How to become a Financial Controller in Singapore

By Robert Half on 19 September 2022

Many companies in Singapore today need expert financial leadership and oversight.

Demand is increasing for senior finance experts who can monitor the accounting and finance departments' policies and procedures, set budgets, provide guidance on complex tax and compliance issues, and contribute to the financial strategy discussions at your company.

This is where the role of a Financial Controller comes into play.

In most Singaporean companies that employ a Controller, the leader in the position plays a crucial role.

The Controller usually oversees the day-to-day operations of the finance department and manages financial reporting.

The person in this role has input and influence on the company's important financial decisions and can have a strong hand in determining the health of the company.

How much does a Financial Controller earn in Singapore?

According to the latest Robert Half Salary Guide, a qualified Financial Controller can earn between SGD$152,000 and SGD$172,000 in the Lion City.

How to become a Financial Controller

With so much riding on the Financial Controller, it is critical that you demonstrate the right skills and experience to fulfil the key role.

A firm grasp on the numbers

First and foremost, a Financial Controller must have a strong understanding of all functions of the typical accounting department, including accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll and clearing.

The right candidate will not simply show competence in accounting procedures. You will also be able to answer tough questions and manage others in your financial department.

Most financial controllers have a master's degree in accounting or business administration, and many are CPAs or certified management accountants (CMAs).

In-depth knowledge of the entire finance function

You will need the expertise necessary to maintain all financial aspects of your company, even if the company already has a CFO. You should be comfortable negotiating contracts and insurance policies, reviewing invoices, and meeting with tax advisors and auditors.

You will have experience establishing and executing internal financial controls, and not be intimidated if asked to step in and help with the administration of financial planning and reporting.

A passion for the details, an ability to explain them

One of the most important skills a successful Financial Controller can have is the ability to stay organised. Controllers must keep up with so much information, often tracked in complex spreadsheets, that orderliness is vital.

Excellent soft skills are crucial, too. You must be able to relay difficult, dense information to upper management in a precise and easy-to-understand way.

Financial controllers who are good communicators can also provide the company with valuable analysis and expert opinions on financial topics.

The personality to get along with co-workers

It is easy to focus on the technical skills required of a Financial Controller, but business skills such as the ability to work with a team, negotiate successfully and solve conflicts are equally important.

You will be given a great deal of responsibility and will collaborate with departments throughout the firm.

This means it is imperative to make sure you can fit in with new teams, particularly those in upper management.

Becoming a Financial Controller can be a big career step in Singapore. Depending on the size of the company, you could land a position that oversees the firm's entire financial state.

What interview questions could be asked to a Financial Controller?

Here are some potential interview questions that could be asked to test whether you have what it takes to become a Financial Controller in Singapore:

  • What steps did you take to reduce expenses and/or increase revenues at past companies you have worked for?
  • What sort of experience do you have in establishing internal financial controls?
  • What are some procedural improvements you have made at past jobs?
  • Are you able to explain financial matters in a way that the management team can understand?
  • In what ways have you helped junior members of the financial team improve their skill sets?
  • What steps have you taken when it comes to continuing education in your career?
  • When hiring financial staff, what qualities do you look for?
  • Recall a time when you experienced an impasse in the workplace. What steps did you take to help resolve it?
  • What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you deal with it?

Are you a finance leader looking for your next career opportunity? As a leader in accounting and finance recruitment, Robert Half can help you find the right financial leadership role for you in Singapore.

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