Guide to Corporate Finance Job titles- distinguishing between accounting and finance

marine13910's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 335

Given all the discussion and mixed information on corporate finance jobs, I thought I would start a discussion which lists out a variety of positions which could be considered CF, as well as some information of what the job really is. I'm always frustrated by corporations overusing the word finance (hell in many corporations all finance and accounting positions are classified as "the finance" division. Reading a job description I can always read through the BS for words like monthly close, journal entry, reconciliation ect..which always means accounting, regardless of job title. My favorite overused word , "analyst" often means you're not analyzing jack shit. At my company (F100 size, European HQ), there are literally only 2 jobs in all of finance that don't have any accounting. Business developement and my position as a demand/sales forecaster in finance decision support. This is partially because many true finance functions are done at the global HQ which is not in the US.

So here goes. i'm going to start out with a small list and add to it over time. Hopefully others will add job titles as well, and i'll aggregate all contributions until we have a truly comprehensive list. This could be a useful tool for those new to the field. Note that I'm structuring this without reflecting job level, since many (but not all) job titles can be at the Senior Analyst to Senior Director level. Thanks in advance for any contributions. Please put industry somewhere in your job title post, as their will be variety based on that, Pharma vs Investment Management for example.

  1. Sales Analysis (Pharma): responsible for monthly budget/forecast to actual analysis, revenue rebate balance sheet analysis, monthly sales trend projections (short term forecasting), consolidation of all sales forecasts and reporting sales info to management. Finance 30%/Accounting 70%; similar to FP&A
  2. Expense Management & Analysis, Controlling- managing sales force and all other Opex lines. Monthly accruals, monthly close process. reviewing all expenses as incurred. Performing forecasts of Opex. This is actually similar to many FP&A jobs (Glorified Accounting), not really in touch with the core drivers of the business, but less accounting than other positions. 20% Finance/ 80% Accounting.
  3. Treasury- cash flow forecasting and management. Bank account management. Reporting of cash positions to management. (Not Accounting, doesn't seem like finance either)
  4. Business Development Finance (Pharma)- valuation of all business opportunities, product & company acquisitions as well as joint ventures. In my firm, the word "deal" is used very loosly and as such, the job is less sexy than Corporate Cevelopment which focuses on company level acquisitions. Major focus on the less sexy product divestures. Typically, this group takes the sales forecasts completed elsewhere and plugs them into a DCF model to complete valuation. Due Diligence for all deal activity. Deal Sourcing. Typically manager level and up. 100% Finance
  5. Demand/Sales Forecasting, Finance Decision Support (Pharma)- Build bottoms up demand forecasts 1-5 year timeframe, incorporates pricing assumptions to complete gross & net sales forecasting. Scenerio analysis, decision analysis. Close to the business side of things. Extensive financial modeling and use of statistical projection techniques. Demand portion may be seperate function outside of finance at many companies. Often only manager level and up due to complexity. 25% Economics/ 75% Finance.
  6. FP&A- Forecast consolidation, forecast process planning and administration. General business analysis. Expense analysis. 50% Finance/ 50% Accounting.
  7. Business Unit Finance lead, Finance Decision Support (Pharma)- Mix of light forecasting, more focused on overall management of a brand P&L. Closely linked to the business. Presentation of forecast results. Explanation of all variances. Similar to FP&A. 100% Finance
  8. Management Reporting- Reporting of all financial data within Forecast Cycles as well as Actuals. Consolidation of Region financials. Powerpoint presentations. Liason between finance and upper management. 25% Finance / 75% Accounting.
  9. Cost Acounting- Inventory costing. Standard costing. Most analytical pure accounting position, often considered Management Accounting, less focus on financial reporting and more on operations. 100% Accounting (argueable).
  10. Legal Accounting: journal entries and management of most financial reporting inputs. Month end close. They own the trial balance. 100% Accounting.
  11. Technical Accounting & Financial Analysis: Writing technical accounting memos, researching new accounting pronouncements, balance sheet fluctuation analysis (this is the financial analysis part haha).
    100% Accounting.
  12. Internal Audit- Internal Control reviews. Business control reviews. Significant travel and exposure to management, but often limited to financial reporting. 100% Accounting.

This list was simply the first set of job titles I could think of and specific to the Pharma Industry. Feel free to post and add additional titles, or supplement the descriptions above.

Comments (27)

Aug 21, 2014

good post. thank you.

Aug 21, 2014

good post. thank you.

