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Roles of a financial manager

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Finance
Wordcount: 5451 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Introduction Of The History Of The Function And Qualifications Of A Financial Manager

First we need to understand the term ‘financial manager’, Brealey, Myers and Allen (2008, p.6) referred this term to anyone in an organization who is specialized in finance and responsible for the company’s investment or financing decision, large corporation may name it as ‘controller’, international conglomerates even appoint a Corporate Financial Officer [CFO] to be responsible for corporate planning.

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History Of The Financial Manager’s Function

Ever since 1900s and even after the Great Depression in 1930s, the primary role of a finance people was only a descriptive discipline on bookkeeping which means accurately recording all transactions related to the payment of suppliers, billing of customers, and handling of cash passing through the accounts department and issuing periodic financial statements. Until late 1960s increased competition in industries forced financial managers to shift their focus towards evaluating investment opportunities and making decisions on the choice of assets and liabilities necessary to maximize the company’s value. The 1970s and 80s was a period of increased international competition, CEOs became concerned with operational efficiency to cope with the fast growing market, this included the accounting functions which was streamlined and required to reach out to becoming a profit center for the whole organization (Besley & Brigham, 2005, p.6). This transitional shift was gradual and finance manager’s roles are no longer stuck solely to the accounting functions, hence a new operational trend brought in a new breed of heavily educated controllers profession with MIS training and computer systems operational capabilities to bring forth efficiency and accuracy in management reports and analysis versus the old accounting systems. Olley (2006) quoted a study by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) [The Practice Analysis of Management Accounting (1996)] which mentioned that since the mid 1980’s, management accountants have transitioned from the traditional role of being a ‘number cruncher’ to an internal management consultant and decision-support specialist. Over the century, finance manager has risen to a highly educated, professional and useful positions in the entire corporate structure.

Qualification Requirements Of A Financial Manager [FM]

In normal practice, a finance manager has to have ACCA/ HKICPA or degree in accountancy or financial planning academic track record or even a chartered accountant qualification, who may possess a minimum of 10 years experience in accounting and financial planning. The traditional career path towards a Financial Manager was through the accounting clerical ranks, then move onto being an assistant accountant and accountant. Other recruiters would prefer one who has been an auditor as this experience allows the individual a wide exposure to auditing and learning from different industries, knowledge of financial situations and how to avoid human or systems errors, so that the person is more affluent on how to manage a smooth transaction flow.

Expectations From Corporations, Job Description And Key Attributes Of FM

Expectations From Corporations

The functions, levels and scopes of responsibilities of financial managers can be very different depending on the size of organizations. For large corporations, the generic role is highly focused on strategic analysis while for smaller organizations, the role could only be more concerned on the collection and preparation of accounts and ledgers.

Michael Page International, one of the world’s executive recruitment agent, posted a front page headline advertisement in Classified Post of South China Morning Post on 14 November 2009 in the need of a Chief Financial Manager. The advertisement stated the incumbent will be an integral part of the senior management team, report to the Managing Director [MD] with the ultimate responsibility for the control of the global finance operation of a new venture. The person will need to manage the cash situation of each branch of the business and exercise the financial strategy across multiple locations and will need to build the necessary reporting, risk and control frameworks. The person also needs to prepare analysis and financial models and ensure compliance to corporate policy and national accounting practices. In addition to technical finance advice, the incumbent should possess strong commercial acumen and will work closely with the MD on strategic growth and development plans for the business, furthermore, to liaise with shareholders, key investors and build relevant banking relationships. The client expected someone with experience working within an entrepreneurial environment and display the ability to be part of a dynamic team.

