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 provided 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.
FEI started its mentoring program in 2003, with six prominent chief financial officers mentoring aspiring young financial executives from outside their own companies. The program has grown significantly since then. In 2017/18 about 55 companies are involved, with 66 mentees in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Most of the mentors are the Group CFOs of major companies; in some cases they are divisional CFOs in the largest companies or former CFOs who are now CEOs, COOs, company directors or business unit heads. The companies represented include listed entities, the Australian operations of overseas listed companies, private companies and government-owned companies. Many have been FEI mentors for several years.
The mentees are nominated by a senior executive (normally the Group CFO) of a company that supports our membership and mentoring program. These companies are usually major companies in Australia.