Why choose a Chartered Accountant?

Through rigorous training, professional accreditation and broad experience Chartered Accountants are uniquely equipped to make a difference to your business.

In brief

  • Chartered Accountants see the bigger picture and are uniquely positioned to examine the past and look to the future
  • They are highly qualified to offer advice you can trust
  • On-going professional development ensures their skills and knowledge remain current
  • Our members are bound by the highest ethical and professional standards

Why choose a Chartered Accountant?

Through rigorous training, professional accreditation and broad experience Chartered Accountants are uniquely equipped to make a difference to your business.

Broad experience

If you're looking for an accountant who can offer you far more than technical knowledge, make sure there's a CA behind their name. Chartered Accountants are broadly experienced in dealing with business and financial issues across a diverse range of management and advisory roles. This bigger picture perspective enables them to positively impact businesses, organisations and communities.

Highly qualified

As well as degree-level study, all our members have competed supervised and relevant work experience. They are also required to keep their skills current through significant and ongoing professional development.

Fully accredited

Our members have all met, and are bound by, internationally recognised technical and ethical standards. Chartered Accountants ANZ is part of the Global Accounting Alliance - the coalition of the world's premier accounting bodies.

Future-focused

Whether working in business or practice, a Chartered Accountants are uniquely positioned to offer advice you can trust. Through deep understanding they have the skills to examine the past and guide your organisation into the future.

"Don't just choose an accountant. Choose a Chartered Accountant and see the difference they can make to your business."
Meet the Difference Makers

How Chartered Accounting firms have helped businesses

  • Meet Eli Tagi CA and how he helped a small barber business survive COVID

    Auckland-based WE Accounting are a prime example of the changing face of Chartered Accountants. Founded by Chartered Accountant Eli Tagi and his wife Wyndi nine years ago, WE Accounting partners with their clients to provide a range of offerings geared to help their business thrive.

    "They aren't just the stereotypical 'accountants'. They bring a completely different angle to things," says Adrian Evans.

    Evans is the founder and owner of The Gentry. He says that WE Accounting has enabled his company to be resilient and future-focused in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As a barber business, level three and four of lockdown meant shutting up shop. But rather than wallowing in lost-profit misery, The Gentry worked with WE Accounting to establish strategies that would see them weather the storm.

    "They really came to the party. They helped me focus on the right things, not the struggle," says Evans.

    He says that in the past his business had not undertaken rigorous business forecasting.

    "Before Covid, I'd just look and see lots of clients in the books and think everything was going well."

    "But lockdown allowed us the time and space to identify positioning, understand our practices, and engage in cashflow forecasting. Our accountant provided a template within which to do these things."

    This partnership has paid dividends. The move from level two to level three left the barber shop in a tough position regarding cashflow. Eli explains that WE Accounting and Evans worked together on a system that allowed people to book appointments in advance.

    "The clients paid in advance, and it meant that The Gentry reopened with $10,000 in their accounts."

    Originally published by Stuff limited

  • How Caroline Wilcher CA helped grow a small bakery into a backed goods empire

    When Caroline Wilcher CA started working with Rob Stevenson in the late 1990s, his business was primarily a small hot bakery shop in Dubbo. Twenty-odd years later, it’s risen to become a baked goods empire.

    Mr Stevenson, along with his two brothers, is the co-director of two bakeries and the wholesale baked goods manufacturer Earlyrise Baking, who supply to clients including Qantas and Supa IGA. Ms Wilcher is a director of Boyce Chartered Accountants, who’ve advised Mr Stevenson for over 20 years. Together, they’ve made a formidable team.

    “They’re quite a different business today than they were back then,” Ms Wilcher reflects down the line from her office in Dubbo. Back when she first met the Stevenson family, “it was very much a family-owned and operated business,” where the brothers worked in the shop or on their fledgling wholesale arm every day. “It was a small business – a bustling small business, but a small business.”

    Today, that original retail business in Dubbo still stands (“only it’s been refreshed a few times since then,” Ms Wilcher laughs), alongside another retail bakery in Orange, both called Village Bakehouse. There are plans to open more retail stores “in the pipeline”, Ms Wilcher says. But it’s their wholesale business that has really taken off.

    A small, family-run bakery doesn’t become a large-scale manufacturer by accident. Over the past two decades, Ms Wilcher has been there every step of the way to advise the Stevenson family on how to expand their business. As a Chartered Accountant, she’s qualified to do much more than just run the numbers.

    Earlyrise Baking consult Ms Wilcher and Boyce Chartered Accountants on everything from budgeting to businesses development and structuring. They have guided the Stevenson brothers as they’ve diversified the business, run due diligence on new businesses they’ve looked at purchasing and worked with them on strategic planning for the future. They’ve even helped them develop executive programs for their staff members, assisted on management reporting and sat in on job interviews. It’s a truly 360-degree sort of guidance.

    Ms Wilcher says there are “two parts” to why working with a Chartered Accountant can be so beneficial for small businesses looking to expand. “One is the numbers part, which is fairly obvious,” she says. “But in addition to that, it’s the consulting and business advice – so it’s helping them make good, considered decisions; being the sounding board for those decisions and working through how it fits strategically into the business. So it’s about operating more at a strategic level than a nuts and bolts business level.”

