Janelle Hopkins

CFO, REA Group

business consultants brisbane

Tell us a little about your career path

I started my career as a cadet at Deloitte working in audit for eight years before moving to MLC, one of Australia’s largest wealth managers and a subsidiary of NAB. I held several roles at NAB before joining Australia Post in 2012.

And your education?

I hold a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne; an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management and am a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

How has the CFO role changed over the last decade?

CFOs have evolved from stewards to strategists. Stewardship is about preserving the critical assets of an organisation and reporting on performance – very much the traditional finance function. CFOs must still do this, but we also play a key role in strategy development and delivery, aligning the finance function with business strategy and working closely with the CEO to execute that strategy.

What could CFOs do to support the innovation agenda of modern enterprises?

Organisations require investment and CFOs need to understand innovation is necessary to be competitive. Finance needs to champion innovation in a balanced way. We also need to shift our thinking, and be open to the new rules. Traditional financial metrics like NPVs and EBITs don’t always apply to innovation investment but keeping an open mind works both ways, you also need to establish clear milestones and be prepared to have the ‘kill’ discussions when the project isn’t delivering.

How important is the issue of diversity in the finance function?

Gender diversity and cultural diversity is vital. We’re working hard to create more opportunities to counter the gender imbalance in finance and achieve greater cultural diversity. I actively encourage a culture which values different viewpoints and ideas, where people work collaboratively to solve problems and feel valued and motivated personally and professionally.

What could be done to improve diversity?

Supporting and enabling flexible work for men and women is key. In my team many people work part time or job share. We support everyone to purchase extra leave to pursue outside activities (not just for school holidays) and we encourage men to take paternity leave. Australia Post encourages ongoing development for our people, supports job sharing and has some great mentoring programmes.

How far out can a CFO plan, do you think, given the pace of change at present?

The pace of innovation and disruption is accelerating, so CFOs must focus on delivering the day to day and the ‘90 day plan’. Past that, it’s about planning the two to three year horizon including attaining deep knowledge of emerging trends and competitors. We must be agile, able to quickly respond to unforeseen events and always keep the customer top of mind.

Does that impact an organisation’s ability to innovate and transform?

Yes, where disruption is coming from all sides it can be hard to move quickly enough. Investing in the organisation’s strengths and continuously looking for opportunities to innovate is essential.

Why do you mentor?

Mentoring is important for senior leaders in any function. I see it as part of my role and I like to support and develop the next wave of people whether they’re just starting out or progressing their career. And it helps me enormously too, I always learn something from my mentees.

What was the best advice you ever received?

When opportunities arise, take them, because you never know when they will come again.

Can you share a personal productivity tip?

Don’t do everything. Know what’s important and try eliminate everything else. This will help you to balance work, career aspirations and your life.

And a networking tip?

Network as much as possible, force yourself to do it. Put yourself out of your comfort zone if that’s what it takes. You never know what it may lead to.

Interested? Learn more about our Mentoring Program.

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