Allicolven, another executive search consultant, listed the criteria on its advertisement in JobsDB (13 November 2009) that the applicant has to provide value-added insight into opportunities and risks, responsible for completing the statutory consolidated financial audit for the organization, as well as ensuring the impeccable application of global accounting policy issues for the company and its subsidiaries, the development and maintenance of global controls surrounding treasury and cash management. The client required from the incumbent excellent leadership, proven understanding of regulatory capital issues and align with regulators, excellent communication and command of English and Chinese. These advertisements include all the criteria this paper aims to discuss on and one can easily see the challenging roles of a finance manager nowadays which exceeds the normal accounting functions already.

Job Description Of FM

Typical work activities, stated in the Job Description of a Financial Manager in JobsDB (9 Nov 2009), Prospects (16 Dec 2009), and Careerplanner (16 Dec 2009) are summarized below, with each requirement stating clearly a standard that has to be met and how the results of the good work would impact the organization:

Manage and oversee the daily accounting functions to ensure relevant accounting activities are handled in compliance with the regulatory requirements and group accounting policies and maintain the highest standard;

Coordinate and execute all financial related activities in the group’s businesses to ensure the proper financial management and minimize the financial risks;

Assist the top management to formulate strategic and long-term business plans;

Monitor and supervise the month-end closing to ensure all management reports are tendered on time and with accuracy;

Prepare and review monthly financial charts for all offices, debrief the financial data and results into business implication to relevant divisional heads;

Compile various periodic analytical reports and hold discussion meetings with department heads timely to alert them of the updated business performance;

Liaise with external auditors to ensure annual auditing is performed smoothly; participate in the group internal audits to ensure proper control procedures are in place;

Monitor cash flows, oversee the total funding, predict future trends of cash and fund management to optimize the benefits of the company’s fund usage;

Establish the annual budget program and financial models to sustain a smooth and comprehensive process;

Handle taxation and legal matters;

Review and implement efficient and effective internal control system, make recom- mendations on existing work procedures to improve efficiency. Set up accounting software to ensure it meets the corporate accounting requirement;

Supervise the accounting staff locally and ensure the accounts department is well managed, liaise with overseas accounting heads to make sure appropriate guidance and directions are given. Assist in appropriate recruitment and provide coaching and training programs to staff members and conduct performance review for them;

Work independently, when applicable, take the initiative to provide input on process improvements as it relates to reconciliations;

Develop network and relationships with community and external contacts, such as customers, auditors, solicitors, bankers, brokers, creditors, insurance companies and statutory organizations. Provide assistance and solutions to them whenever necessary;

Analyze and keep updated of changes in legislation, financial regulations, competitors move and market trends, research and report on factors influencing the organization’s business performance and advise the management accordingly.

The Key Attributes And Competencies Required For FM

It is almost a prerequisite for a professional finance manager to be analytical, rational, cautious and meticulous yet possessing a macro view of the whole accounting picture, ethical, risk sensitive and inquisitive to detect fraud in any areas in the organization. General personal attributes such as being hardworking, independent with initiative, responsible and accountable, well organized, efficient, timely, cost-effective, self motivating, willing to work under pressure are expected. In addition, management skills to enhance productivity of the accounting team, interpersonal skills in proactively communicating the financial facts and findings to the management, coordinating with other department personnel and decision makers, and being a team player would be most appropriate and eligible to be a finance team leader.

Typical Accounting Roles Of Financial Managers And The Critical Aspects

Gitman (1992, p.8) defined that financial management is in the arena of business management, dedecated to a careful selection of sources and prudent use of capital, with the aim in enabling a spending unit to move towards the direction of reaching its goals. The duties and responsibilities of financial managers vary with their specific functions and position titles in different organizations, this includes being a controller, treasurer, credit manager, cash manager, internal auditor, taxation manager, risk and insurance manager. Each of these functions has their critical aspects and prime objectives.