    Chartered Accountants through their intensive education and training are well-positioned to deliver. “If your accountant is just doing that, then they’re not really doing their job,” Ms Wilcher says. “That’s part of what we see at Boyce as really important – it’s not just turning in tax returns and financial statements, but providing all-round business advice to help our clients develop and grow.”

    Mr Stevenson says the key to Earlyrise Baking’s success has been “a lot of hard work”. But he and his brothers consider Caroline’s guidance invaluable.

    “The major key to our growth has been able to understand the metrics of our business. We’ve got at least 600 SKUs (stock-keeping units), we’ve got a bread department, a cake department, a pastry department, distribution, maintenance. It is a complicated business when you’ve got all those different streams,” he says. “And, certainly, Caroline has helped us to be able to decipher our costs and all those moving parts so that we can manage the business better.”

    Would they have been able to do it without her? “No, definitely not,” Mr Stevenson says. “No one’s good at everything, so you need help... We’ve been with them for almost 30 years, so we would have left long ago if they weren’t coming through with the goods,” he laughs.

    Ms Wilcher describes growing Earlyrise Baking from a small hot bake shop into a large-scale manufacturer as “more of an evolutionary, slow process rather than a revolutionary process.” Sometimes, she says, the job of a Chartered Accountant is to guide the choices that come with growth – navigating the different ways to expand, finding the one that fits best and, ahem, raising the dough needed for new ventures. It’s about making smart, considered moves.

    “I can remember talking to them about wholesale products and saying, look, they aren’t very sexy but they’re very good profit makers,” Ms Wilcher laughs. “And they’ve been a good part of their long-term business development.”

    But Ms Wilcher says that above all, the job of a Chartered Accountant is to be an “enabler”.

    “We’re working alongside them to help guide them and give our advice,” she says. “At the end of the day, they’re on the ground, they’re making all the decisions and they’re doing the doing. But we’re there to support them and provide guidance.”

    So how does it feel for Ms Wilcher now to look back and see how far Earlyrise Baking and the Stevenson brothers have come?

    “They were really quite young at the time,” she reflects. “I don’t think they could have imagined what they have today.”

    Originally published on news.com.au

  • The CAs are helping grow a whānau-oriented sustainable fishing business

    Three decades of dedication to sustainable, ethical fishing has earned Lyttleton-based fishing company Okains Bay Longline Fishing Company an international reputation for excellence.

    By partnering with chartered accountants, founder Greg Summerton has been able to bring a professional edge and credibility to his whānau-oriented business.

    Summerton and his family are Ngāi Tahu, their ancestors can be traced to the ocean voyagers who sailed waka to Aotearoa in the 14th century. As such, he is deeply committed to the sea, land and people of our country; sustainability is part of his DNA.

    The fishing methods used by Okains Bay Longline Fishing Company are industry leading and enable harvesting to occur in the most sustainable and ethical way possible. As a company, they are celebrated for their sustainable business practices, and have a robust client base.

    Fishing is a highly regulated and fickle industry and the family-owned business was also impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown. In particular they had to act quickly to deal with export issues and managing business as usual processes such as crew management and wellbeing throughout the various alert levels.

    Summerton has partnered with Phillip Roth, a Chartered Accountant and partner at BDO Christchurch who has helped to bring a professional edge and focus to his whānau-oriented business.

    Summerton met Roth at a conference facilitated by him about ten years ago and was immediately impressed with his integrity and understanding of his business vision.

    Roth was subsequently brought on board as an advisor, and then a company director. Summerton says that Roth's input has been invaluable.

    "Having Phillip as director really has brought more professionalism to Okains Bay. He's a trusted sounding board; I have full confidence in him. He's helped out several of our employees with really useful advice and he's become a trusted advisor to the family."

    When Okains was searching for a ship that could operate sustainably, they turned their attention to the fishing industry in Norway. The boat they procured, the Kawatea, was built there. Running on a blend of biodiesel, it reduces CO2 emissions by 50 per cent.

    Roth, whilst visiting Scandinavia in 2019 also took time out to visit the north-western coast of Norway to understand more fully how the local shipping and fishing industry worked and to bring back these learnings back for Okains.

    "I went to try to understand what makes them tick, and I was blown out of the water," says Roth. "When they commit to something, they do it 100 per cent; they are highly professional; and think generationally."

    The Norwegian fact-finding mission helped him understand more fully the nature of successful family-based fishing industry companies.

    It also fed into another part of Roth's role at Okains: providing oversight around governance and succession planning.

    As the business is firmly rooted in whānau, Summerton's younger family members will eventually take the reins. This process is already underway.

    Roth and his team have also supported Greg in driving another significant project: the ecological restoration of a large farm in the Kaikoura region.

    "Greg purchased the property with the intention of offsetting carbon emissions and seeking to develop an alternative model for utilising marginal land," says Roth. "Part of the land will be used for planting Mānuka and other indigenous plants."

