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Financial Managers - What They Do

Almost every firm, government agency, and other type of organization employs one or more financial managers. Financial managers oversee the preparation of financial reports, direct investment activities, and implement cash management strategies. Managers also develop strategies and implement the long-term goals of their organization.

The duties of financial managers vary with their specific titles, which include controller, treasurer or finance officer, credit manager, cash manager, risk and insurance manager, and manager of international banking. Controllers direct the preparation of financial reports, such as income statements, balance sheets, and analyses of future earnings or expenses, that summarize and forecast the organization's financial position. Controllers also are in charge of preparing special reports required by regulatory authorities and often use an expense report software to assist them. Often, controllers oversee the accounting, audit, and budget departments. Treasurers and finance officers direct their organization's budgets to meet its financial goals. They oversee the investment of funds, manage associated risks, look for financial management solutions, supervise cash management activities, execute capital-raising strategies to support the firm's expansion, and deal with mergers and acquisitions. Credit managers oversee the firm's issuance of credit, establishing credit-rating criteria, determining credit ceilings, and monitoring the collections of past-due accounts.

Cash managers monitor and control the flow of cash receipts and disbursements to meet the business and investment needs of their firm. For example, cash flow projections are needed to determine whether loans must be obtained to meet cash requirements or whether surplus cash can be invested. Risk and insurance managers oversee programs to minimize risks and losses that might arise from financial transactions and business operations. Insurance managers decide how best to limit a company’s losses by obtaining insurance against risks such as the need to make disability payments for an employee who gets hurt on the job or costs imposed by a lawsuit against the company. Risk managers control financial risk by using hedging and other techniques to limit a company’s exposure to currency or commodity price changes. Managers specializing in international finance develop financial and accounting systems for the banking transactions of multinational organizations. Risk managers are also responsible for calculating and limiting potential operations risk. Operations risk includes a wide range of risks, such as a rogue employee damaging the company’s finances or a hurricane damaging an important factory.

Financial institutions—such as commercial banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, and mortgage and finance companies—employ additional financial managers who oversee various functions, such as lending, trusts, mortgages, and investments, or programs, including sales, operations, or electronic financial services. These managers may solicit business, authorize loans, and direct the investment of funds, always adhering to Federal and State laws and regulations.

Branch managers of financial institutions administer and manage all of the functions of a branch office. Job duties may include hiring personnel, approving loans and lines of credit, establishing a rapport with the community to attract business, and assisting customers with account problems. Branch mangaers also are becoming more oriented toward sales and marketing. As a result, it is important that they have substantial knowledge about the types of products that the bank sells. Financial managers who work for financial institutions must keep abreast of the rapidly growing array of financial services and products.

In addition to the preceding duties, financial managers perform tasks unique to their organization or industry. For example, government financial managers must be experts on the government appropriations and budgeting processes, whereas healthcare financial managers must be knowledgeable about issues surrounding healthcare financing. Moreover, financial managers must be aware of special tax laws and regulations that affect their industry.

Financial managers play an important role in mergers and consolidations and in global expansion and related financing. These areas require extensive, specialized knowledge to reduce risks and maximize profit. Financial managers increasingly are hired on a temporary basis to advise senior managers on these and other matters. In fact, some small firms contract out all their accounting and financial functions to companies that provide such services.

The role of the financial manager, particularly in business, is changing in response to technological advances that have significantly reduced the amount of time it takes to produce financial reports. Technological improvements have made it easier to produce financial reports, and, as a consequence, financial managers now perform more data analysis that allows them to offer senior managers profit-maximizing ideas. They often work on teams, acting as business advisors to top management.

Work Environment
Working in comfortable offices, often close to top managers and with departments that develop the financial data those managers need, financial managers typically have direct access to state-of-the-art computer systems and information services. They commonly work long hours, often up to 50 or 60 per week. Financial managers generally are required to attend meetings of financial and economic associations and may travel to visit subsidiary firms or to meet customers.

Education & Training Required
A bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, economics, or business administration is the minimum academic preparation for financial managers. However, many employers now seek graduates with a master's degree, preferably in business administration, finance, or economics. These academic programs develop analytical skills and teach financial analysis methods and technology.

Experience may be more important than formal education for some financial manager positions—most notably, branch managers in banks. Banks typically fill branch manager positions by promoting experienced loan officers and other professionals who excel at their jobs. Other financial managers may enter the profession through formal management training programs offered by the company.

Certifications Needed (Licensure)
Many financial managers work in accounting departments. Accounting positions normally require workers to be certified public accountants (CPAs).

Other Skills Required (Other qualifications)
Candidates for financial management positions need many different skills. Interpersonal skills are important because these jobs involve managing people and working as part of a team to solve problems. Financial managers must have excellent communication skills to explain complex financial data. Because financial managers work extensively with various departments in their firm, a broad understanding of business is essential.

Financial managers should be creative thinkers and problem-solvers, applying their analytical skills to business. Financial managers must have knowledge of international finance because financial operations are increasingly being affected by the global economy. In addition, a good knowledge of regulatory compliance procedures is essential.

Financial Managers - What They Do - Page 2

Academic Programs of Interest

Bachelor of Business Administration
The Bachelor of Business Administration is a bachelor's degree in business studies. In most universities, the degree is conferred upon a student after four years of full-time study (120 credit hours) in one or more areas of business concentrations. The BBA program usually includes general business courses ...more
Finance studies and addresses the ways in which individuals, businesses, and organizations raise, allocate, and use monetary resources over time, taking into account the risks entailed in their projects. With a finance education you will be equipped with tools for understanding the function and applications ...more
Master of Business Administration
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a master's degree in business administration, which attracts people from a wide range of academic disciplines. The MBA designation originated in the United States, emerging from the late 19th century as the country industrialized and companies sought out ...more
Operations Management
Operations management is an area of business that is concerned with the production of goods and services, and involves the responsibility of ensuring that business operations are efficient and effective. It is also the management of resources, the distribution of goods and services to customers, and ...more
Risk Management
Risk management is simply a practice of systematically selecting cost effective approaches for minimizing the effect of threat realization to the organization. All risks can never be fully avoided or mitigated simply because of financial and practical limitations. Therefore all organizations have to ...more