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. 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.
Financial managers held about 681,700 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of financial managers were as follows:
- Finance and insurance - 32%
- Professional, scientific, and technical services - 14%
- Management of companies and enterprises - 11%
- Government - 7%
- Manufacturing - 6%
Financial managers work closely with top executives and with departments that develop data needed for analysis.
Most financial managers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.
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.
Many financial managers work in accounting departments. Accounting positions normally require workers to be certified public accountants (CPAs).
Other Skills Required
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.
How to Advance
Financial managers may broaden their skills and exhibit their competency by attaining professional certification. Many associations offer professional certification programs. For example, the CFA Institute confers the Chartered Financial Analyst designation on investment professionals who have at least a bachelor's degree, work experience, and pass three difficult exams. The Association for Financial Professionals confers the Certified Treasury Professional credentials to those who pass a computer-based exam and have a minimum of 2 years of relevant experience. Continuing education is required to maintain these credentials. Also, financial managers who specialize in accounting or budgeting sometimes earn the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation. The CMA is offered by the Institute of Management Accountants to its members who have a bachelor's degree, at least 2 years of work experience, pass the institute's four-part examination, and fulfill continuing education requirements.
Continuing education is vital to financial managers, who must cope with the growing complexity of global trade, changes in Federal and State laws and regulations, and the proliferation of new and complex financial instruments. Firms often provide opportunities for workers to broaden their knowledge and skills by encouraging them to take graduate courses and attend conferences related to their specialty. Financial management, banking, and credit union associations, often in cooperation with colleges and universities, sponsor numerous national and local training programs. Subjects covered by training programs include accounting management, budget management, corporate cash management, financial analysis, international banking, and information systems. Many firms pay all or part of the costs for employees who successfully complete the courses. Although experience, ability, and leadership are emphasized for promotion, advancement may be accelerated by this type of special study.
Because financial management is so important to efficient business operations, well-trained, experienced financial managers who display a strong grasp of the operations of various departments within their organization are prime candidates for promotion to top management positions. Some financial managers transfer to closely related positions in other industries. Those with extensive experience and access to sufficient capital may start their own consulting firms.
Employment of financial managers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 64,200 openings for financial managers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Services provided by financial managers, such as planning, directing, and coordinating investments, are likely to stay in demand as the economy grows. In addition, several specialties within financial management, particularly cash management and risk management, are expected to be in high demand over the decade.
In recent years, companies have accumulated more cash on their balance sheets, particularly among those with operations in foreign countries. As globalization continues, this trend is likely to persist. This should lead to demand for financial managers, as companies will need expertise in managing cash.
There has been an increased emphasis on risk management within the financial industry, and this trend is expected to continue. Banking institutions are expected to emphasize stability and managing risk over profits. This emphasis is expected to lead to employment growth for risk managers.
The credit intermediation and related activities industry, which includes commercial and savings banks, employs a large percentage of financial managers. As bank customers continue to conduct transactions online, the number of bank branches is expected to decline, which should limit employment growth in this sector. However, employment declines are expected to mainly affect clerical occupations, such as tellers, rather than financial managers.
The median annual wage for financial managers was $131,710 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $77,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for financial managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Management of companies and enterprises - $158,820
- Professional, scientific, and technical services - $158,770
- Manufacturing - $131,710
- Finance and insurance - $131,710
- Government - $123,010
Most financial managers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.