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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.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals public trust is stagnating. In Australia the general public’s level of trust was ranked 40th in the world – in the lower quarter of the 28-market Trust Index and deep in the generally distrustful zone.

Australia’s spate of Royal Commissions has tarnished the brand and reputation of many once iconic institutions – banks, churches, schools, insurers, charities – and of many of the executives who run them. For some, plummeting share market valuations provide a crude but jangling indicator of the impact of an erosion of trust.

A strong ethical culture is essential for the finance function. Not only must the numbers be trusted – but the team must be trusted to do the right thing with them.

In August, Dr Margaret Byrne and Dr Grant Robertson from UGM Consulting will speak at FEI Growth Series events in Sydney and Melbourne to explore why ethical cultures are so important to finance, how it is possible to make a strong ethical contribution as a finance executive, and what it takes to establish and nurture a strong ethical culture.

Tell us a little about your career path  Luke Austin Profile R2 Pic 01 1

A traditional finance path – BEc followed by chartered for seven years, then commercial roles

focused on the ITC industry.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A lawyer (paternal compliance – my father was a solicitor)

What has been a career high?

Probably right now – working in an interesting, challenging environment with a lot of smart people.

Any lightbulb moments about what it takes to be a successful CFO? 

Quite a few actually – such as leadership, accountability and relationships with stakeholders - but I think that focusing on solutions was an important shift for me.  Not just solutions to problems, but also initiatives to drive business success.

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.

What did you want to be when you were a child?Mal Ashcroft R

A National Park Ranger – I always loved being outdoors and amongst nature.

Tell us a little about your career path

I was at KPMG from 1995 – 2012 where I established, and was the National Leader of, the CFO Advisory Business. Then Leighton Holdings where I was Group Deputy CFO and Group Executive - Business Transformation. I joined Primary Health Care in 2015 as Group CFO and have also been Group Executive – Strategy, Mergers & Acquisition, Information Technology, Property & Risk Management and was Acting CEO from May 2017 to September 2017.

What keeps you awake at night?

Striking the right balance between driving organisational change, the pace of change, the level of execution, risk and delivery with sustainability for staff.

What has been a career high?

Making partner at KPMG at the age of 30 and taking on the Acting CEO role at Primary in 2017.

Any lows?

The Global Financial Crisis significantly impacted a number of my clients in the financial services sector – both on a business and personal level. Lots of life lessons learned through this difficult period.

Australia may have enjoyed 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth – but not everyone feels they have benefitted.

A survey of almost 3,000 Australians commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) reveals that just 5 per cent believe they have personally gained a lot while 79 per cent now believe that the gap between the richest and poorest in the nation is not acceptable.

CEDA argues that the gap that has emerged makes it difficult for Government to gain traction with voters for its plans to further reduce corporate tax rate and introduce business reforms because most people don’t see any benefit for themselves.

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.

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.

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