    Summerton and Roth have jointly led the process: coordinating key players, understanding the return on investment and nutting out the financial imperatives for making the project viable. He's also gone with Summerton to meet local interest groups, council, Te Puni Kōkiri and local rūnanga, and get written support for the project.

    "We have been working with Oha Honey [New Zealand's largest 100 per cent owned Māori Mānuka honey company], emissions trading consultants and potential nursery plant providers and advisors to make the project happen," says Roth.

    Partnering with a Chartered Accountant has proved very successful for this local, sustainable, whānau-based business.

    Roth and his team, including Steve Papps ACA from BDO (who has "brought a different skill set, liaising with financiers, helping with loans, and future planning," says Summerton) have been able to provide stability and guidance to the company.

    And with their support, Summerton has been able to ensure Okains Bay is grounded in best-practice when it comes to the demands of changing industry standards, extending the customer base, and moving his company further along in its drive for sustainability.

    Originally published by Stuff limited

The impact CAs have made when employed within a business

  • The CA helping to take Suncorp's business to new heights

    As a senior executive in insurer Suncorp Group’s NSW compulsory third party (CTP) division, Chartered Accountant Surayez Rahman admits that so-called ‘green slips’ business is seen as a less than enthralling exponent of insurance.

    “Insurance is not sexy at the best of times but personal insurance is probably the more exciting part,” he says. “A CTP product is statutory, so there are a lot more rules and regulations around it.”

    As anyone involved in a serious accident would appreciate, the design of the CTP regimens – which vary from state to state – makes a huge difference in terms of mitigating the financial and mental anguish.

    “It’s the thing that you don’t ever want to have to use but it is a very important product,” Rahman says. “It can make a massive difference.”

    As Suncorp’s executive manager for NSW CTP, Rahman is just as involved in the human aspect of the business as the numbers side, including key roles in shaping personal injury reforms.

    The 34 year old Sydneysider says he always liked working with numbers and analysing data – a skill that almost led him into a tech role such as coding.

    But as fate would have it, his true vocation was in Chartered Accounting and after completing his formal qualifications he started out at as a trainee at the mid-tier firm Howarth (now Findex).

    Rahman says his bread and butter tax work at Horwath opened his eyes to what makes a small-to-mid sized business tick.

    He then moved to PwC, where he did the rounds of assurance and audit before being assigned to the insurance division.

    “Studying a CA program at a Big Four firm was an invaluable experience, because you have a strong network of peers and support mechanisms that you don’t have if you are trying to do the process independently,” he says.

    While Rahman’s role is grounded in people and policy rather than numbers, he says his Chartered Accountant training has been invaluable.

    “I can understand the numbers and what they are telling me from a business perspective,” he says.

    “Having a firm grasp of the numbers gives you the confidence to do things like address forums, which can be scary at times.”

    At PwC he eventually fell into insurance work, which he relished given the technical discipline involved. Once again, his rigorous Chartered Accountant training supported both his technical skills and his ability to see the big picture by analysing financial trends.

    “There are people a lot smarter than me involved, such as actuaries,” he says. “You have to make the complex very simple and insurance is probably one of the more complex areas of accounting and finance.”

    Rahman started at Suncorp in 2011, as part of the finance team responsible for budgeting, forecasting and planning.

    “I had always wanted to move into the corporate space and for me that was the natural progression,” he says.

    “As an external auditor I could tell accountants on the other side didn’t like the questions you asked. So it was good to go to the other side and understand how a corporate budget gets made up and how the operational people implement the budgets.”

    In 2016 Rahman was posted to Canberra as portfolio manager, at a time when the ACT Government was mulling reforms to the territory’s ‘at fault’ scheme.

    The rules meant that a driver at fault – or who couldn’t prove that another party was to blame – was not covered for medical and other expenses despite paying the mandatory levy.

    Rahman was Suncorp’s representative on a body charged with educating the CTP Citizens Jury, a panel of 50 Canberrans tasked with shaping reform recommendations.

    The upshot was a fairer scheme that provided five years of coverage, regardless of fault.

    “There was a massive gap in the Canberra scheme,” Rahman says. “We highlighted that people generally are not trying to do the wrong thing on the road. They have either made a genuine mistake, or had an accident through no fault of their own and can’t attribute blame to someone else.”

    Back in NSW, Rahman continues to work with regulators to ensure the state’s own reformed personal injury system is working as it should.

    Rahman says the CTP business is a long-tail proposition, with claims experience trends only becoming apparent five to ten years after the accident.

    “It’s not as easy as fixing a car. A person can take years to get better, particularly if they have physical and mental stresses.”

    Matthew Kayrooz, head of CTP at Suncorp said that Rahman is an asset to the business.

    “Surayez’s Chartered Accounting education and grounding in finance and accounting has allowed him to drive reforms in the CTP schemes to the benefits of customers whilst ensuring that any changes ensure financial sustainability of the schemes.”

    That passion for client outcomes has prompted Rahman to get close to the on-the-ground challenges of clients in recovery or rehab.

