Keeping money as long as possible and getting invoices paid as soon as possible. In a Covid-19 era, that is pretty much the philosophy of many organisations. And we also notice it on the labour market: the demand for Credit Controllers in the past quarter was no less than 27% higher than a year ago.
We asked Karl Bladt, Consultant at staffing specialist Walters People, about the important role of Credit Controllers in today's financial job market.
What does a Credit Controller do exactly?
Karl: "A Credit Controller manages his/her own client portfolio and determines the payment and credit limits which must be respected and monitored. The job title Credit Controller is quite broad and is often used interchangeably. In some organisations the Credit Controller mainly performs analytical tasks, whereas in another organisation he or she only calls clients to remind them to pay outstanding invoices.
The Credit Controller reports to the Credit Manager and focuses mainly on building good relationships with the clients in his portfolio and making clear agreements with them. The size of the organisation where the Credit Controller is employed partly determines the size of the client portfolio. This can be either a limited number of recurring clients or an extensive portfolio of up to 2 to 3000 organisations.
When, for one reason or another, clients do not pay outstanding invoices on time, it is the Credit Controller's job to intervene quickly. First, he or she will try to find a solution together with the client. If that is not possible, he will send out reminders. When payments are still not made, he or she is forced to take further legal steps and call in a bailiff or debt collection agency. But a good Credit Controller makes sure that it does not come to that: 'good agreements make good friends', you know? Their goal is to make sure that the DSO (Days Sales Outstanding) or the accounts receivable balance within the organisation is as low as possible. The faster the invoices are paid after receipt, the better the Credit Controller has done his job.
Of course, the management also wants to be informed about the financial situation. Therefore, the Credit Controller will report the status of good and bad payers to management on a monthly basis, but also to other departments in the organisation that would benefit from knowing the financial situation of their customers. Think of the sales department, for example."
What education and skills are important for Credit Controllers?
Karl: "A Bachelor or Master degree in Finance is an excellent starting point, but certainly not a must for becoming a successful Credit Controller. A Credit Controller is in the first place an extrovert who likes to be in daily contact with different parties. This contact is very broad: within the organisation it is mainly with the finance and sales department and the management team, externally it is mainly with clients and collection agencies.
A good knowledge of languages is therefore essential, since the client portfolio in most organisations includes both Dutch-speaking and French-speaking clients. In international organisations, Credit Controllers with a good knowledge of German, Spanish or Italian, for example, are often called upon in order to approach those customers smoothly.
In addition, the Credit Controller must be a good listener. If the clients has financial difficulties that prevent the invoices from being paid on time, it is the task of the Credit Controller to think along with the client and together reach a solution, for example by proposing an instalment plan.
Does the Covid-19 pandemic have an impact on the demand for and role of Credit Controllers?
"Getting and keeping the DSO within the organisation as low as possible obviously requires a lot of perseverance from Credit Controllers. The Covid-19 pandemic makes organisations want to see their money quickly and at the same time hold on to it for as long as possible. It is the Credit Controllers' job to guarantee a stable and strong cash flow, which is why the workload has increased significantly in recent months. Deadlines are being tightened and the role of Credit Controllers is becoming increasingly important within a healthy organisation. And we see this in the demand: since the beginning of last year, the demand has increased by no less than 21% compared to the previous year. The increase in the past quarter has been particularly remarkable: no fewer than 27% more credit control vacancies were published than in the first quarter of 2020," says Karl.
As a recent graduate, can you already work as a Credit Controller?
"Yes, you can, but in a role with limited responsibility. Graduates will not immediately be assigned a client portfolio of 1,000 organisations, for example. But we usually see graduates starting in a Junior Accountant position and then progressing to a Credit Controller position. It’s mainly those who have experience in accounting and credit collection, and want to grow further in this area. And that is a fine evolution, as long as they can demonstrate the necessary perseverance and commercial attitude."
What are the growth opportunities for Credit Controllers?
"A Credit Controller with a few years of experience usually grows into a Credit Manager position who will then report to financial management. At that point he will manage and coach a team of Credit Controllers. In order to take on this role, it is of course important to receive the necessary training: mastering people management and coaching skills is therefore essential. How many people you will be supervising also depends on the size of the organisation. It may be a few people who oversee the local market, or it may be a large team that covers several countries. In such case, it is essential that the Credit Manager has strong communication skills and a thorough knowledge of languages. However, if you do not have the ambition to supervise a team, you can of course develop further into a real expert within credit control, or expand your scope to several countries or even continents."
What salary can a Credit Controller expect?
"A Credit Controller with about 3 years of experience can expect a gross monthly salary between EUR 2000 and EUR 2500. Professionals with 3-6 years of experience will see their gross monthly salary increase to EUR 2500-3000. If you have more than 6 years’ experience, you can expect a salary between 2800 and 3600 EUR gross per month. On top of that, there are extra-legal benefits such as meal vouchers, group and/or hospitalisation insurance. Depending on the sector, the size of the organisation and the level of the position, some organisations also offer a company car," concludes Karl.
Find out more?
Would you like to work as a Credit Controller? Take a look at our most recent jobs in credit control.