A controller is an accountant who manages the finances of a private or publicly traded company, and a comptroller is a person who performs these same functions for a governmental entity. An individual who performs the duties of a controller is also referred to as a finance director or treasurer in some organizations. A financial control officer works as a controller but also holds an executive position within the company. Controllers and comptrollers usually have a bachelor's degree in accounting, as well as a designation as a Certified Public Accountant or a Certified Managerial Accountant.
Controllers usually work for large organizations with financial systems that are too complex for simple bookkeeping methods. A large part of a controller's job involves ensuring that all financial records are complete and accurate. This individual usually oversees a regular internal audit to check for mistakes and possible fraud. A controller who works for a publicly traded company also reports information to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
A comptroller for a governmental entity, such as a city or state office, oversees financial operations that include payroll, building projects and contracts with outside vendors. The comptroller also prepares reports that inform the public and the governing body about the status of the government's financial health.