Richard Stephens—CFO, ALS

Richard Stephens, CFO, ALS - CFO Mentor

Who was your most influential mentor?

One of my first bosses in the banking sector – even 30 years ago he clearly demonstrated how important it was for the finance function to engage with the business as a supportive partner rather than just a scorekeeper and policeman.

What was the best advice you ever received?

“If you’ve never failed, you haven’t taken sufficient risks”. 

If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice – what would that be?

“Don’t be afraid to choose a career you can be passionate about.  The safe option is unlikely to be the best one when you are young and finding your way.”

Can you share a personal productivity tip?

A quick phone call to resolve an issue is ALWAYS preferable to getting involved in a long chain of emails involving multiple recipients.

What has been a career high?

I have been fortunate to work for a number of great organisations, but the highlight for me has been my involvement in funding the growth and expansion of ALS over the past 19 years

Any lows?

Occasionally business acquisitions and investments fail to perform to investors’ expectations.  This brings disappointment but also offers important opportunities to learn and develop which must not be ignored. 

How has the CFO role changed over the last decade?

The shift in emphasis for a CFO to become more of a business partner has been happening for two or three decades and generally speaking continues to move slowly.  Exceptions are where individual CFOs have worked hard to engage with CEOs and the frontline to continuously demonstrate the value they can add. 

How will automation and AI change the finance function in the next five years?

This has the potential to be a game changer and truly transformational for finance.  AI will provide us with the ultimate tool to be less transactional and more analytical. 

How should CFOs prepare themselves and their teams?

Don’t be afraid to explore the AI opportunities currently available and at the same time invest in some meaningful training for your teams in leadership, presentation skills and financial analysis.

Why do you mentor?

I know from personal experience how effective a good mentor can be as a sounding board, coach or confidante.  It is very rewarding when suggestions or even simple discussions lead to positive outcomes for mentees. 

Who was your most influential mentor?

One of my first bosses in the banking sector – even 30 years ago he clearly demonstrated how important it was for the finance function to engage with the business as a supportive partner rather than just a scorekeeper and policeman.

What was the best advice you ever received?

“If you’ve never failed, you haven’t taken sufficient risks”. 

If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice – what would that be?

“Don’t be afraid to choose a career you can be passionate about.  The safe option is unlikely to be the best one when you are young and finding your way.” 

How do you switch off?

Swimming, walking, reading and regular travel (often to sporting events).   Switching off from work does not always mean tuning out from thinking altogether; it’s best the mind stays active but concentrated on other things. 

What would you say is the best business book ever read, and why?

It’s difficult to nominate one, but personally I get the most out of those which generate ideas about effective time management habits. 

Can you share a personal productivity tip?

A quick phone call to resolve an issue is ALWAYS preferable to getting involved in a long chain of emails involving multiple recipients.

And a networking tip?

While social media provides a fantastic platform for introductions, meaningful networking is best done face-to-face so make the effort to stay active on that front.

Interested? Learn more about our Mentoring Program.

Financial Executives Institute

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