Function As A Controller

Controllers direct and compile the preparation of financial analysis reports concluding and forecasting the organization’s financial status. These analyses include income statements, balance sheets, continual review of revenue and expense trends and analysis of future earnings. Controllers provide periodic compilation of business cycle forecasting statistics and periodic calculation of a standard set of ratios for corporate financial performance and regulatory authorities. Controllers make financing decisions typically including should the company raise funds by borrowing short term or long term debt or by selling stock and equity, timing to pay dividends and timing to sell the debt and equity. The long range plan should include a listing of capital investments required and calculate the economic benefits to attain the revenue and profit objectives. Brigham & Ehrhardt (2002, p.502) mentioned clearly that effective capital budgeting and funding allocation including cash management, budgeting, sourcing and requirement can improve both the timing and quality of asset acquisitions, all of these decisions affect the investment profile of the company hence impact the shareholders’ value. It is common that controllers oversee the accounting, audit and budgeting, logistics departments and are responsible to communicate any financial variances and adverse trend results to management, along with recommendations for improvement.

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With regards to budgeting, Mason (2007, pp.121-123) briefed that a controller should determine various budgets on sales and revenue, revenue expenditure, profit and loss, capital expenditure and cash budgeting. The prime purpose of budgetary control is to maintain expenses to be spent within the limits of income. As the budget is set, a controller must control costs and management overheads and allocate the costs accordingly. Figure 1.0 illustrated basic elements of management overheads, listing clearly actual expenses versus the budget assigned.

Function As A Treasurer

Treasurers are responsible to oversee the organization cash, execute capital-raising strategies to support expansion of the company. Basically, as Brealey et al. (2008, p.6) mentioned, treasurers look after the investment of funds and manage associated risks, supervise cash management and deal with merging and acquisition activities. To ensure tasks to be properly processed, they need to maintain relationships with bankers, stockholder and other investors holding the company’s securities. An example of Allied Air Products, given by Besley & Brigham (2005, pp.690-691) which issued different classes of securities because the finance team was aware that different investors had different risk and return trade off preferences, so to appeal to the broadest possible market, Allied offered securities to attract as many different types of investors as possible. Besides, different securities are more popular at different points in time, the company can issue whatever is popular at the time they need money. A wise strategy that takes advantage of market conditions can lower a company’s overall cost of capital.

Function As A Credit Manager

Credit managers have to tailor make credit agreements that concerns the indebtedness limits, evaluate the credit applicants, ensure that the company maintains a fixed amount of working capital to cover the company’s operating cash needs. Primarily, they monitor the company’s issuance of credit, develop credit rating criteria and determine the ceilings, establish an accounting system for the sake of banking transactions (Van Horne, 2002, pp.449-459). Furthermore, they are responsible to review the collection reports, status of outstanding balances, then arrange to collect debts of past-due accounts or submit the delinquent accounts to solicitors or outsourced agencies for collection. This role ensures the company to have valid funds for the operation and arrange new sources of finance for a company’s debt facilities.

Function As A Cash Manager

Cash managers monitor and control the flow of cash, control check stock, signature plates, separate the responsibility for the cash receipts and bank reconciliation functions, process all accounts payable and receivables, and cash application transactions in accordance with rigidly defined procedures. Petty cash authorization and usage is to be supervised, recording incoming cash payments and verify amount of cash discounts taken. All above measures have to be scrutinized to ensure proper cash in-flow record and usage to meet the business and investment needs of the company and avoiding the risk of committing fraud if the operations are not monitored well. Least to mention, cash flow projections are required so that the management needs to determine if external loans are needed to meet the cash requirements or if surplus cash can be invested in other interest-bearing instruments.

Cost accounting and Inventory accounting is another major role of Cash Managers, they need to conduct job or process costing and verify the inventory valuation, because inventories form a link between production and sale of products. Van Horne (2002, p.463-465) explained that cash managers measure the benefits of inventory versus the cost, like account receivables, inventories hedging should be increased as long as the resulting savings exceed the total cost of holding the added inventory. Other than paper work, cash managers have to coordinate periodic physical inventory counts, audits and allocation methods, and provide periodic compilation and evaluation of the inventory costs.

