Accounting officer vs chief financial officer (CFO): role comparison

Your trust must appoint an accounting officer and a chief financial officer. Learn who can fulfil these roles, how they’re different and what their main responsibilities are.

Last reviewed on 4 August 2023
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  1. Can the same person fulfil both roles?
  2. Accounting officer 
  3. Chief financial officer (CFO)

Can the same person fulfil both roles?

No. The roles must be fulfilled by different people. See paragraph 1.28 of the Academy Trust Handbook (ATH) 2023.

Accounting officer 

  • They should be an employee of your trust
  • They should be the 'senior executive leader of the academy trust' – in practice, this means the chief executive or equivalent of your trust will take up this role
  • The roles of senior executive leader and accounting officer must not rotate
  • Your trust must get approval from the ESFA if, in exceptional circumstances, you want to appoint an accounting officer who isn't a trust employee
  • This role is all about financial accountability and keeping proper financial records
  • They primarily play a leadership role


Be personally responsible to parliament, and to the ESFA's accounting officer, for the financial resources under the trust’s control  Be able to assure parliament, and the public, of high standards of management of public funds, particularly: Value for money – not only for the trust but for taxpayers in general Regularity – making sure all income and