CSL, the blood therapy and vaccines group which this year turned over more than $US3.1 billion, employs 15,000 people in 30 countries. As the recently appointed CFO, David Lamont, now has oversight of 800 of those people who are make up the company’s international finance team.
It’s a global business – but it’s essential that Mr Lamont can engineer a degree of financial transparency across the enterprise and accurate, timely information at his fingertips both for reporting and regulatory requirement, but also to be able to play a strategic role as a valued advisor to the business.
One of his challenges for the year ahead, he said, is to champion the introduction of a new information system that will provide transparency into the global operations of the company. The current patchwork quilt of computing systems can of course be sewn together – but Lamont acknowledges that it’s clumsy, and he wants something far more streamlined and seamless.
Now at the top of his game, Mr Lamont who turns 51 this year, never expected to become a finance executive as a young boy. With a love of the outdoors and sport, which he retains today, an office was the last place he expected to find himself.
But with a family background in small business, and a family friend who was a partner in a chartered accounting business, the dye was set.
After graduating from Deakin University with a Bachelor of Commerce, Mr Lamont began his career as a chartered accountant, working in audit with Deloitte. From there he joined what was then ICI Australia, later to become Oracle. His first head of finance role was at Incitec Pivot, and from there he took on roles at BHP Billiton, PaperlinX, Oz Minerals, and for the last eight years at MMG.
It’s that engineering/technology background that he believes has equipped him to make a valuable contribution at CSL.
“Most companies I have worked with have had a right brain, engineering and scientific orientation,” he says.
It’s essential in a company like CSL which is focused on delivering healthcare related products and services that can fundamentally change people’s lives. But as Mr Lamont noted; “The issue is that traditionally these people love to overanalyze things.”
The challenge he says, is to avoid over-engineering everything, which can lead to procrastination “And before you know it your competitors have eaten your lunch. There needs to be a sense of urgency about decision making.”
Not that the decision making should be rushed or lacking rigour, just that right brained organisations need to avoid analysis paralysis and take a pragmatic approach, especially as the entire landscape of the industry sector CSL inhabits faces radical change through merger and acquisitions and divestments.
An FEI mentor for the last decade, Mr Lamont will this year bring CSL into the FEI fold, providing mentor access for his team, while he continues to act as a mentor for other finance professionals.
“The benefit to mentees is that they get access to third person perspectives and outside counsel rom the premier CFOs in Melbourne.
“For myself as a mentor I get a lot of benefit by understanding what is topical in different organisations. You can draw parallels in your own industry.”