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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 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.

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.

 

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