What is a CFO's biggest fight

How much controllers and CFOs will earn in 2021

Many companies are on the austerity course. There are only a few positions in controlling for big salary increases, as a current forecast for 2021 shows. Nevertheless, these skilled workers remain an important factor in the fight against the crisis.


The corona crisis has shaken many companies economically. As a result, not only many costs, but also new hires are scrutinized closely. The know-how in the controlling area is urgently needed at the moment. Companies can hardly do without these skilled workers, even if the hiring policy of companies is currently characterized primarily by restraint.

2019 | OriginalPaper | Book chapter

The role of the controller - local developments, global trends and outlook for the future

Since the creation of the function and profession in the 1970s, the development of controlling and the controller has attracted a lot of attention in both academic and practice-oriented literature. A look at the daily tasks of the controller reveals an enormous bandwidth, ranging from the illustration of relatively simple accounting processes to advanced data analysis with the help of Monte Carlo simulations.

Salary cuts in the crisis drive away skilled workers

Alexander Sasse and Patrick Löflath emphasize in their article "Proactively avoiding crises" that controlling can make a significant contribution to crisis resilience and crisis prevention. However, necessary, crisis-related salary cuts can lead to top specialists leaving the company. According to the personnel service provider Robert Half, 80 percent of German executives fear that they will not be able to retain skilled workers in their company over the long term. The "Salary Overview 2021" shows which trends can be expected for the coming months.

In the controlling area, salaries do not seem to rise enormously or fall significantly for 2021. The average wage for classic controllers in the coming year will be

  • with little work experience 47,000 euros (previous year: 48,000 euros),
  • with average work experience 63,750 euros (previous year: 65,000 euros),
  • with above-average qualifications 79,500 euros (previous year: 80,000 euros) and
  • 120,000 euros (previous year 125,000 euros), if they can demonstrate an extraordinary amount of experience and expertise.

Salary negotiations will therefore not get any easier for controllers. This is also noticeable with other financial professionals, such as the investment controller with average professional experience, who can hope for around 78,250 euros (previous year: 80,000 euros). The sales controller with average professional experience can even expect an estimated average salary of 58,000 euros in 2021 (previous year: 55,000 euros).

Controlling managers and CFOs remain top earners

The highest salaries in finance are achieved in positions of leadership. Controlling managers can expect the following salaries on average for 2021:

  • with little work experience in the new position 77,750 euros (previous year: 79,750 euros),
  • with average experience 91,500 euros (previous year: 91,500 euros),
  • with above-average qualifications 115,000 euros (110,000 euros) and
  • with an extraordinary amount of experience and expertise 140,000 euros (132,000 euros).

The largest salary increases are granted to the CFOs. The Chief Financial Officers are expected to earn in the coming year:

  • with little professional experience in the new position 140,000 euros (previous year: 120,000 euros),
  • with average experience 165,000 euros (previous year: 144,500 euros),
  • with above-average qualifications 210,000 euros (previous year: 168,500 euros) and
  • 275,000 euros (previous year: 226,000 euros) with an extraordinary amount of experience and expertise.

CFOs have to prove themselves as crisis managers. In the current economic situation you are an important support for management. The commitment is also noticeable in terms of salary. While the other controlling positions show only small changes and hardly any increases in the salary structure, CFO salaries seem to have made a significant leap.