    To ensure better connection, Suncorp and Rahman have partnered with Youngcare, a not-for-profit group which provides facilities and support for young Australians with high-care needs.

    “Unfortunately in Australia there aren’t many facilities that provide that level of care, so they generally get put in aged care facilities,” Rahman says.

    The normally urban-bound Rahman last year pulled on his hiking boots to participate in a nine-day 300 kilometre trek across the Simpson Desert’s unforgiving dunes.

    The objective of the trek was not just to raise funds for Youngcare, but to experience the “isolation and lack of choice” often experienced by a seriously injured person.

    “In the desert I have no control over anything and am at the whim of the support crew,” he says. “It gives you the perspective that a lot of individuals don’t have that choice when they are injured.”

    Originally published on theaustralian.com.au

  • How CAs kept the Canberra Raiders going

    Keeping a sporting club afloat at the best of times is a precarious balancing act. There are membership drives, merchandise, entertainment rights, sponsorship deals and media to manage. But at the end of the day, everything hangs on how the players perform on the field.

    "It's fickle," says Don Furner, CEO of the Canberra Raiders. "If you're losing on the field, it goes pear-shaped off the field. You can have all the best plans in place – the best marketing, the best strategy – but if you lose on the field, people stop coming through the gates, sponsorship dries up. Essentially, your revenue is directly linked to the team's performance. It's hard to predict, and it's hard to budget for."

    Mr Furner has been at the heart of The Canberra Raiders for some 20 years, making him the game's longest-serving club boss, although still only aged in his early 50s.

    While some Australian sporting clubs tumble into financial strife, under Mr Furner's watch, the Canberra Raiders have always been financially stable. It's his great pride.

    "If the Raiders became insolvent and got closed down, I could never live in the city again. It's more than just a business – it means a lot to the community. Kids dream about their Raiders players, and the fans and members love their club. There is a lot of onus on you to make sure the club remains," he says. "Whoever is in charge of the club needs to have strong financial qualifications."

    Mr Furner knows the harsh reality of financial ruin all too well – before the Raiders, he lived in the US and the UK working as a chartered accountant, specialising in insolvency.

    "A lot of the insolvent companies that I saw were the result of when interest rates went too high because it was the mid-90s," he says. "I'd like to think I've learnt a bit about the strict measures you have to put in place to keep a company solvent."

    After years of working overseas, Mr Furner returned to home soil and took on the role of marketing manager for the Canberra Raiders Club.

    His first year working for the Raiders was during the peak of the Super League war, the fractious $1 billion battle for control of pay-TV rights to the highest-rating sport in Australia. Super League, backed by Rupert Murdoch, competed with the ARL, supported by Kerry Packer and Optus Vision. Some clubs folded to the Super League, and it introduced two new clubs in a move to dominate the competition. The game was shaken to its core, relationships fractured and some dreams sunk.

    "That was a terrible thing for the game," he says "I started at the worst possible time. The game was split, there was a fight over the broadcast rights and it took years to repair."

    Since then, he has watched his club enjoy many soaring wins, and just as many gut-wrenching loses. He has seen players from regional towns live their sporting dream while others, tragically, miss out. Last year was a good one – the Raiders made the finals, and the club secured funding for its impressive $20 million high-performance centre, opened early this year.

    The Raiders' chief financial officer Warwick Burr says Mr Furner is one of those rare men in rugby league who is universally liked and respected for his ethics and interpersonal skills.

    "There's no predictability in his role, not to mention the last six months. He has had to spend a lot of time dealing with members who've prepaid for a season and who can't attend now due to crowd restrictions and sponsors who have commitments," he says. "These are sponsors who've been with us for twenty years. We've had to find ways of meeting our obligations."

    Mr Burr says despite the stresses of his role, you'd never guess because he always manages to keep a cool head.

    "He's also very good at understanding the information I give to him, as you would expect, being a fellow chartered accountant," he says.

    So how does this accountant-turned-rugby enthusiast, whose life's mission is to prevent the Raiders from financial ruin, handle the disruption that is coronavirus?

    "Since the Super League war, this is the biggest challenge, and it will be a big financial hit this year," Mr Furner says. "But there's some solace in the fact that we're all facing it together; it's not just our sport. The whole world is dealing with this. You adapt."

    'Adapting' is a crucial part of the Raiders' plan for the future.

    "Certainly the past six months has been something else. Back in March, all of our licenced clubs were shut so we had to stand all of our staff down, which was very stressful," Mr Burr says. "It was very challenging moving everything remote so we could keep businesses ticking over in the interim."

    Mr Furner and the corporate team worked tirelessly to navigate the ever-evolving JobKeeper and JobSeeker legislation to secure as many jobs as possible. The club also secured state and federal funding for the future, as well as finding ways of meeting sponsorship obligations.

    "Don has excellent relationships and interpersonal skills he uses with our sponsors and dealing with the government," Mr Burr says. "He has an unbelievably stressful job because it's completely unpredictable, not to mention the past six months. We've had to manage the changes, going from: the comp is on with no crowds, to the comp is off, now the comp is on and you're playing home games not at your home stadium, now you're at your home stadium... I wouldn't be the only person to say this has been the most challenging moment of my career."

