Tell us a little about your career path:
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.
What has been a career high?
In 2006 Mayne Pharma was demerged from Mayne Group and was soon subject to a takeover offer. Being deeply involved in that process and ultimately securing a good price for the Mayne Pharma shareholders was very rewarding. The downside of that episode was that there was no role for me going forward in a business that I thought had huge potential.
How will the CFO role change in the medium term?
I think that the CFO role is increasingly challenging. The regulatory and compliance burden in business is increasing at the same time as the “customer” of the finance function, the business, is increasingly demanding the finance team becomes a genuine business partner - all with a smaller budget. The future of the CFO role and finance team is all about business insight; conversion of mountains of data into insightful nuggets of information that will help the business make more rapid and better decisions.
How far out can a CFO plan, given the pace of change at present?
After much soul-searching, we have recently changed our planning horizon for our detailed business plans from five years to three years. We believed that with the current pace of change, the outer years of our detailed budget were increasingly meaningless and we wanted the business to focus on doing a better job over a shorter planning horizon. In contrast, our strategic planning horizon has become longer as we try to assess the likely shifts in the market over a 5-10 year horizon, thus helping us to better determine risks and opportunities faced by the business.
Why do you mentor?
I mentor quite simply because I enjoy it. It’s a great opportunity to stop and be challenged about some of the decisions I have made in the past and how I might have done things differently. I find that I gain so much from the mentoring process.
Who was your most influential mentor?
My most influential mentor was Peter Willcox. Peter was chairman of Mayne Group and subsequently Mayne Pharma. He really took the time to get to know the executive team of the company’s that he chaired; he was a good listener and was always willing to share his experience. His comments both around the board table and one-on-one were thoughtful and insightful. He was an excellent chairman and a decent person.
How do you switch off?
I find the best escape from work and the best form of therapy is cycling. I try and ride 200km a week and am lucky that my fiancée shares my passion, she just has more talent.
What would you say is the best business book ever read, and why?
The best business book is “Playing to Win – how strategy really works” (Lafley & Martin) is an excellent read. Doing strategy well is both critical but difficult. Playing to Win provides a roadmap to assist with strategy development. There are lots of case studies in the book that bring to life the theory.
Can you share a personal productivity tip?
Prioritise. Be clear about what is most important and get it done.