of earnings is different, as evidenced by the Fortune 500 statistics. According to their data, a large percentage of controllers make more than $200,000 a year.

Duties and Responsibilities

When comparing treasurer vs. controller, it is important to describe the range of tasks for each specialist. If an employee joins the controllership sector, then the main duties are:

  • Overseeing all staff involved in the budgeting and accounting process, including accounts receivable and payable, payroll, and regulators’ compliance;
  • Controlling the accounting of subsidiaries;
  • Checking the preparation of financial reports;
  • Cost accounting through disbursements, purchase of goods, etc.

Sometimes a controller is identified with a tax manager if the specialist mainly deals with tax returns and risks following the local legislation. Additionally, the responsibilities of the controller include forecasting and strategic planning. The decision-making process regarding outside sources plays a huge role in the work of any enterprise. As a rule, the controllers’ sector includes several specialists at once (analysts, financial managers, and accountants) who could correctly extrapolate all incoming data.

It is essential that the main controller is not always required to perform the listed duties on his own. However, it is his responsibility to check the quality of the execution of these tasks by subordinates.

Required Qualifications

Only a totally qualified specialist with sufficiently large work experience can be admitted to financial reports. However, it is theoretically possible to become a controller even without a master's degree. But the keyword "theoretically" is very significant — at the moment, large and medium-sized corporations still prefer narrowly focused specialists with at least 5-7 years of experience after college or university.

According to the statistics of labor companies, the greatest competitiveness is made by specialists who have come a long way:

  1. College with a specialization in accounting, financial statistics, or financial management;
  2. University with a similar specialty — a bachelor's degree, and then a master's degree is desirable;
  3. Successful passing of the CPA exam.

It's also worth talking about the skills that are required for the controller. As a rule, the most valuable professional characteristics are considering:

  • Possessing leadership qualities for fast and appropriate delegation of authority;
  • Self-organization and perfect time management;
  • An analytic mind;
  • The ability to select an appropriate approach to diverse tasks.

Thus, it is impossible to become a great controller in a prestigious company immediately after graduation. It is required to get an education in college and preferably at the university, as well as to constantly attend refresher courses to acquire new knowledge and skills.

Unfortunately, speaking of treasurer vs. controller, it's worth noting that getting both positions requires a consistent climb up the corporate ladder. Typically, workers start in small positions, doing minor accounting or sector auditing. Upon successful completion of tasks and the availability of potential, the specialist gets a promotion, reaching the desired position.

Controller and Treasurer Differences Examples

A clear division of employee responsibilities into controllers and treasurers is the prerogative of the American financial accounting structure. For example, India has a different work scheme, where the responsibilities and tasks of these professionals are combined to varying degrees.

In order to consider this difference as concretely as possible, we will give several cases:

  1. Example. According to the American system, financial management is the direct task of the treasurer. However, in India, this position is not very popular, so most often, this responsibility lies with the business secretary. Insurance coverage and contact with potential investors are also more often placed under the responsibility of the business secretary rather than the treasurer.
  2. Example. As you browse through an average Indian company’s positions, you are unlikely to find a clearly listed "financial controller" position. Most often, their functions are performed by the chief financial manager. Indians believe that this job title more fully reflects the tasks of a specialist, covering a huge list of problems.

Thus, it can be understood that the classic American system of powers’ separation among financial sector specialists provides a very clear description of the work of the controller and treasurer. But if you compare it with the Indian one, then you can find the following differences:

  • The position of the treasurer is rare, and most of his powers are shifted to other specialists;
  • The position of the financial controller is often considered to be an addition to the job of the chief financial manager;
  • The controller is not involved in control in the literal sense; the Indian specialist instead receives and interprets some information for the planning.

On the one hand, it is convenient and allows the CFO not to waste time looking for a mass of highly specialized workers. On the other hand, it violates the ideal control over the financial sector.


From these facts, one may conclude that treasury and controllership are very important for external and internal control over the corporation's financial condition. Of course, these positions' functions can be adjusted or combined depending on the company's size. If the organization works not according to the American accounting system but according to the Indian one, then the approach to the powers of specialists will be even more different.

Despite a lot of effort and long career growth, positions will allow you to earn above average. As a rule, the income level of treasurers is slightly higher than that of controllers. However, if the corporation is large enough and international, specialists’ annual salary will consist of six figures (from $ 12,000 to $ 266,000 per year).

To obtain a position in a prestigious company, it is desirable for you to have a bachelor's degree, or better yet, a master's degree — this will significantly increase your competitiveness. It is important to take into account that the management sector wants not only a technically good specialist but also a communicative one for cross-functional control. As a rule, treasurers and controllers affect the work of different departments — so, be sure to focus on your soft skills (leadership and personnel management), not only technical.

In general, this is all necessary to know about the treasurer and controller positions and their distinctions in different countries’ systems. Good luck with your career!

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Henrique Bertulino

Head of Customer Success

I'm a medical doctor and brand manager. The process of getting into Med school and studying at it made me learn and apply many strategies to keep my productivity high while spending less time and effort. As a working student, I had to figure out how to study smarter, not harder. During this period, my interest in neurology and psychiatry, as well as my aspiration to help others, intensified. At Studybay, I use my knowledge, skills, and experience to develop helpful solutions for students and make their study paths more productive and fun.

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