    Mr Furner was also an intrinsic leader in 'Project Apollo', a herculean-sounding task force designed to get the players back on the field for competition, living in a bubble of sorts. In the bubble, players cannot participate in much except for training and playing. "They can't even watch their kids play sports and go out to lunch," Mr Furner says.

    To get the bubble functioning, negotiations that would have ordinarily taken 12 months to finalise were completed in weeks.

    "There was a certain spirit of cooperation because everyone knew we had to get the game back up and running and to get people's livelihoods back in place. As corny as it sounds, in a time of crisis, everyone worked together – even the player's union, the broadcasters and the media. We were all working towards that one goal," he says. "There were a lot of people waiting for us to fail, but we were back on May 28.

    Even during the good times, managing a sporting club is a high-risk game, and the pressure to win grand finals can send clubs broke. Mr Furner says the skills he acquired as a chartered accountant has been crucial to maintaining the stability of the club.

    "That's not easy when there's pressure from sponsors and fans to spend money, invest in that player and buy that player. But it doesn't matter what business you run; if you haven't more money going out the door than coming in, you won't last long," he says.

    There's the ruthless nature of the media, witnessing the heartbreak of failed sporting careers, the pressure from player agents, dealing with disgruntled players, and the constant pressure to see the team perform on the field. And now, there are the complications of the coronavirus. Is it worth it?

    "This might sound a bit naff, but when the whole town gets behind the team, it's quite amazing," he laughs. "When you're part of it, you see what it does for little kids and families. In a one-team town, the sport brings the community together. I love sport, and I love this club."

    Originally published on news.com.au

  • The CA helping Adam Goodes grow an indigenous focused company

    "I often say there are three key moments in my career: getting my Chartered Accountant (CA) qualification, getting an MBA at the University of Queensland and meeting with Adam," says Matthew Jones CA.

    'Adam' is AFL legend turned entrepreneur Adam Goodes, who heads up Indigenous Defence and Infrastructure Consortium (IDIC), an initiative supporting Indigenous businesses navigate the supply chain requirements of large companies, helping them win more business and secure major Australian infrastructure and defence contracts.

    Last year, Mr Jones met with Mr Goodes to discuss a business opportunity with the IDIC. He never expected it would land him a new gig.

    "Twenty minutes into the conversation, he pauses, stops, and says, 'Matt, sorry to cut you off, but I think I've got something else for you. I've got a new project'," Mr Jones recalls.

    That new project was Nogard Australia, the nation's largest Indigenous-owned, Supply Nation certified, industrial and safety product wholesale business. Boasting an annual turnover of over $12 million, the company imports over 3500 industrial and safety products through its primary distributor, ATOM. Whether it's 5,000 pairs of safety glasses, 250 pneumatic drills or 4 wheel chocks, they can supply it.

    Mr Goodes is its co-founder, majority owner and chair. His vision is to support a network of Indigenous importers and resellers, as well as reflecting and prioritising Indigenous cultural knowledge and experiences.

    Little did Mr Jones know, he had been on Mr Goodes' radar for quite some time. His background working in the Royal Australian Navy, professional services and corporate banking world, plus his MBA and CA credentials offered exactly the kind of experience and skill set required to drive the trajectory of the business.

    "I was really looking for someone who I knew, who was dependable and reliable and had a good understanding of business. But also a good understanding of numbers and have a really great capability in being able to look at a profit and loss statement and see opportunities," Mr Goodes says.

    Plus, it was "really important" to bolster the company's leadership team with Indigenous management and control.

    "Matt is very connected to his Torres Strait Islander heritage, he is very proud of that. He has a very unique story when it comes to his Indigenous identity and one that I draw inspiration from, his family story. And he is someone who is not only leading through my business, but someone that's teaching me a lot about not only lives but our journeys," says Mr Goodes. "I know that Matt's definitely the person that I want leading the business."

    Mr Jones heads up the national business development for Nogard, pitching for business at a corporate level. He says his CA education and previous accounting roles specialising in tax and later in insolvency offer the kind of pragmatic business decision making and interpersonal skills required in his position.

    "I've got a very wide-ranging portfolio," Mr Jones says. "Problem-solving is a big part of it, as well as forecasting market demands, trying to understand better what market expectations are around that product and price mix, and of course, pitching and converting business leads. Coming from my background, it's really important for me to collect data and utilise those to make decisions.

    "And then also, it's been useful having that banking perspective to understand what they look for with financing and what they consider to be a good deal."

    Starting a new business is hard. Throw a global health crisis into the mix, and you have your work cut out for you.

    "We've only been operational for one year, so the past four months has been a bit of a steep learning curve for myself and for Matt," Mr Goodes says. "But Matt has been a really great reliable team member, he works incredibly well with the ATOM sales managers and the distributors. He's also working extremely hard with indigenous businesses out there in the market to become resellers of our products. So, I know the big success for Matt is in the years coming."

