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Tell us a little about your career pathRichard Jamieson1

I started my career at KPMG and had five years there which I loved and as I look back it was a tremendous grounding. From there I moved to Europe and worked for Credit Suisse Group for five years. I then moved to Commonwealth Bank and was there for eight years. I held a variety of roles – running monthly reporting, capital analysis, the planning team, group investment team and built an internal consulting team. I took on the role of CFO for Colonial First State Global Asset Management (part of CBA) and was fortunate to also do a couple of years as an investment manager within the Colonial Infrastructure business.  Just prior to the GFC I took a role as CFO for Westpac New Zealand which was a great learning experience and then transferred back to Australia with Westpac to take on the CFO role for BT Financial Group. I did that role for about four years which also included a year running the Superannuation business.  That brings me to today where I have been the CFO for Vicinity Centres for the last three years.

Did you always want to be a CFO?

I genuinely had no idea what I wanted to do when I left university and, as you can see from my experience, I have gone in and out of finance roles. The thing I love about CFO roles is you get involved in everything in the business and the interaction with the investor and investment markets.  I do love the P&L responsibility of running business roles as well.

With the year ramping up after the summer break, FEI asked leading chief financial officers about their expectations for the year ahead.

Navigating a shifting regulatory landscape and managing rapid technological change were the two standout issues.

Blackmores’ CFO Aaron Canning predicted that regulatory change and evolution, both domestically and offshore would be one of the challenges for the year, as well as charting an optimal path through the raft of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) which Australia has negotiated.

According to Australia’s International Business Survey 2017, analysis of over 1,000 Australian businesses by UTS Business School reveals 93 per cent are exporting, 48 per cent importing. While the vast majority of exporters are engaged with business partners based in countries where an FTA has been negotiated, the analysis reveals that companies are not yet taking full advantage of all that the FTAs have to offer.

Domestically Canning added that there were a range of fiscal policy changes impacting taxation – both corporate and personal – which needed attention.

Canning also said that many CFOs would need to tackle the changing retail landscape in Australia and quantify “the real Amazon effect.”

Tell us a little about your career path

I left university without knowing what I really wanted to do and after a couple of years decided on becoming a chartered accountant. That led to a relatively long career in threeAllanTait tranches and two countries (England & Australia) with PwC, during which time I became a partner in corporate finance. I finally left PwC to try different roles and sectors and became the CEO at a leading law firm and then the head of commercialisation at the University of Melbourne. I became the CFO at the University in 2009 and my role has expanded since then to encompass HR, property, sustainability and digital & data.   

And your education?

I went to school in Manchester and university in Birmingham, where I did a degree in economic and social history. I then became a chartered accountant while working for PwC in England. Since then I’ve undertaken a number of executive programs, including some to refresh my core technical skills and others to build other competencies such as leadership, awareness and innovation.

Any lows?

With hindsight, my decision to take on the CEO role at a major law firm was not my best career move. Individually lawyers are terrific people but as a group they are difficult to lead (and I feel I’m qualified to say this as my daughter is now a barrister).

Demographers estimate that an Australian Millennial may have 25 jobs over a 40-year career. It certainly expands the options for anyone quizzed; "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Career trajectories today are less linear than ever before as professionals move companies, test adjacent opportunities, navigate retrenchment, engineer career breaks and enjoy sabbaticals. For finance professionals headed for the upper echelons - there's no "right" way to become a chief financial officer and a myriad routes to the top.

At a recent Growth Series event in Sydney, FEI CEO Kate Mills spoke to three leading executives about their career trajectories, and the insights they gleaned along the way.

Since taking over the reins as CEO of Deloitte Australia, Cindy Hook has led an organisation which is growing a couple of percentage points ahead of its major rivals which is testament to both strategy and execution.

She believes that there are five keys to achieving and sustaining that sort of momentum that should resonate both for captains of industry, and leaders of the finance function.

Speaking at a recent FEI event in Sydney, Hook said that success demands organisations are purpose led, customer focused, globally minded and develop both a bold strategy and inspiring culture.

 Purpose Led

Organisations need to put purpose beyond profit. Standard & Poor’s 500 companies which are purpose led outperformed rivals ten-fold said Hook. However she stressed that success demanded that every individual in the company understood the enterprise purpose and felt empowered to work towards it.

That she said applied equally to finance teams. "Sometimes finance teams think 'I am back office’ - but this has got to be translated to every person in the organisation," including finance, said Hook.

