The Structure and Functions of a Finance Team
Finance teams, no matter the sector or industry, play an integral role in running an organization: managing an organization's money.
The team manages a company's financial resources and ensures its financial activities are efficient, effective, and compliant with laws and regulations. They oversee financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, tax planning, and cash management.
In this article, we will look at the different types of roles in a finance team, each personnel's responsibilities, and how they play a critical role in the success and sustainability of a business.
Different Types of Roles in a Finance Team
Finance teams are made up of individuals focused on a specific responsibility. Each role is critical to the success of the finance team, and together they ensure that the company's finances are managed effectively and efficiently.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Finance teams are headed up by the chief financial officer (CFO), who oversees the team and takes overall responsibility for the organization's financial health.
A CFO's key responsibilities include overseeing the accounting and tax functions of the company. They also work closely with other executives and stakeholders to develop and implement strategies supporting the organization's goals.
Entry routes to becoming a CFO require extensive education and experience in finance and accounting. Many CFOs have a degree in finance or accounting. They are often qualified accountants holding relevant certifications such as Chartered Accountancy (CA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
Some CFA's may have worked in a finance team as a financial analyst before taking up the role of a CFO.
CFOs must possess strong leadership, communication, and strategic thinking skills. They must be able to communicate complex financial information to various audiences, from investors to employees, and make sound decisions that balance economic considerations with broader business goals.
The primary responsibility of the financial controller is to prepare the company's financial reports. This includes preparing and monitoring budgets, managing cash flow, overseeing accounts payable and receivable, ensuring accurate and timely financial reporting, and providing financial analysis and insights to senior management.
The financial controller is also responsible for developing and implementing financial policies and procedures and managing the company's relationships with external stakeholders. The role also extends to monitoring the finance team, carrying out internal audits, and ensuring that the finance function's internal controls are followed.
Financial controllers are professionally qualified, holding both a finance or accounting degree and a professional accounting qualification. Some financial controllers may be qualified as Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA).
Key skills needed to be a successful financial controller include strong analytical and problem-solving skills, attention to detail, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and a practical understanding of financial and accounting principles.
The primary responsibility of a financial analyst is to analyze a company's financial data to provide insights and recommendations to senior stakeholders. They are responsible for researching, creating financial models, and recommending investments, mergers, and acquisitions.
Entry routes for financial analysts include internships, analyst programs, and entry-level positions in banks, investment firms, or other financial institutions.
Those applying directly to financial analyst positions have a degree in finance, economics, accounting, or a related field. Many financial analysts also study for a professional qualification, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
Key skills needed for financial analysts include strong analytical abilities, proficiency in financial software and tools, and effective communication and presentation skills. They must also understand how financial markets operate, being aware of economic trends and regulatory frameworks.
Accountants perform a central role in a finance team, focusing on preparing a company's financial statements. This includes monitoring financial data and preparing the company's monthly, quarterly income statements and balance sheets. They also play a crucial role in liaising with external stakeholders such as external and internal auditors.
There are several entry routes to becoming an accountant, including obtaining a degree in accounting or a related field and completing a professional accounting qualification such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), CA, or CPA.
Entry-level positions are available in many organizations that enable individuals to gain experience in internships.
Medium and larger organizations also offer graduate or apprenticeship programs in accounting, allowing individuals to simultaneously work and study for their professional accounting qualifications.
Accounts Payable/Receivable Specialist
The accounts payable/receivable specialist is vital in helping maintain a company's financial health by ensuring that all bills and invoices are processed accurately and efficiently.
They provide administrative support in managing a company's financial transactions, specifically relating to the money owed by or owed to the company.
Key responsibilities include reconciling and processing invoices, monitoring accounts for discrepancies, keeping track of expenses, and ensuring all financial documentation is correctly updated, enabling the accurate preparation of financial reports.
Entry routes into this field include obtaining a degree in accounting, finance, or business and relevant certifications such as the Certified Accounts Payable Professional (CAPP) or Certified Receivables Specialist (CRS). Many companies also offer financial internships enabling individuals to get experience in this field.
