Monday, September 18, 2006


What does a Controller do at a Financial Services firm?

What does the Controller function perform at a Financial Services firm? Controllers' duties probably vary slightly across companies, but in general, the controller is one or more persons who supervises the accounting for an organization. Note, a controller is not necessarily an accountant in its traditional sense, yet he/she is versed in accounting in order to review and oversee the accounting work of others.

Other titles for the controllers division here at Citigroup include Financial Control and Product Control. At Citigroup, I would say that Financial Control could be viewed vertically in a top to bottom control scope. In other words, it is the overall control function of the activities of ALL of the departments in a business unit such as Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) and the Global Consumer Group (GCG). Product Control could be viewed in a more horizontal fashion within Financial Control. Product Controllers control the day-to-day activity of a specific department or product within the business units such as Derivatives, Corporate Reporting, FX, or my own group, Emerging Markets Sales and Trading. Therefore, a Financial Controller is concerned with the entire business and manages the Product Controllers who are product experts of one part of the business.

To view the Product Control role as a part of the organization as a whole, here is how my personal reporting tree stacks up (titles might not be 100% precise):

So, continuing right along, my Product Control group concerns itself with understanding the financial accounting and management accounting of the Emerging Markets Sales and Trading desk and tieing the accounting numbers to Citigroup's financial reporting structure and regulatory requirements for eventual public release.

An interesting observation that I have noticed in my thus-far short career in Product Control is that nobody seems to have trained in college specifically for a controller function. Most people I know here were either assigned to a product control group as a part of the Finance Analyst (FA) or Finance Management Associate (FMA) program after undergraduate or graduate school recruitment into the Finance Division; or, like me, they had related and/or complementary experience in an accounting or finance position coming into the job.

In summary, Product Controllers are product experts with a solid grasp of financial accounting, managerial accounting, and the regulatory and reporting environments of a company. Product Control is the last straw before financial numbers are reported and disseminated, so it is very important to be precise and exemplify scrutinous attention to detail. We reconcile P&L (Profit & Loss) and the GL (General Ledger) every day, and tie out the reporting numbers/breakouts of the numerous Financial Reporting Systems utilized by Citigroup CIB.

So, that concludes the least humorous post I have ever done in my two-posting blogging career. To make it up to you, I will leave you with my favorite joke of all time:

M Go Blue. Beat Wisconsin.

Hi Nicholas,

This may not be the right way but I have limited options. I am looking for a contract Business Analyst position in NY/NJ. I have over 7 yrs exp and have extensively worked in both health care and financial domains. I am on H1B visa and can do only corp to corp positions. Anything that you know of in your company that I can apply for. I can send you my resume if you provide me your email id. You can contact me at Thanks in advance for your time.
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