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A financial manager is in charge of the functions involving money in a large or small organization. While answerable to corporate management or a board of directors, he or she holds authority over decisions regarding income, costs, payroll, investments, mergers, and acquisitions. Often, this person will work closely with other members of the management team on matters that can affect the financial health of the organization. Corporate money managers are perhaps the most common type of financial manager, but most organizations that deal with large amounts of capital, including non-profits and governments, need one.
Types of Financial Managers
The title of "financial manager" is a catch-all that describes a wide variety of positions; the actual job titles vary depending on the person's duties and the organization’s management structure. Those at or near the top of the corporate ladder may be called treasurers, finance officers, or controllers, and their influence often extends outside the financial realm. Cash managers and credit managers, by contrast, deal with the specifics of day-to-day cash and credit flow. Risk managers and insurance managers handle the uncertainties of economics, including stock trade, insurance and legal issues.
The financial manager monitors every aspect of an organization's finances, and typically oversees the employees who work in this area. This person prepares and delivers statements and reports that summarize the company's financial activity to interested parties inside and outside the organization. He or she also consults with tax attorneys and prepares tax statements and payments. In corporate finance, the job may include making recommendations to management on matters such as cost reduction and the feasibility of merging with or acquiring other companies.
Laws and Regulations
In addition to the in-house requirements of their organizations, these managers must ensure that all financial activity complies with local and national regulations. In many countries, a complex set of laws is in place to prevent financial malfeasance, and financial managers can find themselves held accountable for the unethical behavior of their clients, even if they are only consultants. In 2002, for example, the accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, was linked to the financial misdeeds of its corporate client, Enron, and both companies shut down as a result.
Skills and Education
A detailed knowledge of mathematics, economics, and all applicable laws is essential for people who work in financial management. A bachelor's degree in finance or a related field is the minimum requirement, although individuals who plan to advance in their careers will often earn a master's degree. People can also earn certification from a professional group such as the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, but this is not required. Most important is a thorough understanding of how various activities affect an organization's bottom line, and this knowledge can often best be learned through years of direct experience.
Finance management is usually a high-level position, and an aspiring financial manager is typically promoted to the position after working a related job, such as financial analyst, accountant, or auditor. Some companies do provide management training in finance. Many financial managers who work for large corporations were able to secure these jobs after successful stints with smaller companies in the same capacity.
As an executive, an ambitious financial manager may be able to advance to a corporate position such as vice president of finance or chief financial officer (CFO) or another management role. On the other hand, some individuals prefer to start their own consulting firms in accounting, investment, or related fields. Their detailed knowledge of corporate management can be an advantage when running their own companies.