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FEI regularly publishes papers, videos and webinars on topics that are of interest to CFOs and finance teams. The FEI Academy is for registered FEI members, please log in with your FEI member details when instructed. Your username is the email that you used when you joined FEI, most likely your business email and your password is your surname. All in lower case.

Tell us about your career path.           Ramy Aziz ASX R    

I have been CFO of ASX for the past eight years. Previously I was the Group Financial Controller of ASX Limited, a position I held since the ASX merged with the Sydney Futures Exchange (SFE) in 2006. I took on the ASX role and reshaped the two individual finance functions into one. Prior to that I was the CFO of an unlisted company providing financial services back office processing having spent a number of years previously with the predecessor bank to JP Morgan

What has been a career high?

I have been fortunate to work for a number of organisations that were new in Australia which meant it was an exciting time and you basically wrote your own job spec as very little was established. This involved setting up functions and hiring staff and setting the strategy for the finance team. On joining ASX post the merger, there was a lot to do in order to blend the two teams and refocus the efforts of the finance team.

Any lows?

Working for a company with two very different partners as shareholders was sometimes difficult, particularly with respect to getting support for initiatives presented to the Board. Probably one of the lows in terms of feeling you have accomplished something.

A massive shift is underway in the way people work, and the skills that are prized.

Dr Jed Kolko is chief economist for Indeed, the world’s largest online job market which attracts 200 million visits per month, holds 100 million resumes and posts more than 30,000 new jobs a week. That data bank provides rich troves of insights about the changing world of work.

During a visit to Australia when Dr Kolko spoke at the University of Sydney he said; “Our ability to see the statistics provides leading indicators into the job market about the impact of automation and globalisation, and what the (jobs) distribution will look like.

“It’s not simply how many jobs are displaced, but the regions and sectors most affected.”

He also said that in the future as even recruitment is impacted by technology; “The privileged will get evaluated by people, the masses will be evaluated by machines.”

At the same time there is a structural shift underway in the types of work available.

Being CFO of an established enterprise is one thing – managing the finances of a start up entirely another.

There is no firm census of the number of start ups in Australia and in any case a blurring exists between start ups and any other new small business. What tends to distinguish a start up from a small business is that the former is generally digital and fast growing, but with a high risk profile.

Whatever their absolute number start ups are enjoying a boom period.

For example, Sydney’s Start Up Hub, funded by the NSW Government to the tune of $35 million will eventually be home to 2,500 start up employees. The city is already ranked 17th in the world for start up ecosystems by the Startup Genome index. Melbourne and Brisbane have similarly vibrant start up communities, and there are pockets of start up activity right around the nation.

Managing the financials of such enterprises demands specific skills according to KPMG entrepreneur-in-residence Alan Jones, who also works with tech accelerator BlueChilli. In the early days start ups tend to invest in technical skills rather than financial smarts, and when they do eventually seek out finance executives; “A lot of Aussie startups smash together CFO with COO role, or sometimes it’s CEO/CFO – it’s also common to outsource CFO to a third-party provider,” said Jones.

Tell us a little about your career path Alistair Bell R

As a CFO, my path is unconventional and diverse but it’s been, at times, a question of choices influenced by my family, my curiosity, a global interest and a yearning desire to help build successful organisations.

My first job was supposed to be a grad program but the program was cancelled when the company was taken over. Commenced in chartered accounting – working in Sydney and New York Offices – however, I realized I was commercially focused so I moved into executive management with an ASX100 as a 33-year-old.

What has been a career high?

Whilst working on large scale international M&A and responding to two takeover offers have been extremely rewarding, my highlight is building something sustainable where people deal with growth and change - an enduring high-performing team.

Tell us a little about your career path

I started my career working with Deloitte Melbourne in the audit group and after four years headed across to the UK for a two-year secondment to broaden one’s horizons. It Stuart Hutton2Rworked as I ended up as a CFO at a client for 18 months. I then returned to the M&A division at Deloitte – my “real world” experience had encouraged me to be more ambitious than the world of audit. After a couple of years I then left to take on the role of Manager Acquisitions/Commercial Manager with Nylex Limited – which was an exciting, challenging and eventful few years. By all means Google the Austrim Nylex 2000 Christmas party.

I then leapt into a private equity opportunity as CFO of WorldMark Holdings where I stayed for four years.  With father time ticking I then re-entered the world of ASX listed companies by joining Orica Limited and over a five year period moved through a number of CFO roles in Chemicals, Mining Services in North America, and Minova (Global platform) as well as a stint in Investor Relations. With opportunities at Orica looking longer dated, I left to joined Amcor as VP Corporate Finance and progressed to playing an instrumental role in steering Orora through the demerger from Amcor in 2013. A result of which I was appointed the inaugural CFO – the position I still hold today. In summary – build a solid foundation and then be prepared to take some risk and make the most of opportunities as they come.

And your education?

Swinburne University - Bachelor of Accounting

What has been a career high?

Completing the demerger of Orora from Amcor and our journey since.

Any lows?

Do the diligence on “who” you will be working for - while you always learn something, with the benefit of hindsight, Austrim Nylex was not the best choice.

Innovation can be defined as the creation of new value – making it a core tenet for every chief financial officer. But how can CFOs help foster the sorts of innovative enterprise cultures that successful modern business requires?

Tiziana Bianco, who leads the Commonwealth Bank's Innovation Labs spoke at a recent FEI event in Sydney, to explain what the bank has learned in the four years since it formed the labs as an exemplar of innovative practices.

The labs are not however solely responsible for CBA innovation. Bianco stressed that while the bank's three innovation labs in Sydney, London and Hong Kong with a complement of 35 people were focussed on "horizon two" innovations, the bank's innovation culture required every employee to focus on what she called "horizon one" or incremental innovations.

She said that it was important businesses also scan the market not just for disruption coming from within the sector, but from adjacent ones.

"Innovation or disruptive innovation nine out of ten times will not come from a company that looks like you - generally (it comes) from outside of your industry and from existing tech applied in a new way," she said. 

DOWNLOAD TIZIANA'S SLIDES HERE.

Tell us a little about your career path:Paul Binfield R

 I have had a pretty traditional career path for a CFO.  I trained with PriceWaterhouse in the UK and spent time with them in NZ and Australia.  I then worked in a number of finance roles with Mayne Group and ultimately became CFO. I have also had some time as the CFO of a Private Equity portfolio company.  I joined Nufarm six years ago.

What do you expect to be your biggest challenge in 2018?

 As a Group, Nufarm’s biggest challenge is going to be the successful integration of a couple of European acquisitions that we undertook towards the end of last year.  We acquired two portfolios of products from competitors that were forced divestments.  These acquisitions will change the scale of Nufarm in Europe and substantially lift our relevance to our customer base there.  From a finance team perspective, 2017 was all about the acquisition process and in particular undertaking the financial modelling for the business cases for the acquisitions.  In contrast, 2018 will be about integrating these assets and getting in place long term financing.

The reason that the MBA has traditionally been taught through case studies is that it provides an opportunity for executives to learn from real world situations without the risk.

FEI's first growth series event of 2018 provided a similar opportunity, allowing attendees to learn from seasoned finance professionals the secrets to their success and the pain points to navigate.

Brad Soller, CFO of Metcash; Sara Watts, board director, and former CFO of IBM and the University of Sydney; Ausgrid CFO Michael Bradburn; and, Nick Hughes, COO of UBS all shared their insights.

While each have quite different career paths and sectoral experience, top of mind for all four was the need for honesty and integrity at all times, whether dealing with the board, shareholders, investors or staff.

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.

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