Career profile: Credit controller

Credit controllers are responsible for deciding when credit should be given to debtors.

In companies, this means managing all money that’s borrowed and owed. Returning lost money is a complex task that involves managing finances, record-keeping, negotiating payment plans, and navigating through endless financial jargon.

Samantha White, founder of financial consultancy My Credit Controllers, explains what she loves about the profession and its challenges.

What led you to pursue a career as a credit controller?

It’s just something I’ve always been interested in doing. I’ve worked for a lot of small companies and I often saw that they were struggling to get paid. I find it interesting and challenging, so much so that I setup my own business doing it.

How did you find yourself coming into it?

When I started out, I began as an accounts assistant in various companies. While I did AAT I gradually progressed more towards cash and financial controller roles. As I took on more of that side of the business, I naturally became an “all-rounder” and got into credit control that way.

What does an average work day look like for you?

Hectic! I’ve got my own business and I employ two people who work with me full time. We’re an outsourced credit controller, so we collect over £2 million a month for various companies across different sectors. It’s quite busy and full on, and it’s not just about collecting the cash. It’s about maintaining credit limits, credit-checking companies and keeping up to date on information.

What are the challenges of your role?

One of the challenges that I think most people face is late payment culture. It’s quite a common thing, so a lot of people really struggle to get paid. The challenge is getting through to the right people and speaking to the right departments, especially if you’re dealing with larger companies. You’ve got to be persistent.

What other challenges do you face?

We have an online portal where individuals can register their commercial debts and that brings in a huge variety of different cases. One of the greatest challenges is when there are disputed payments that we need to resolve. All companies face cash flow problems at some point, so it’s just about building up good relationships with people.

What do you find most rewarding about your role?

We’ve helped customers that have had invoices outstanding for five years to finally get paid. It might be a bit geeky, but it’s just nice helping people. Some people probably don’t agree because they think it’s like on TV, but credit control is about more than that – it’s all about building relationships.

What should you know before starting a career as a credit controller?

Knowing how businesses work and what’s involved in the day-to-day running of a company. Students need communication skills, not just by email. A lot of it is telephone work and many people are quite daunted by using a telephone in this day and age. You will have difficult conversations sometimes, because if you’re chasing somebody who hasn’t paid for ages they’re might be disgruntled, especially if the payment is being disputed.

What makes a good credit controller?

Handling pressure when it comes to month’s end and year’s end trying to collect everything. You’ve got to be diligent and make sure people stick to their credit limits. You have to do regular credit checks so that your information is up to date. You also need to be a good negotiator and be able to resolve issues. Striking the right balance between persistence and consideration for other people’s situations is crucial.

What surprises you about your career?

How bad the late payment culture is, especially for small traders. With large, blue chip companies, their attitude towards smaller firms can be bad. I found that surprising initially, but now I’ve become accustomed to it.

Ebony-Storm Halladay is editorial operations assistant at Flibl. She researches and writes about finance, business, sustainability and technology.

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