Aug 26, 2014

Good info and an important topic to keep in mind when job hunting. Certain firms have a lot of title inflation and call their data entry clerks accountants, accountants financial analysts, and it's hard to find out what the actual financial analyst position is called.

Sep 4, 2014

Treasury is definitely finance. Oftentimes it's tapping the capital markets as well, big purchase decisions often will go through there, not necessarily the decision to buy or not, but the how to finance.

Sep 13, 2014

+1

In addition to capital markets, Treasury will often handle hedging programs and corporate portfolio (excess cash investment) management.

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Sep 18, 2014

Great post, this information is very relevant for internships as well. A lot of finance internships descriptions seem to be mainly accounting, with a little finance sprinkled in

Sep 19, 2014

Internal audit also can vary significantly, a lot of people I know in that role are operationally focused (manufacturing & construction) or very compliance focused in addition to pure accounting internal audit. I.E. they review more than just numbers that end up on the balance sheet.

Sep 29, 2014
Hawkeye 79:

Internal audit also can vary significantly, a lot of people I know in that role are operationally focused (manufacturing & construction) or very compliance focused in addition to pure accounting internal audit. I.E. they review more than just numbers that end up on the balance sheet.

I'd like to add that in my past experience at a F500 company, internal audit was pretty evenly divided between operational matters (similar to an internal consulting -lite), and the more traditional audit role (Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, checking the boxes, etc). Needless to say, working in the first type of group were people more likely to move up the ladder than those in the second.

Sep 30, 2014
kingmonkeycmonkeydo:
Hawkeye 79:

Internal audit also can vary significantly, a lot of people I know in that role are operationally focused (manufacturing & construction) or very compliance focused in addition to pure accounting internal audit. I.E. they review more than just numbers that end up on the balance sheet.

I'd like to add that in my past experience at a F500 company, internal audit was pretty evenly divided between operational matters (similar to an internal consulting -lite), and the more traditional audit role (Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, checking the boxes, etc). Needless to say, working in the first type of group were people more likely to move up the ladder than those in the second.

Do you mind explaining briefly what exactly is meant by "operational matters"? On the accounting side, is that more looking at whether or not proper controls are in place (i.e. segregation of duties, etc.) and analyzing business processes (such as payroll/AR) to see if they can be improved or is it something else entirely?

I'm trying to figure out exactly what Internal Audit is because my impression was that it was mostly just ensuring the firm is in compliance with laws and helping out external auditors with their controls testing and whatnot (which is why people try to avoid it?). What you've described sounds a bit different.

Oct 10, 2014

Agreed, working on operational matters that help the company run efficiently and profitably is far better for moving up the ladder than any regulatory compliance work

Best Response
Sep 29, 2014

This is a helpful thread for those that are unfamiliar, but never rely on a title - always read the job descriptions and ASK QUESTIONS DURING THE INTERVIEW. It's hard in just a few interviews, but do your best to understand what you're getting in to day to day.

I will add that the connotation on this board is that accounting is bad. I advocate that you know what you're getting in to, but I wouldn't avoid accounting entirely if CF is the path that you're taking.

I will give this advice as someone who is hopefully on CFO path of a $1B org and was fairly successful at a F500. If you're gong to build your career through CF and want to hit VP/CFO level you really need a diverse skills set and experiences. I highly doubt you'd get to that level without some of the accounting listed above, for instance FP&A. (disclaimer there are other ways to get to VP/CFO level, this is specific to working your way through CF).

I'll add another title that is 100% accounting, which I will always avoid like the plague, anything in the "Controllers Group" or with the word controller in it.

Also, "Decision Support" roles are typically a mix of business analysis and some FP&A, not a ton of pure accounting.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Sep 29, 2014

I disagree with your opinion on the controllers group. From my experience, a controller has a team of accountants to handle the accounting side and a majority of the job entails exactly what OP said under FP&A. A lot of working with operations to help them make smart business decisions.

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Sep 29, 2014

If that's your experience, then it just further illustrates the need to understand the role. I've been close to a few F500 organizations and the Controllers Groups were always accounting. As you move up in all roles (including Controller) it typically gets a little more strategic, but that's not a group that I desire to work in.

Also, because I'll never do it doesn't mean it's a bad experience. I'd actually say that it could be a positive differentiating experience, just not one I'll ever go for.

@"amach3" I'm not sure if the question was pointed towards me or not. I was at a F500 healthcare/bio company, but left to go somewhere else recently for another opportunity.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Oct 4, 2014
accountingbyday:

This is a helpful thread for those that are unfamiliar, but never rely on a title - always read the job descriptions and ASK QUESTIONS DURING THE INTERVIEW. It's hard in just a few interviews, but do your best to understand what you're getting in to day to day.