Function As An Internal Auditor And Coordinator With External Auditors

The scheduling and management of periodic audits within the company lies upon the shoulder of the Internal Auditor. The preparation of audit reports and communicating the findings and recommendations to the management and board of directors is essential. Without saying, they are responsible to assist the annual external auditing. Auditing for fraud especially for small scale transactional fraud is difficult, so by observing the environment, the managing person’s accountabilities and employee lifestyles may help in detecting unnoticeable fraudulent act. American and European based corporations have their own internal auditors who perform ad hoc auditing within the corporation worldwide at least once or twice a year.

Function As A Tax Manager

The reporting requirements of all governmental authorities have increased significantly and become more complex, so it becomes mandatory that companies comply with the changing federal and local tax laws and regulations. Tax managers handle the tax filing and reports for the organization so they must be familiar with tax laws and report timely to the Inland Revenue and tax authorities. Profound knowledge of and experience in international business and personal tax laws will help in this role although company may hire external tax consultant or tax attorneys. Tax managers should review the annual and strategic plans to develop the tax jurisdiction and liabilities for each period, develop tax shelter policies, research the foreign tax consequences of the business plan, recommend actions concerning all tax adjustments and at times, defend the company in respect to disputed tax matters. Eun & Resnick (2001, pp.475-486) recommended some measures to be taken by tax managers, such as accelerating deductions which involve depreciation, making use of local and foreign countries’ tax credits, avoiding non-allowable expenses, increasing tax deferrals and obtaining tax exempt income to use the excess tax savings in other forms of investment. It is critical that the application of tax laws must be considered in many day-to-day operating decisions, setting up business operations overseas, utilize tax havens, consider personal tax situation when hiring expatriates which will help to avoid paying excess taxes by the company or individuals.

Function As A Risk And Insurance Manager And Liquidity Crisis Manager

Risk and insurance managers oversee the operations, projects and production programs to minimize risks and losses that may arise from financial transactions and business operations. They need to manage the insurance budget, analyze and measure risks of the investments, direct operations of brokerage firm which were commissioned in buying and selling securities, insurance negotiations, and finally select the insurance brokers and carriers. Establishing procedures for custody and control of assets, records, loan collateral, and securities, review reports of securities transactions and price lists is critical to ensure safekeeping and analyzing the market conditions. Rowe et al. (1994, pp.383-386) suggested risk managers to work on the capital cost overruns, nationalization of facilities as some countries may nationalize certain industries with little or no compensation to the previous owners, ecological costs notably in the asbestos and tobacco industries, sales fluctuations, market growth rate, company’s market share, investment required, cost of production, raw material scarcity, deterioration of margins for competing products, and technological advances. They would identify the key variables that have impact on the business decision, after all, a long range plan should include an in-depth assessment of the risks that may occur as a result of the business plan. If impending problems are predicted, company can avoid going into involuntary liquidation.

Functions Specifically Required In Financial Institutions

Financial managers who serve in financial institutions, such as commercial and investment banks, finance associations and credit unions, oversee a variety of functions, including loans, trusts, mortgages, futures, lines of credit and investments. They must be highly familiar and operate in compliance with the State laws and investment regulatory rules and always keep abreast of the fast growing array of financial services and products. Arnold (2005, p.627) suggested that managers have to evaluate and examine application, approve or reject, lines of credit and commercial, real estate and personal loans, they also need to be aware of, and assess the international risk that arises due to foreign currency exchange rates and inflation rates, economical and political situations which may impact the local and foreign countries bonds requisition.

Liability Responsibility

Financial manager, regardless of the functions above, should monitor the accruals, take a standard review of customer advances in the closing procedure if the company regularly deals with a large amount of customer deposits. They should plan the current and long-term liabilities, such as accrual for bonuses, commissions, property and income taxes, royalties, unpaid wages and vacation pay, warranty claims, by period, in addition, they can analyze each way to reduce the company’s obligation such as using just-in-time inventory methods to reduce accounts payable and arrange for a good payment terms for product or materials purchase and update the projected debt status to the year-end closing (Spiceland et al., 2009, p.358). A cautious procedure and alertness will assist the company’s growth with little draw back.

