What Sets Financial And Managerial Accounting Apart?

Wajiha Danish | July 18 2023

Have you ever marveled at the intricate accounting world, where numbers dance and reveal captivating tales of an organization’s financial health? As you delve deeper into this realm, you might encounter two distinct branches dominating the stage: financial and managerial accounting. But what makes them different? And why is it crucial to understand their unique roles in the business landscape?  

We embark on a fascinating journey to unravel the enigma of financial and managerial accounting. We’ll explore the divergent paths they traverse, their purposes, and the diverse insights they provide to those who wield their powers.  bookkeeping contact us

What is managerial accounting?  

Managerial accounting, also known as management accounting, is a branch that focuses on providing financial information and analysis to internal users, such as managers and executives, within an organization. Its primary purpose is to assist in a company’s decision-making process, planning, controlling, and performance evaluation.  

Managerial accounting provides detailed and timely financial information that helps managers in various aspects of their roles, including:  

1. Planning

Managers use managerial accounting techniques to set goals, develop budgets, and create forecasts. It involves estimating future costs, revenues, and cash flows and analyzing the financial impact of different scenarios and strategic options.  

2. Decision-making

Managerial accounting provides relevant financial data to support decision-making. It includes evaluating investment opportunities, analyzing product profitability, determining pricing strategies, assessing the viability of projects, and deciding on the allocation of resources.  

3. Controlling

Managerial accounting involves monitoring and evaluating actual performance against planned objectives. It includes the analysis of variances, such as differences between budgeted and actual costs or revenues and identifying the reasons behind these variations. This information helps managers take corrective actions to achieve the organization’s goals.  

4. Performance evaluation

Managerial accounting provides performance measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of different departments, products, or processes within the organization. It helps in identifying areas of improvement and supports performance-based incentive systems.  

Managerial accounting techniques often include cost accounting, budgeting, variance analysis, activity-based costing, cost-volume-profit analysis, and relevant costing. These tools help managers make informed decisions and improve the organization’s overall financial performance. 

What is financial accounting?  

Financial accounting is a branch of accounting that focuses on recording, summarizing, and reporting financial transactions and information about an organization. Its primary purpose is to provide useful financial information to external stakeholders, such as investors, creditors, regulators, and the public.  

Financial accounting follows certain principles and guidelines, such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), depending on the jurisdiction and the type of organization. These standards ensure consistency, comparability, and transparency in financial reporting.  

The main components of financial accounting include:  

1. Recording transactions

Financial accountants record various business transactions, such as sales, purchases, expenses, and investments, in the organization’s accounting system. They use a double-entry bookkeeping system, where every transaction affects at least two accounts, ensuring the equation Assets = Liabilities + equity always balances.  

2. Financial statements

Financial accountants prepare and present financial statements, including the balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and statement of changes in equity. These statements provide a snapshot of an organization’s financial position, performance, and cash flows over a specific period.  

  – The balance sheet provides information about an organization’s assets, liabilities, and equity at a given time.  

  – The income statement (the profit and loss statement) shows the revenues, expenses, and net income or loss for a specific period.  

  – The cash flow statement illustrates the inflows and outflows of cash and cash equivalents, categorizing them into operating, investing, and financing activities.  

  – The statement of changes in equity outlines the changes in shareholders’ equity during a particular period, including factors such as net income, dividends, and additional investments.  

3. Financial analysis and interpretation

Financial accountants analyze financial statements to assess an organization’s financial performance, liquidity, solvency, and profitability. They may calculate financial ratios, perform trend analysis, and compare the organization’s financial results with industry benchmarks or prior periods to gain insights and make informed decisions.  

4. External reporting

Financial accountants prepare external reports, such as annual reports, financial statements, and disclosures, which are shared with external stakeholders. These reports provide crucial information for investors, creditors, and other interested parties to evaluate the organization’s financial health and make informed decisions.  

Financial accounting plays a vital role in ensuring transparency, accountability, and reliability in financial reporting, enabling stakeholders to assess an organization’s financial performance and make informed decisions. 

What is the difference between financial and managerial accounting?  

Managerial accounting and financial accounting are two branches of accounting that serve different purposes within an organization.  

Here’s an overview of the key differences between the two:  

1. Focus: 

  – Managerial Accounting: Managerial accounting is primarily concerned with providing information and analysis to internal users, such as managers, executives, and employees within an organization. It focuses on providing relevant and timely data for planning, controlling, and decision-making purposes within the organization.  

  – Financial Accounting: Financial accounting, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with providing information to external users, including investors, creditors, regulators, and the public. It focuses on preparing and presenting financial statements, which provide an overview of an organization’s financial performance and position.  

2. Users: 

  – Managerial Accounting: The primary users of managerial accounting information are internal managers and employees at various organizational levels. They use this information to make informed decisions, plan budgets, set goals, evaluate performance, and allocate resources effectively.  

  – Financial Accounting: External users, such as investors, creditors, government agencies, and other stakeholders, rely on financial accounting information to assess the financial health, performance, and stability of a company. They use this information to make investment decisions, grant credit, and evaluate the company’s compliance with accounting standards and regulations.  

3. Timeframe: 

  – Managerial Accounting: Managerial accounting focuses on providing real-time and future-oriented information. It includes budgeting, forecasting, and performance reports that help managers make informed decisions about resource allocation and performance evaluation.  

  – Financial Accounting: Financial accounting captures and summarizes historical financial data in financial statements, typically covering a specific reporting period, such as a quarter or a year. It provides a snapshot of the company’s financial position and performance during that period.  

4. Level of Detail: 

  – Managerial Accounting: Managerial accounting can provide highly detailed information on specific aspects of a company’s operations, such as individual product profitability, cost behavior analysis, or departmental performance. It allows managers to focus on the details necessary for effective decision-making.  

  – Financial Accounting: Financial accounting provides a broader overview of the company’s financial performance. It summarizes financial transactions and presents them in financial statements, such as the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. The level of detail in financial accounting is generally less granular than in managerial accounting. 


Financial and managerial accounting play distinct but equally important roles in accounting. While financial accounting focuses on providing accurate and reliable financial information to external stakeholders, managerial accounting provides internal decision-makers with relevant data for effective planning, controlling, and decision-making. Financial accounting is governed by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and is the backbone of financial statements, including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. On the other hand, managerial accounting is more flexible and subjective, tailored to meet the specific needs of managers within an organization. Although financial and managerial accounting relies on financial data, their focus and audience differ significantly.  

Also Read: How Does Traditional Accounting In The Back Office Work?

Accounting contact us

Author Bio

Wajiha is a Brampton-based CPA, CGA, and Controller with 17+ years of experience in the financial services industry. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University and is a Chartered Certified Accountant. Wajiha spearheads Monily as its Director and is a leader who excels in helping teams achieve excellence. She talks about business financial health, innovative accounting, and all things finances.