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Controllers’ Roundtable: What’s Keeping Us Up at Night?

By Olivia Berkman As the controller’s role evolves, practitioners face mounting challenges and complexities in a dynamic regulatory environment. Corporate controllers from several companies discussed their key challenges at this year’s Current Financial Reporting Issues Conference, presented by Financial Executives International.Though many topics were discussed during the Controllers’ Roundtable session, non-GAAP measures, talent acquisition and retention, implementation of the revenue recognition standard, and exploring shared services are clearly top of mind for corporate controllers.Non-GAAP                          Non-GAAP was perhaps the most talked-about topic of this year’s CFRI conference, with the roundtable panelists sharing varying opinions and approaches. Sam Eldessouky, Senior Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, described their approach as understanding how the company wants to operate and measure its business performance internally and communicating that to outside shareholders and investors.“Going through that whole process forced us to assess almost every adjustment,” Eldessouky said. “We went through the history of every adjustment: why it came about and why we should continue with it. It was a very useful exercise.”Working for an organization that does a lot of acquisitions, Ken Semelsberger, Senior Vice President and Controller at Eaton Corporation, improves transparency by defining “operating earnings” for investors as costs that are not going to continue in the long term.“This takes out any kind of acquisition integration cost,” Semelsberger said. “We never got a quote or comment letter from the SEC. If anything, the fact that we were consistent really helped. The SEC is talking a lot about non-GAAP disclosures but ultimately, they’re trying to understand firms that are going up and down. What we found is if you stay consistent, always reporting on this measure, whatever the situation is, your investors appreciate it. The lesson we’ve learned is stay consistent, always present it the same way and be transparent.”Talent Acquisition and RetentionTalent acquisition and retention has become a much bigger focus for controllers. Moderator Thomas Timko, Vice...

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