Strong attention to detail, organization, and communication skills are crucial for success in this role.
The main focus of a treasury analyst is monitoring a company's budget against the agreed financial objectives of the organization. They provide valuable insights and recommendations to management, impacting the organization's financial health and growth.
The key responsibilities include managing cash flow, creating and implementing financial policies, and conducting financial risk analysis. They also manage the organization's investments, monitor and forecast cash flows, and maintain bank relationships.
Treasury analysts hold a degree in finance, accounting, or business administration.
Those with prior experience can apply directly to an organization. Entry-level roles are often offered in larger organizations where individuals can gain experience on an internship or apply to train as a treasury analyst in a graduate program. Strong analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills are essential for this role, as is a thorough understanding of financial regulations and compliance requirements.
A payroll specialist plays a crucial role in any finance team by managing payroll processes for an organization. Their contributions are essential to ensure employees are paid accurately and on time and that an organization complies with legal and regulatory requirements.
The primary duties of a payroll specialist are processing payroll to meet strict deadlines and maintaining accurate records for each employee. Additional tasks include dealing with employee payroll queries, creating payroll policies and procedures, and ensuring all payroll transactions comply with relevant employment laws.
Entry routes into this profession include obtaining a degree in accounting, finance, or business administration or gaining practical experience through internships or entry-level positions in payroll processing.
Successful payroll specialists possess strong communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to handle sensitive and confidential information. They must also work well under pressure, managing their time effectively to meet deadlines.
A financial planner/organizer is essential in helping organizations achieve their financial objectives.
They analyze an organization's financial situation, including income, expenses, assets, and liabilities, to determine their short- and long-term financial objectives. Drafting financial plans and advising on investment strategies are crucial parts of their role.
Entry routes into this field include obtaining a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, or a related field and obtaining certification as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
The key skills needed for success as a financial planner include strong analytical and problem-solving abilities, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and a deep understanding of financial markets and investment strategies.
Internal auditors ensure the process and internal controls are in place to protect an organization's financial assets. They also work closely with members of the finance team and broader business to look at how internal processes can be improved.
A large part of the role of an internal auditor is to assess and evaluate the risk to processes, identify any areas where risk could occur, and provide recommendations to mitigate these risks.
Working closely with external stakeholders such as external auditors, internal auditors ensure the organization's financial reputation is protected. To be an effective internal auditor, individuals must think critically and analytically, demonstrate logical reasoning, and possess strong communication skills and attention to detail. Many internal auditors are qualified accountants with professional accreditation, such as the CA, ACCA, or CPA.
Those looking to specialize in internal audit can join an apprenticeship program or graduate program in a large accounting or banking firm.
The role of a credit analyst is to assess and evaluate the risk to an organization in borrowing and lending assets or finances. To do this, credit analysts review financial transactions and financial liabilities, then draft projections using financial ratios to determine the credit viability of an individual or organization.
Credit analysts are highly numerate individuals with numerical reasoning, problem-solving, and analytical thinking skills. Entry routes at the apprentice and graduate levels are open to those looking to train to be credit analysts. Many credit analysts are also qualified as chartered financial analysts (CFA).
Finance managers play a vital role in the day-to-day running of a finance team. The position focuses on daily reporting of an organization's finance, interpreting financial information, and ensuring that any financial information is shared and discussed with the senior members of the finance team.
In some organizations, the finance manager is also responsible for managing more junior team members.
Finance managers hold a degree in a finance-related or business subject and are qualified accountants with accreditations, such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) or ACCA. Many finance managers gain a position in the finance team, build up their experience then take up a finance manager role when a vacancy arises.
Typical hiring assessments for finance roles
All finance team members share a common set of aptitudes that are assessed as part of the recruitment process.
- Numerical reasoning: the ability to use numerical information to solve problems.
- Logical reasoning: using abstract information to problem solve
- Analytical thinking: evaluating different pieces of information to reach a reasoned conclusion
- Attention to detail: having the ability to identify discrepancies and anomalies in data.