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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: 

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.

The whiteboard and butchers paper are filled with good ideas, action plans are drawn up, responsibilities allotted, and then nothing happens.

There’s the drift back to the status quo while opportunities for innovation languish.

It’s a familiar experience for many executives—but at a time when innovation and the need for fresh thinking are needed like never before it’s a lost opportunity according to creative leadership consultant Dr Ralph Kerle.

With a background in the creative arts, and formerly an associate director of the Sydney Theatre Company, Kerle has latterly been working with corporations to address the issue of executive creativity and particularly CFO creativity which he sees as the missing link in enterprise innovation.

He himself ran many corporate ideation workshops but for years; “I had never had a CFO in the room. There would always be a point at the end of the discussion where we needed a budget and have it signed off.” He says that in 85 per cent of cases the workshop ideas would go nowhere because the processes and funding were absent.

One of the surprises that faces CFOs joining a listed company or undertaking an IPO for the first time is that from here on in around a quarter of their time is earmarked for investor relations.

The why is simple; good investor relations burnish the relationship between listed entities and the investment community. Bad ones burn boats.

According to the Australasian Investor Relations Association (AIRA) excellent investor relations can boost the value of listed entities significantly. In a 2015 blog post the organisation suggested that if every then ASX listed entity excelled in investor communications there could be a $160 billion increase in shareholder value.

The benefit of investing time and effort in effective investor relations comes as no surprise to Warwick Bryan, who was for a decade the investor relations manager of Commonwealth Bank and the very visible front man for its regular market reports. With 30 years of investor relations and corporate communications experience, Bryan is now a partner with Reunion Capital Partners which specialises in supporting senior executives as they strive to meet equity market expectations. 

 

What did you want to be when you grew up? BryceWolfe

I am actually doing now what I always dreamt of doing. During school and university I enjoyed mathematics, commerce, and learning more about corporate strategy. At Ixom, I am leading a global finance function that is helping to guide and shape the business, to deliver our strategic aims.

Tell us a little about your career path and what led you to the finance function?

My original career path was as a quantity surveyor, however, I quickly migrated to accounting when I discovered the number of opportunities in finance was significantly greater. I have held my current position at Ixom since 2014.  Prior to this, I worked at Village Roadshow for nine years and ten years at Ernst & Young.  

If time travel was real what career advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

Do a PhD in History, travel more for pleasure and less for work, push harder in every aspect of life. I have a strong work ethic, I always say in my first seven years of work, I gained 15 years of experience (the hours were long!).  In hindsight, that work has got me to where I am today, however, it’s important to recognise the times you can be self-indulgent and, education is certainly one of those. 

A sea change in the way enterprise leaders need to prioritise decision making requires fresh thinking from CEOs and CFOs according to Alison Watkins, group managing director, Coca-Cola Amatil.

Speaking at the FEI’s mentor programme kick off event in Sydney recently, Watkins explained that; “Even ten years ago if someone asked me what my purpose was I would have constructed a hierarchy acknowledging community and environment with shareholders at the top of the pyramid.

“Now I think of shareholders as one minimum requirement...but alongside the requirement to meet the expectation of other stakeholders.

“That has really big implications for all of us as leaders, including CFOs and members of the finance community who are often right hand to the CEO, integral to the leadership teams and central to the board's confidence.”

Tell us a little about your career pathDavidMalek

I started my career with EY in the corporate finance team in Brisbane before heading to London, where I worked for Nomura, and later HSBC, in investment banking, in M&A and equity capital markets. After almost five years in London, I returned to Australia with my family and briefly joined Deloitte before taking my first corporate role at Energy Developments covering all aspects of corporate finance and treasury. I joined Brisbane Airport late 2013 and the rest is, as they say, history.

And your education?

I completed my Bachelor in Business Management at the University of Maine in the USA whilst on a basketball scholarship. I also completed a Master of Applied Finance and an MBA in Economics and Finance from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

An architect.

On average, Australian social media users access Facebook 32 times a week. It remains the most popular social network – though Instagram is gaining ground.

According to the most recent Sensis Social Media report 95 per cent of social media users have Facebook accounts, 31 per cent Instagram, 24 per cent Linked In and 19 per cent Twitter.

But is there value to social networks beyond social communications?

Yes, according to Ming Long, non-executive director of Chartered Accountants ANZ and the Property Council of Australia, and a former group CFO of Investa Property Group before taking on the Investa CEO role.

Speaking at FEI events around Australia, Long said every finance executive should at least have an up to date profile on LinkedIn. “It's a tool for recruiters and HR people looking for talent. If you're not in there it’s very hard for them to find you.”

She said that Twitter was also a particularly useful platform for finance directors to build their personal brand.

“You need to have an insurance policy for yourself, and build your own personal profile that is not connected to you organisation because we know executives don't stay within an organisation for 20 years. People do move around - particularly millennials.

“It’s very important to build your own profile so people see you - and Twitter is a great equaliser from a buyer’s perspective. You see people's opinions and their tweets before you see their gender, their height.”

 

Tell us a little about your career path.Adam Watson2

I started my career in tax and business advisory before moving to Spotless Group Limited for my first corporate role, working across corporate accounting, planning and analysis, investor relations and corporate development. At BlueScope Steel Limited  I held roles including VP Commercial & Corporate Finance and CFO North America. I joined Australia Pacific Airports Corporation Limited, owner of Melbourne Airport as CFO and Head of Strategy before joining Transurban as Group CFO in December 2014.

And your education?

I studied at RMIT University and I'm a CPA.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

Like most kids, a teacher.

What keeps you awake at night?

I’m a good sleeper!

What has been a career high?

The opportunity to identify talent and progress the careers of others.

Any lows?

I’ve seen a number of business cycles and you always learn more during the tough times.

 

Tell us about your career journeyJulie Raffec

I have always been highly curious, wanting to solve puzzles and needed a career path that would provide intellectual challenges as well as utilising my skill sets.

After a few years in professional services in the UK and Australia. I joined Village Roadshow as the finance manager responsible for statutory and management reporting.

You’ve been with Village Roadshow a while, what are some of the highlights?

I have just celebrated 26 years at Village and I am always asked why I have stayed so long. The business has been incredibly dynamic and entrepreneurial. Over the course of the years we have bought and sold businesses, gone through IPOs and delisted companies. We have raised capital in Australia and internationally and been involved in a number of innovative transactions over the years.  We have expanded globally and increased the breadth of the company’s core operations. In other words I have had an exciting, challenging and ever changing career in a company that allows you to achieve if you are prepared to put in.

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