    Mr Jones says Nogard's ongoing success rests on its unique value proposition, which is, of course, crucial for the success of any business.

    "What that means for us, is that we're an Indigenous business that sells quality products at a great price," he says. "It sounds simple, and, of course, the hard part is the execution. But, if you keep the value proposition at the forefront of your mind, that informs the way you treat people and the way you look at the business as a whole."

    The business operates under the model "giving back by paying forward". Three per cent of all sales of ATOM products (Nogard's distribution partner) support three major Australian causes – The Go Foundation, National Breast Cancer Foundation and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

    "They're three charities that I'm really passionate about," says Mr Goodes. "One that's really close to my heart is the GO Foundation, and that's paying for educational scholarships, academic scholarships for kids in New South Wales and South Australia, and we're slowly growing that to a national program."

    Nogard Australia is positioned to leverage the opportunities created by the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) program, a Federal Government policy introduced in 2015 requiring departments to procure a certain amount of goods and services from Indigenous-owned firms – and not just in the traditional areas of arts and tourism. The policy is designed to enable Indigenous businesses across Australia to overcome the systemic challenges associated with the legacy of racist policies and thrive in today's economic environment.

    "It's one of the best government policies that I've seen that is actually making an incredible difference," Mr Goodes says. "It's helping Indigenous businesses, Indigenous entrepreneurs, and Indigenous people be able to engage different sectors across the country through business. And what that means for an Indigenous person is an opportunity to build wealth. It's an opportunity to choose what suburb you want to build your house, buy your home.?"

    A key focus for Mr Jones is leveraging the IPP to drive more business over the next few years.

    "There's a real opportunity for Nogard Australia to grow in the next 24 months by engaging with some of those end clients that do have that indigenous spend that they need to fulfil," Mr Goodes says.

    Indigenous prosperity is key to Closing the Gap. Mr Jones is hopeful the success of indigenous-owned businesses like Nogard Australia will propel Indigenous men and women to the senior roles in the top echelons of corporate Australia, which currently remain overwhelmingly white. According to a study last year by the Human Rights Commission which surveyed senior executives across business, government and universities, just 0.4 per cent reported Indigenous heritage. Still today, Australia has never seen an Indigenous person running an ASX-listed company.

    Mr Jones says playing a crucial role in Nogard Australia's success is an opportunity to "reshape the narrative" around Indigenous business and drive change.

    "It's quite personal for me, and it means quite a lot. When I was growing up, I can't remember a black middle class. Well, we're now developing that, and it's amazing," he says. "Being able to tell a good story, a positive economic story is something that I think we need to advocate for, particularly with Indigenous business. There are a number of business success stories out there, and Nogard is just one of the many."

    Originally published on news.com.au

  • How CAs helped Mirvac enter COVID-19 on the right side of the ledger

    Chartered Accountant Stephen Gould draws on the acronym VUCA to describe the challenges facing business leaders as they guess — or second guess — the competitive landscape after the coronavirus has eased its virulent grip on the world.

    First used in the late 1980s to describe the post Cold War climate, VUCA stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous”.

    “That neatly sums up these strange times,” says Gould, the head of strategy, business intelligence and analytics for leading listed property group, Mirvac.

    “What’s for certain is that business will not look the same again and that companies will need to re-engineer their workings to suit the new order.”

    Fortunately Gould, 47, has the professional toolkit of and rigorous training as a Chartered Accountant to help re-engineer complex entities such as the diversified Mirvac.

    His experience in global public accounting helps, having cut his teeth at the big four firm PwC.

    So too does the fact he played a leading hand in repositioning Mirvac after the last “black swan” event, the Global Financial Crisis.

    As with most of its peers, Mirvac was not in good shape when it emerged from the near-death experience of the GFC, with one broking analyst even titling a report on the stock as “Mirvacuate!”

    But the problems were also of the company’s own making, and low staff morale was eroding the company culture.

    “Mirvac had gone in multiple directions, it was in airports, forests and caravan parks and really strayed away from its roots,” says CEO Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz. A lowlight was Mirvac’s need to take a bath on its investment in Sydney’s Lane Cove Tunnel, which entered receivership in 2010.

    In 2012 the newly appointed Lloyd-Hurwitz launched a soul-searching review of what went wrong — and turned to Gould for a hard-headed analysis of the hard data at hand.

    “Stephen played a pivotal role,” she says.

    “To a very large part, he led that work in a very disciplined way. We asked the question: ‘what are we good at and what can we prove we are good at’, not ‘what we think we are good at but aren’t good at’.”

    Rather than relying on gut feel and taking people at face value, Gould and his team sifted through a decade of historic project performance to work out the patterns driving Mirvac’s successful and underperforming projects.

    “It required a deep understanding of the drivers of value creation to be developed,” Gould says. “And this required really granular analysis but also the ability to step back and consider the strategic implications.“

    He adds that all of the work was done in house: “We didn’t bring in any consultants and I leveraged heavily on the skills I had learnt during my professional career.”

    As a result of this deep probing into the company’s entrails, management pledged to exit peripheral and regional assets and focus on tier-one projects in the core Sydney and Melbourne markets.

