What does an executive accountant do? (Duties and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in working in accounting and have good financial planning skills, a career as an executive accountant may be rewarding. Executive accountants perform several duties to ensure the financial health of an organisation. Learning more about this role helps you determine whether it aligns with your skills and interests. In this article, we answer the question 'What does an executive accountant do?' and explain how to become one, before outlining their key skills and typical work environment.

What does an executive accountant do?

To answer 'What does an executive accountant do?', an executive accountant is a C-suite professional who oversees an organisation's finances. Their responsibilities may vary depending on the size of the company, the industry they work in and their expertise. Some general day-to-day duties of executive accountants include:

Prepare budgets

Executive accountants prepare annual budgets on behalf of an organisation. They review departmental budgets and ensure they align with the company's overall spending projections. Preparing budgets requires executive accountants to work with other finance professionals, such as the company president and chief financial officer, to compile information on the company's finances.

Related: What is impairment in accounting? (Plus pros and cons)

Hire and supervise staff

Executive accountants hire bookkeepers, junior accountants and other lower-level staff when necessary. They oversee the selection and training process, evaluate the performance of new employees and ensure they're aware of the company's financial systems and policies. Executive accountants ensure new employees can perform key administrative duties, such as filing paperwork, making copies of cheques and invoices and entering expenditures into the financial software system.

Oversee tax payments

An executive accountant ensures that a company pays its taxes on time and files them appropriately. They make sure that the company makes payments in full to avoid financial repercussions. By overseeing tax preparation, executive accountants prevent company asset freezes from occurring and ensure that the company acts in line with current tax regulations. This also means that executive accountants are responsible for staying up to date on new tax laws and standards.

Create financial reports

Executive accountants are responsible for collecting and analysing data so they can create financial reports that reflect the company's progress. These reports contain concise data regarding the organisation's weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual spending. They present report findings to management so that they can make more informed decisions. Some types of financial reports that executive accountants create include cash flow statements, balance sheets and profit and loss statements. They usually break down information into layman's terms that non-accountants can understand.

Related: 7 types of financial analysis (with useful examples)

Building relationships

To create a better customer experience, executive accountants aim to create mutually beneficial relationships with internal departments and external contacts. They maintain a database of client contact information to facilitate better communication and promote discussions. Executive accountants handle contact complaints and negotiations and always try and compromise to satisfy their needs where appropriate.

How to become an executive accountant

There are certain educational and experiential requirements necessary to become an executive accountant. Learning more about these requirements helps you determine whether this role is suitable for you. Steps on how to become an executive accountant include:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

The minimum education requirement to become an executive accountant is a bachelor's degree in a related subject. Some course disciplines to consider include finance, accounting, business, communications and marketing. These courses teach you important accounting and business law principles and give you some experience working with accounting technologies.

Although it's not essential, some employers may ask candidates to further their education with a master's degree. Earning this qualification gives you a competitive advantage over others when applying for jobs. Be sure to check the entry requirements before applying to university, as institutions usually have different criteria. Many require students to have at least two to three A-levels or equivalent qualifications between grades A* to C.

Related: A guide to accounting standards (UK GAAP and IFRS)

2. Gain experience

Hiring managers look for aspiring executive accountants who have several years of experience in corporate accounting. Many executive accountants earn experience in a junior accountant position before working their way upwards over a four-to-five-year period. Many employers provide continuous training opportunities for accounting professionals so they're able to continue developing their skill sets. These training courses focus on customer service, accounting software updates and stock market regulations. Take advantage of these training opportunities to show your employer your commitment to career progression and development.

3. Consider a training programme

If you prefer the vocational route, consider completing the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) accounting qualification. No degree is necessary to pursue this qualification, but you do require an employer who's approved by the institution to put you through the training. These training contracts usually last around three to five years and allow you to achieve chartered status. Be sure to consider the package of training, pay and leave offered by the employer before committing to the programme. The qualification requires you to complete your studies while working.

Alternatively, graduates might benefit from the Chartered Accountancy Training Scheme. Successful completion of this course allows you to gain membership and chartership to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Related: How to become a chief accounting officer (with skills info)

4. Earn certification

Earning certification isn't essential to becoming an executive accountant, but it demonstrates your commitment to the field and shows you have the necessary skills to succeed in the role. Some common certifications held by executive accountants include Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The CPA certification is a highly popular credential among C-suite accounting professionals. It helps increase your understanding of senior accounting roles and opens you up to professional career progression prospects.

Upon completing the CPA certification, you're cleared to obtain provincial licensing, offer opinions on the financial statements of publicly listed companies and prepare audit reports. There are three awarding bodies to consider when looking to pursue accountancy certification. These include Chartered Accountants Ireland, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).

Executive accountant skills

Executive accountants usually develop their skill set throughout their education and work experience. Being aware of these skills ensures you target them on your CV and cover letter. Some important executive accountant skills include:

  • Customer service skills: Executive accountants maintain strong relationships with clients to better comprehend their demands and meet their expectations. They attend discussions with a professional and spend time listening to the client's concerns or demands.

  • Computer skills: These skills allow executive accountants to manipulate data to create concise and actionable reports. Executive accountants also use computer skills to file client contact information and log company expenditures.

  • Organisational skills: Executive accountants systematically organise large volumes of financial information on a regular basis. This allows them to access data quickly and facilitates more productive conversations with clients.

  • Communication skills: Executive accountants correspond with clients, management and other finance professionals on a regular basis. Good oral and written communication skills allow them to convey information quickly and succinctly, tailoring their response so that non-technical individuals understand.

  • Financial reporting skills: These skills allow executive accountants to use various data to generate financial insights. Accountants present these insights in the form of reports, statements and graphs.

Related: How to write a finance CV (with a template and example)

Executive accountant work environment

Executive accountants usually work in an office environment within an organisation. There are several industries that executive accountants work in, including:

  • Industry and commerce: This includes major commercial companies in retail, manufacturing and telecommunications.

  • Public practice: This is the most common employer of executive accountants and includes small accountancy firms and large-scale, international accounting organisations.

  • Public sector: This includes educational institutions, local and central government, health care organisations and charities.

The working hours of an executive accountant may vary depending on the type of organisation they work for, yet they typically work standard business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They may work extra hours in the case of imminent deadlines. Upon becoming certified, executive accountants benefit from flexible working arrangements. For instance, they may choose to work independently by becoming a sole practitioner.

Executive accountant job description

Reading executive accountant job descriptions helps you understand what employers are looking for in candidates. An example of an executive accountant job description includes:

We're looking for a highly motivated executive accountant who's able to generate customer leads and facilitate long-lasting client relationships. Some responsibilities of the role include following industry trends and regulations, communicating with clients to understand and satisfy their needs and recommending products or services to maximise company value. We require someone with strong computer and communication skills and who feels comfortable negotiating with clients. The ideal client is knowledgeable about accounting principles and technologies and can use data to generate financial reports. They're organised, have good customer service skills and are adept at enhancing the buyer experience.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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