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Q: what is the difference between a CFO, CAO and Controller? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: what is the difference between a CFO, CAO and Controller?
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: grthumongous-ga
List Price: $8.00
Posted: 03 Feb 2005 11:41 PST
Expires: 05 Mar 2005 11:41 PST
Question ID: 468238
what is the difference between a CFO,  CAO, Controller, and Treasurer?

CFO is Chief Financial Officer
CAO is Chief Accounting Officer

In some of the recent Enron/Worldcom/HealthSouth legal proceedings there
have been a plethora of numbers men with an alphabet soup of titles, sometimes
pitted against each other. 

It would help to know what functions the different roles are intended to perform.

Here is a recent item for HealthSouth Corp.
Subject: Re: what is the difference between a CFO, CAO and Controller?
Answered By: mwalcoff-ga on 03 Feb 2005 13:24 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

"Chief Accounting Officer" is another name for a chief accounting
executive, or vice president of accounting. A CAO's responsibilities
are as follows:

"Oversees all aspects of an organization's accounting function.
Responsible for planning and directing ledger accounts, financial
statements, and cost control systems. ...  Performs a variety of
tasks. Leads and directs the work of others. A wide degree of
creativity and latitude is expected. Typically reports to top

Source:, "Top Accounting Executive,"

While a chief accounting officer just handles accounting, a CFO is
theoretically in charge of all financial functions of a company.
According to, this includes "accounting, budget, credit,
insurance, tax, and treasury." A company may have a VP of finance in
place of a CFO.

Source:, "Chief Financial Officer,"

Monster's description of a controller is similar to the description of
a chief accounting officer:

"Responsible for directing an organization's accounting functions.
These functions include establishing and maintaining the
organization's accounting principles, practices, procedures, and
initiatives. Prepares financial reports and presents findings and
recommendations to top management"

Source:, "Controller,"

In fact, if you do a Google search on <Controller "Chief accounting
officer">, you'll find that the two positions are usually folded into
one. Also, the business dictionary "Wall Street Words" defines
controller and comptroller as "an organization's chief accounting

Source:, "Controller,

A treasurer can be one of a couple of things. A treasurer may be the
official formally in charge of receiving and disbursing funds in a
company's name. He or she would be appointed by and answer to the
board of directors.

A treasurer might also be, like a controller, someone who reports to
the CFO. According to the business-education site The Working Manager:

"Typically, the CFO will have two important people reporting to him or
her - the Treasurer and the (Financial) Controller. Broadly speaking,
the former is more concerned with formal accounting and in particular
the management of loans and their repayment, while the latter is more
concerned with management accounting - budgeting, financial and
activity reporting (often with IT) and financial planning."

Source: The Working Manager, "CEO, COO and CFO,"

Also see: U.S. Department of Labor, "Financial Managers," 29 June

I hope this answer meets your needs. If not, please request clarification.

Search strategy:

chief financial officer controller treasurer

corporate titles chief accounting

corporate titles "chief financial officer"

corporate titles controller
grthumongous-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

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