John Tranter, finance director at Mencap, and William Turner, financial controller of intellectual property company the IP Group, made the observation during a joint presentation on the role of finance specialists operating in different environments at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales's annual conference on financial controllers.
Before the conference, at the Hilton Paddington in London, Turner told Third Sector the job descriptions of charity and corporate finance directors matched in three key areas: the roles of manager, bookkeeper and financial controller.
He said there was particular overlap in the support and staff development role. "Coaching staff to ensure that reporting happens on time and is at all times relevant is very important, regardless of the industry that finance professionals operate in," Turner said. "The audiences that receive that reporting naturally differ between sectors."
The key difference was in the types of strategic partnerships finance directors are involved in. These were specific to each sector, Turner said.
For the IP Group, the strategic partners were university contacts, industry suppliers and shareholders, whereas Mencap reported predominantly to its trustees and stakeholders. Tranter said: "I work for a values-led organisation, and the outcome for individuals is at the heart of what we do. The outcome for William is turning science into monetary value.
"If I talked to my teams about the money first, I would get blank looks. But I talk about improving the situation for people with learning difficulties through finance, and I get a lot further that way."
Chris Harris, director of finances and resources at Action for Blind People, told Third Sector it was obvious that the bigger and more commercial charities get, the more they will resemble their private sector counterparts.
"I get depressed when I hear people saying about other sectors: 'Oh, it's all so easy for them and so hard for us,'" he said. "We should take every opportunity to learn from what's going on elsewhere."