I will add that the connotation on this board is that accounting is bad. I advocate that you know what you're getting in to, but I wouldn't avoid accounting entirely if CF is the path that you're taking.

I will give this advice as someone who is hopefully on CFO path of a $1B org and was fairly successful at a F500. If you're gong to build your career through CF and want to hit VP/CFO level you really need a diverse skills set and experiences. I highly doubt you'd get to that level without some of the accounting listed above, for instance FP&A. (disclaimer there are other ways to get to VP/CFO level, this is specific to working your way through CF).

I'll add another title that is 100% accounting, which I will always avoid like the plague, anything in the "Controllers Group" or with the word controller in it.

Also, "Decision Support" roles are typically a mix of business analysis and some FP&A, not a ton of pure accounting.

I'm surprised to see this opinion about the controllers group from someone who works in the industry. I've been in the F500 CF industry for eight years in total at two large, respected F500's and I can tell you from my experience that the vast majority of the people in high level CF roles (VP, Director, etc) had at least one previous stint as a controller on their resume. Typical path I see is FLDP / Entry Level analyst/accountant --> Senior Accountant / FP&A Analyst --> Acct/Finance Manager --> Controller --> Division Controller --> Finance Director --> VP --> Sr VP --> CFO

I haven't gone out and looked at too many F500 CFO bio's, but I would wager to guess that you would find that many of them have prior experience as a controller. I'm not putting this post out there to sell the controller position, but the best strategy for making it to the top is having as many diverse experiences as possible across the various accounting and finance roles. Sure, working in the more "sexy" FP&A / business development roles throughout your career is great, but good luck getting that VP/CFO role if you're up against someone who has experience on the FP&A / BD side and has also been a controller for a multi million dollar business.

Sep 29, 2014

Just to confirm, you work in the pharma industry right? What group are you in currently?

Sep 29, 2014

Question was meant for OP but was interested as well, thanks for responding.

Sep 30, 2014

great post

Sep 30, 2014

I work in controlling (oil&gas) and from my experience it's not that much accounting involved. The account keeping is done by a whole other division and the reporting is done by another department. However, in controlling besides finance and accounting I could say it is a lot of "knowing the business side/the industry" involved.

Main tasks would include forecasting, monthly reports to top management, support for business cases from the finance side; we are quite involved in consolidating the budget and running scenarios, P&L and BS planning; maintaining and developing business & finance relevant KPI's. These would be the recurring tasks (roughly 50%), the other half are various ad-hoc analysis required by top management.

The obvious upside is the great exposure to all sorts of departments and managers. But for sure as a junior, there will be a fair share of number checking and endless powerpoint updates. This gets better as you develop your skills and you prove yourself prepared for the more interesting tasks.

Oct 1, 2014

Can't say enough about the variability in roles and responsibilities of various departments across companies and industries. In all honesty it comes down to how your CFO wants to structure his or her organization and that is dependent on the skillsets of the lieutenants and the CFO's priorities - some like to be closer to corporate functions and delegate more of the business finance functions while others are the opposite.

Know the role and don't be deceived by a department name.

Also, agree that internal audit can be much more than internal control reviews - again, depends on the company and the specific roles within internal audit. I don't have any direct experience, but I believe programs like GE's CAS focus more on business reviews, process improvement, and transaction reviews. From what I've heard it's not uncommon for experienced professionals coming out of that program (after 5-7 yrs) to move directly into segment CFO positions.

Oct 2, 2014

Amach, I work at one of the largest 5 Pharma companies as a sales forecaster in what we call the Finance Decision Support group.

Interestingly, my group is part of a larger group called financial controls, yet the overall group is the least accounting oriented group in the companys finance category

Oct 2, 2014

In a F200 CPG Rotational program, currently in a pricing group. Group technically does not roll up into the traditional CFO supported finance org but they put kids into this group all the time. Not really pure finance but heavier on analysis than many other groups people rotate through.

Other groups my company rotates people through not listed previously:
Tax
Strat Planning (attached to FP&A)
M&A
Procurement
Plants

Hey, I'm a child of divorce! Gimme a break!

Oct 2, 2014

great post. thank you.

Oct 3, 2014

great post. thanks!

Oct 9, 2014

My group is extremely small with two FP&A's. They handle every single one of those functions you listed on a daily basis.

Dec 3, 2014

Look all over the web for this. Thank you!

Dec 3, 2014
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Dec 6, 2014