Organizational And Strategic Roles Of A Financial Manager

As computerized systems are unanimously used in corporations, so finance managers can utilize more time in establishing strategies and implementing the short and long term goals for their corporations.

As Part Of Management With Management Skills

A Financial Manager’s function can be very distinct and like any other department manager, a finance manager needs to have general management skills such as A) Planning on what work is to be done and the completion schedule in the accounting department, especially in the timely processing of transactions and guiding the budgeting process; B) Organizing the financial tasks, office management, and software, hardware utilization; C) Directing the department work to ensure it operates in an orderly manner; D) Measuring the performance of all key aspects of the department to ensure that performance meets or even exceeds the standards set; E) Delegating work to accounting subordinates and F) Process controlling and constant reviewing if assignments are completed with accuracy and within the time frame; F) A finance manager must have a good knowledge of both company and industry operations in order to know how they impact the operations and new strategic move of the organization.

As A Strategic Business Partner

Any business decision, in particular the crucial strategic move, cannot dart ahead if without assessing the financial implications. This extends the domain of a finance manager to be involved in strategic business management. To compete successfully, a company must analyze its cost position relative to that of competitors, finance manager will play a strategic role here to provide competitive-cost analysis, if all competitors’ costs are researched, the company can project future price levels, anticipate competitors’ moves, prepare countermoves, and assess the potential of its strategies for success. Van Horne (2002, p.199-200) interpreted competitive-cost analysis begins with an analysis of strategic cost-driving factors which determine a company’s relative long-run position. The initial question is to determine which costs are relevant in a strategic sense, should the company ‘do the things right’ by cutting costs in the short run or ‘doing the right things’ to position the organization for long term cost advantages by exploiting opportunities for excess returns. Rowe et al. (1994) had a good insight by raising a number of questions while revealing the financial analysis, the manager should ask if the new strategy is appropriate given the company’s current financial position in the industry, do we have the financial resources to initiate the strategy, are financial resources being allocated correctly in order to achieve the strategic goal, should acquisitions be considered, should outsourcing be considered.

Finance manager can help in company’s growth by determining a wise use of the strategic funds (which is total funds available minus the baseline funds) for purchase of new tangible assets such as facilities, equipment, and inventory, to increase working capital, and to fund direct expenses for research and development, marketing, advertising and promotions and even for mergers and acquisitions.

As Corporate Policies Writer And Evaluator

Being cautious and versatile in the financial principles and discipline, knowing a thoughtful planning would affect the strategies of the company, finance manager should initiate the details of all procedures, the authorization and limitations of people’s act, regardless such act is aggressive or ignorant, into written polices and procedures. Such policies can include the operation of the accounting systems and statements issuance, the inventory purchase and control, capital and asset investments, human resources compensation plans and expenses, capital evaluation and auditing control measures must be enacted into a procedural manual for all divisional managers to follow suit. Besides, authorization and procedures of credit and collection policies, dividend polices with regards to the dividend amount and payout timing must be thoroughly documented and regulated because rightful process allow less human error or falsified ethics, avoid paying excess tax which would overall influence the level of a company’s accounts receivable. A good policy and practices impact the quality of the trade accounts, increase the company’s branding and competitive edge in the market.