 Bold Strategy

True leaders need to balance between the need to deliver results today while investing to transform the business to make sure it's future-ready said Hook as "business as usual" strategies are unlikely to succeed long term. At Deloitte this had required the organisation to codify, standardise and automate what it could, and then to create new value streams not tied to existing business operations.

She recommended that chief strategy officers and chief financial officers work more closely together, creating a framework that measured enterprise success in delivering against strategy.

 

Tell us a little about your career path

After the first few years working as an accountant I made the decision to build a broad commercial and strategic skill set and capability rather than defining what I thought my Sophie Moore Rperfect job or ultimate career goal would be.  I also never set any timeframes but took the opportunity to do many roles (even within the same organisation).

I started my career at Coopers & Lybrand in the undergraduate program whilst completing my accounting degree spending 10 years at PwC. After advising Flight Centre on the acquisition of a corporate travel business in the UK I joined the company and went onto spend 12 years at Flight Centre in Global Finance. I joined A.P Eagers Limited in July 2015 as the CFO and was appointed to the Board of Directors in March 2017.

What keeps you awake at night?

I am always thinking about what I need to execute over the next week, month or beyond in my role.  It doesn’t keep me awake at night because it’s a continuous journey that will always have twists and speed bumps along the way. 

Any career lows?

Probably not taking time off to enjoy the long service leave I built up in my last two roles.

How has the CFO role changed over the last decade?

The role of the modern CFO is continuously broadening from the traditional role of getting the numbers right, compliance and reporting.  That is essential but a given.  It has shifted to contributing to the development and execution of strategy.  Our role is to deliver our insights, discipline, and deep knowledge of both the business and the industry sector to our organisation.  Furthermore the digital revolution is forcing us to deliver innovative finance solutions to our business with real time reporting and analytics.

Tell us a little about your career pathAndrew Cartledge

I joined GE after graduating university and started on their graduate entry financial management program. I moved from the UK to Holland a year after starting and then kept moving with GE for the next 25 years. I spent three years with their corporate audit staff, constantly travelling and working with each business group on four month audits. I’ve been CFO for a number of businesses and regions as well as working at HQ for GE’s Energy business as the Head of Group FP&A. I spent nine years in the US and my last of 12 moves was to Australia in 2011 as the CFO for GE Australia and New Zealand. I joined WiseTech in 2015 with an opportunity to take a business through an IPO and develop as a listed company CFO.

And your education?

I grew up in the North of England and studied Accounting and Finance at University in Manchester.

How has the CFO role changed over the last decade?

The pace of change has gone from frequent to constant. The business environment, the way we run our finance function and the level of support our businesses require has all shifted up several orders of magnitude.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can take a manual process that might take the finance team 12 hours to complete and rattle it off in just 60 minutes.

It’s that sort of process improvement that has some pundits suggesting as much as 50 per cent of current finance activities will be automated in relatively short order.

However an FEI event exploring the future of finance developed in association with PwC suggests that most organisations will take a very measured approach to emerging technologies such as RPA, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Tell us about your career path: 

I started my career in sales and then marketing. I had no particular desire or interest to enter the world of finance. However, a combination of good timing a little bit of luck Canning35provided me with an opportunity to join Diageo in London, a company which I had admired for some time. I commenced as a business analyst on a temporary contract. Since then my career has followed a path encompassing a variety of roles across finance, strategy, corporate development and then out of the function into general management roles. I returned to finance about three years ago as the CFO of Blackmores.

What keeps you awake at night?

My young daughter! Apart from that, thinking about how our strategy will transform our company over the next five years and the things we need to be putting in place over the next 18 months, to ensure we are in the best position to execute on our long term strategic plans.

The CFO role has changed dramatically over the last decade, what further changes do you anticipate?

Continued broadening of responsibilities beyond delivering on the core financial disciplines. This is already largely occurring but the lines between a CFO and a COO will become increasingly blurred. Further automation of finance processes beyond transaction processing will create capacity for the CFO role to become more involved in the operational management of the business.

How far out can a CFO plan, given the pace of change at present?

I think the answer is dependent on the industry sector, the structural dynamics at play and the pace of change impacting established business models. In some industries, planning five years and beyond with a high degree of confidence in future income streams, costs and returns can be relatively accurately determined. However, in industries facing digital disruption, changing consumer purchasing behaviours and relatively low barriers to entry, shorter term horizons of no more than three years accompanied by a more flexible and nimble approach to adjusting these plans, is more appropriate.

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