    “We also realised we had terrific asset creation capabilities,” Gould says. “Generally the financial returns from assets we developed outperformed those we didn’t create.”

    The tangible results are reflected in the company’s portfolio, which includes high-quality office buildings such as 8 Chifley Square, 200 George Street and the Australian Technology Park, the new home of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

    Gould says the group prefers to co-invest with third-party investors. For example, Sunsuper and AMP Capital invested alongside Mirvac with the CBA development, while AMP owns 50 per cent of 200 George St.

    “It’s not hard and fast, but our model is to own about half the building and we keep that on the balance sheet. The other half is sold down to the partner and we manage the building on their behalf.

    “It’s about diversifying risk and recycling capital. By bringing in partners you take some money off the table and generate fees through managing the building.”

    Gould says while no one could have foreseen the pandemic, the actions taken by Mirvac post GFC placed the company in a sound position: “It’s hard to get everything right, and where we don’t get it right, we learn.”

    With a touch of serendipity, Mirvac beat the COVID-era capital raising rush by tapping $750m in fresh equity in May last year. This put the company’s balance sheet in a “rock solid position with low gearing with no significant short-term debt maturities,” Gould says.

    Lloyd-Hurwitz notes that management acted quickly when the crisis emerged, being one of the first companies to implement working from home arrangements and to withdraw earnings guidance. The board and management team also accepted a 20 per cent pay reduction.

    But as Mirvac’s otherwise sound full-year results last month attested, the company is hardly unaffected by COVID as shoppers and workers abide by stay-at-home rules.

    “Retail tenants are doing it really tough,” Gould says. “A lot of them are mum and dad operators who have risked everything. I couldn’t imagine the financial and emotional stress they must be under.”

    Interestingly Mirvac’s office portfolio has been less affected, underpinned by “resilient” long leases to tenants such as the CBA, Westpac, PwC, Ernst & Young and government agencies.

    Offsetting some of the pain, the industrial portfolio has benefited from the COVID-enhanced boom in e-commerce and associated logistics.

    Gould adds management remains focused on pushing through the crisis, rather than second guessing conditions when normality — or some semblance thereof — returns.

    “We are not doing anything stupid or taking on unnecessary risk, as well as preserving as much cash as possible and winding back discretionary spending.”

    Gould is also heavily involved in Mirvac’s award-winning innovation team, Hatch, which is focused on finding the company’s next growth pillars.

    He says while there’s a strong “we don’t know” element about the post-COVID settings, Mirvac is confident that the physical office will remain crucial to corporate identity, given its role in fostering collaboration and innovation.

    “We think the way businesses use that space might change, but we see ongoing tenant demand for office buildings that are more modern and adaptable.”

    Gould has held his current role since he joined Mirvac in 2005. Answering to CFO Shane Gannon, he leads a team of 16 covering financial planning and analysis (budgeting and forecasting) as well as business intelligence.

    Lloyd-Hurwitz credits Gould’s rounded training as seminal to the Mirvac turnaround — and it was not all about crunching the numbers and the data.

    “He can be incredibly detailed and focused and also incredibly strategic,” she says.

    “You don’t often find people who are ambidextrous in their working style like that. They are generally focused in the weeds or gloss over the details and go for the big picture.”

    Meanwhile, the “Mirvacuate” slight is nowhere to be heard as the company consolidates its position as an ASX 200 leader.

    “No one talks about us like that anymore,” Gould says. “We have earnt the respect of our investors and we continue to deliver on our promises.”

    Originally published on theaustralian.com.au

  • The CA helping The ICONIC thrive

    As chief operating officer of The Iconic, one of Australia’s biggest online fashion and sports retailers, Anna Lee CA has had her work cut out for her since COVID-19 forced people out of shopping centres and onto their computers and smartphones to meet their sartorial needs.

    Lee said that while the pandemic had been “one of the biggest curveballs” that many companies have had to face, she had relished the challenge of adapting the business to the new environment, to not only keep their 750-plus staff safe, but also to meet the increased demand from customers looking to update their working-from-home wardrobes.

    “It was a big change and it was complex but it has also been an enormously rewarding time,” she said. “Being able to help pivot the business in order to capitalise on the situation is probably a time of my career that I will never forget.”

    While other retailers have scrambled to boost their online ­offerings to meet the increased demand from customers that have been forced to stay indoors, Lee said The Iconic was able to keep up with capacity without ­hiring more people. That’s thanks to many years of streamlining company processes, which has included finessing logistics and delivery operations.

    “For a business to work seamlessly, every part of it needs to connect and be in synchronisation,” she said. “That is kind of my role to help support all the various parts of the business to drive results. It’s an exciting time to be in e-commerce.”

    Despite Lee’s senior position, this is her first role in operations. In fact, with a Bachelors Degree in Commerce from the University of NSW and a Chartered Accountant (CA) qualification, she has spent much of her career overseeing the financial side of businesses instead.