Handle Mergers And Acquisitions And Consolidations

Financial managers have an essential function in mergers and consolidations, in global expansion and related financing. The primary motive and purpose of merging two companies is to increase the value of the combined enterprise. Say if company A and company B merge to form a company C, and if C’s value exceeds that of A and B separately, then synergy exists and such merger should be beneficial to both A’s and B’s shareholders. A recent headline is Bank of America’s [BA] 2008 acquisition of Merrill Lynch which made BA the world’s largest wealth manager. Both Brealey (2008, p. 883) and Brigham & Ehrhardt (2002, p.970) cited on the same record breaking example of AOL spending a significant amount of USD156 billion in acquiring Time Warner, aimed to create a company which offer consumers a comprehensive package of media and information products. Financial managers possess extensive and special knowledge in the areas of risks reduction, valuing the targeted firm, compliance of merger regulations, international foreign exchange, tax considerations, analysis of the company’s current surplus funds, merger analysis of benefits of the complementary resources of income, and last of all provide a post-merger report. Without the merger analysis by financial managers, these merger and acquisitions and consolidation in the market would not have been active worldwide, especially in the USA.

Maximize Shareholders’ Value

A competent finance manager should act in the interests of the company’s owners and shareholders, maximize current wealth and profit of the organization by increasing the company’s market value. To do so, monitoring the equity of the organization in terms of debt and credit is important, because investors expect a high return on the capital invested in terms of dividends, minimized liabilities and a maximized stock price. Brealey et al. (2008, p.22) explained that the real assets of the organization need to produce sufficient cash to satisfy banker’s debt, so the capital budgeting responsibility of the finance manager plays an important role to calculate how much money the company can invest and into what kind of assets that could be predicted to earn the most and fastest, and diffuse all concerned risks. This measure is to ensure enough flow of money from investors into the company is well utilized and then maximize the return back to them to satisfy the shareholders.


With any and all of above accounting and organizational functions that Financial Managers have to perform and fulfill, it is almost imperative that they should take the initiative to advise, make recommendations for improvement to the management on all financial related matters. Acting as a counselor and invigilator of senior management is critical and affect the survival of the company. Prince (2005, p.15) quoted an example on the CEO of Kmart who exercised extensive high spending manners, extravagances and received excessive executive compensation in the cost of the corporation finally led to the bankruptcy of the company in January 2002, now became a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation. Likewise, General Motors Company [GM] which was ranked as the largest US automaker, filed for liquidation in June 2009, finally assisted by US “Government’s Troubled Relief Program’ and commenced its reorganization since July 2009. On the other hand, the low resource utilization manner of Murdoch (Prince 2005, p.15) was advised to use the high value assets to offset News Corporation’s debt, eventually, the company was spared liquidation due to the financial approach.

Nowadays Financial Manager Versus Traditional Accounting Manager And The Challenges Accompanied With This Role

There is a growing realization that a Financial Manager is no longer called on only to process accounting transactions and issue financial statements when these tasks require detailed technical knowledge but no considerable management or analysis skill. Instead, the modern finance manager or controller must exhibit additional mastery of a multitude of management skills, so that the accounts department runs in an efficient and effective manner, offers a detailed analysis of financial statement results, recommends improvements, and monitors the activities of other departments and perhaps even manages the computer systems in a smaller organization. They should no longer focus on the paper driven reports, so modern finance managers need to radically change the finance report styles and to be efficiently generated by the computerized systems.

Financial managers need to cope with the competitive advantage, add values to the corporation, and advance into the use of electronic spreadsheets for financial analysis, target costing, disaster recovery planning, fraud prevention plan, inventory valuation, activity-based costing and budgeting, outsourcing information systems security and software package integration. Nowadays finance managers should utilize the analyzed information to strategize plans to maximize profits and act as business advisors to top management.

Global Expansion And International Financial Management

Globalization is a trend where business enterprise can search for lower production and labor costs complemented with high quality merchandise and production efficiency, companies may have a need to broaden the markets, seek for raw materials and new technology. Kim & Kim (2006, p.4) defined globalization means integrating the world marketplace and creating a “borderless world” for goods and services. In the era of heightened global competition, international finance managers have to be a strategic partner by starting off to consider the external environment in terms of economic situation, the current and future stage of the business cycle, entrance of the new competitors, political


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