What are the Best Finance Jobs at a Corporation?
The best finance jobs at a corporation vary by industry, seniority, and compensation. In this guide we will examine the top finance jobs one can have at a corporation. We will look at the typical roles a finance department in a big corporation plays.
Corporate finance is the area in the financial services sector that deals with how corporations generate funding, how capital structures are built, and how value is added to a company. It involves the examination and evaluation of the means by which capital is found and obtained, and how value is translated to shareholders.
The Hierarchy of Corporate Finance Jobs
There are a multitude of jobs in the corporate finance world. However, there are three that sit at the very top of the hierarchy and that are, therefore, arguably the best corporate finance jobs to aim for. The positions include what most people consider the top position in corporate finance – the chief financial officer (CFO). Two of the other most sought-after corporate finance jobs are positions that typically report to the CFO. The first is that of Management Accountant in the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) department, and the second is the position of Controller.
Chief Financial Officer
The CFO serves directly under the chief executive officer (CEO) in a corporate hierarchy and the importance of the position is not to be underestimated. Why? – Because the CFO is in charge of the money and money is what fuels the growth of every business.
For a CFO, relevant work history and experience in managing the financial affairs of a corporation is crucial. Education and credentials are of particular importance as well. An MBA degree for a CFO is not merely recommended. It’s really all but just short of being standard practice and required. Chief financial officers are virtually guaranteed to possess some sort of degree in business or economics.
A coveted professional certification for a CFO is that of Certified Professional Accountant (CPA). It’s common for chief financial officers with several years of experience to add other professional certifications as well. A Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) designation can be especially helpful for chief financial officers employed by large companies with significant investments outside of their core business.
An increasingly important professional certification nowadays for anyone engaged in financial analysis work is that of Financial Risk Manager (FRM). The FRM program, administered by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP), is particularly stringent. Less than 50% of candidates pass the exam on their first try.
CFO Job Responsibilities
A CFO’s job starts with being the person ultimately responsible for all of a company’s financial operations. He or she is the person responsible for making sure that all publicly-filed financial information and reports to shareholders, such as the income statement and balance sheet, are accurate.
A CFO works very closely with the company’s CEO in budgeting, planning capital expenditures, and in securing financing for major projects. CFOs are increasingly involved with assisting CEOs in all aspects of strategic business planning. They are also responsible for making sure that the company abides by the accounting practices (such as GAAP or IFRS) and rules set forth by regulatory authorities.
The salary range for CFO’s is a wide one, just because every firm is different. There is obviously, for example, a substantial difference in the compensation for a CFO at a small business startup versus the same position at a multinational Fortune 100 corporation. It’s probably safe to say that, generally speaking, CFO salaries are nearly always in the six to seven-figure neighborhood.
Every company is different, and the exact structure of financing within each company may look different. However, in most large and mid-sized companies, the CFO is also responsible for overseeing the other two top jobs discussed in this article.
Financial Planning and Analysis – Management Accountant
In most cases, a management accountant – who holds the professional designation of Certified Management Accountant (CMA) – heads a company’s Financial Planning & Analysis team or managerial accounting team – commonly referred to as FP&A.
The FP&A’s role deals with a corporation’s profit and loss statement and is focused, in large part, on the firm’s net income, i.e., it’s “bottom line.” In practical terms, this means that all members of the FP&A team, including the CMA, work extensively with Excel, creating models and spreadsheets to perform multiple financial analyses of the company’s operations.
CFI’s extensive list of Excel courses can be of significant benefit to management accountants in learning how to most effectively handle their daily work.
Depending on the company they work for and the industry it operates in, a management accountant’s responsibilities might include any, or all, of the following:
- Preparing financial statements
- Preparing taxes and/or managing tax-related issues
- Overseeing the accounting department
- Periodically reviewing the general ledger
- Assisting the CFO and CEO in strategic business planning
- Supervising financial security and establishing internal financial controls
Because the FP&A team is intimately involved in budgeting and in assessing the efficiency of financial operations throughout the company, a management accountant typically provides every department with parameters to guide them, both in terms of how much they incur in expenses and how much they should seek to generate in revenue. Running regular operational reports enables the FP&A team to keep up-to-date calculations that affect the final profit and loss statement and the company’s bottom line.
As with the position of CFO, years of financial and management schooling and experience are critical to a management accountant position. The pay range for the position varies depending upon the company and the specific role that the MA plays on the FP&A team. While an entry-level financial analyst may earn somewhere between $60,000 and $70,000 annually, a Certified Management Accountant may command up to $200,000 or more for their role.
A company controller, specifically in corporate finance, is sort of the middleman. They must make sure that all accounting principles are followed, that all figures balance out and are accurate, while also making sure that each financial division within a company meets their targets and that the CFO hits his ultimate financial objective for the company as a whole. The controller’s role is actually quite similar to that of a CFO, so much so that the two positions are often combined into one.
If the controller position is separate from that of the chief financial officer, then the controller usually assumes the delicate responsibility of being both an accountant and peacekeeper. The CFO may establish directives regarding accounting principles or practices – either by himself or working with the CFO or the head of FP&A – in order to help the company attain maximum financial efficiency and reach its target goals.
The controller must then find a way to facilitate implementing such accounting directives throughout the company, balancing the requirements of operational efficiency and adhering to sound financial accounting practices.
Controllers are often the individual tasked with managing a company’s cash flow. Acting in such a capacity, they are often tapped to directly supervise accounts receivable and accounts payable. In the same vein, they may also oversee aspects of operations such as inventory.
Controllers usually possess a business degree, possibly an MBA degree, and are often Certified Public Accountants. They may also hold the Certified Management Accountant credential or another advanced certification, such as Certified Internal Auditor.
As with the previously discussed positions, compensation for a company controller can vary widely, depending on factors such as the specific employer, the nature of the industry that the company is a part of, and the specific duties that the controller is responsible for. That being said, the average compensation for controllers in the United States ranges roughly between $80,000 and $250,000.
Job opportunities within the corporate finance hierarchy are vast, including everything from the top of the ladder – as a chief financial officer for a major corporation – to other positions such as company treasurer, equity analyst, or financial analyst. Each position carries its own responsibilities, benefits, and opportunities, but all require specific education, training, and experience to provide the employee with the specific tools and skills needed to carry out their daily tasks.
One advantage of working in corporate finance is the amount of lateral flexibility available in the profession. Financial analysts and accountants are often able to move back and forth between industries such as investment banking, private equity, and accounting, along with being able to find employment with virtually any type of corporate business. For those able to secure a seat at the corporate finance table, the rewards can be significant.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to the best finance jobs at a corporation. CFI is the official provider of the Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program, designed to transform anyone into a world-class financial analyst.
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