    After starting out at accountancy firm PwC in 1994, Ms Lee has held a number of senior finance roles including at media operator Adshel and e-commerce company Groupon before joining The Iconic in 2014 as chief financial officer. But after more than 20 years spent analysing company balance sheets, Lee took on one of her biggest career challenges to date and made the transition to operations. She was appointed chief operating officer at The Iconic in 2017.

    “It really trains you in logical thinking. My finance background has allowed me to have a very good understanding of how a business works.”

    This has seen her take on big complex projects for the company which has included overseeing the ­installation of an automated storage and ­retrieval system in 2018 that allows orders to be fulfilled in as little as 10 minutes. She has also overseen the expansion of their fulfilment centre to 46,000sq m — one of the largest in the southern ­hemisphere — doubling their inventory capacity to 3.75 million units. But despite being more operationally focused these days, as a brand ambassador and mentor for the CA program, Lee ­maintains that she is never too ­removed from the numbers.

    In fact, having obtained her CA qualification in 1999, the executive said that the training she ­obtained from the program had not only instilled a high level of discipline and rigour, but also taught her how to break down complex problems into sizeable chunks. It is also a skillset and quality that she looks for in others.

    “It really trains you in logical thinking,” she said. “When people talk about number crunching, often that is just the language that they use, but the numbers just present the components of the problems. My finance background has allowed me to have a very good understanding of how a business works.”

    Reflecting on her career trajectory, Lee said the move to e-commerce was not just about being attracted to innovative businesses that were disrupting traditional industries, such as retail, but it was also about her fulfilling her ­personal goal to take on new ­challenges.

    “When I joined The Iconic six years ago, it was redefining the ­future of retail,” she said. “It was inspiring, which totally resonates with the type of person that I am.”

    In recognition of her abilities, The Iconic appointed Lee acting chief executive while her new boss, Erica Berchtold, took four-months of parental leave in 2019. They’ve been working closely together for 17 months.

    “Anna’s financial acumen has helped underpin the integral part she plays in steering the operating rhythm of the entire organisation,” Berchtold said. “Through an agile and forward-thinking approach, Anna’s role is key to ensuring (our) end-to-end operations are future-proofed for ongoing growth.”

    Lee added that the key to the company’s success has been ­remaining agile and flexible and having a culture that can quickly adapt.

    “We are in a good place with COVID-19,” she said. “We have spent many years building a business to ­service and ­redefine what online shopping looks like. It’s­ a really great time for us.”

    Originally published on theaustralian.com.au

Meet the CAs transforming the public sector and not-for-profits

  • How CAs helped The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ restore more sight

    The good work done on a daily basis by The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ is celebrated throughout the Pacific.

    But what is less well-known is the cutting-edge financial and operational strategies in place within the organisation, facilitated by a Chartered Accountant with the knowledge and expertise needed to ensure the charity's ongoing success.

    The Foundation is a registered charity that carries on the work of famous Kiwi eye surgeon Professor Fred Hollows and his vision to end avoidable blindness.

    "Tragically four out of five people who are blind in the developing world don't need to be, and this can be addressed often with cataract surgery and if there is access to trained eye doctors and nurses," says The Foundation chairman, Craig Fisher FCA. "The New Zealand Foundation exists to address this issue in the Pacific."

    Fisher, a Chartered Accountant, was asked to join the governance team of The Foundation nine years ago. Fisher says that a large part of his role as chairman has been to progressively improve the professionalism, effectiveness and impact of the organisation.

    To this end, he identified the need for a dedicated chartered accountant to help bring the organisation into the digital age, and who was up-to-speed with the changing regulatory environment, which demanded much more accountability from the not-for-profit sector.

    Enter Sharon Orr. A Chartered Accountant with many years' experience in senior finance roles in the commercial sector. Whilst she had not worked for a not-for-profit before coming on board as finance and operations director in early 2017, she quickly made her mark by incorporating many of the protocols and disciplines adopted in a commercial environment.

    She says "I realised early on that while many charities focussed on minimising administration costs, it often came at the expense of under-resourcing their finance teams who were charged with ensuring the charity met the vast array of compliance, regulatory and statutory reporting requirements. In the case of The Foundation, these spanned multiple countries with complex and often confusing taxation systems."

    One of the more challenging achievements was meeting the Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance requirements as the standards dictated that the thousands of credit card details processed by The Foundation, had to meet the strict processing standards and privacy requirements.

    "Charities such as The Foundation, who operate across multiple countries also have the added complexity of managing their foreign currency exposure especially when dealing in volatile currencies. Often significant grant funding is received from overseas institutional donors in foreign currencies and the finance team is tasked with managing the foreign currency risk."

    One of Orr's systemic changes was putting in place systems that provided for integrated reporting of financial and non-financial information.

    "Key considerations for all donors are the ability to see where their donations have been spent, the impact that the charity has made in meeting its vision and that the utilisation of donor funding is maximised. Charities must also have appropriate forecasting systems to manage cash flows and ensure that future revenues will be sufficient to meet forecasted expenditure on programme activity."

    With Orr's appointment, the operational and financial arms of the organisation were brought together, allowing for a "big picture" approach that would take in the entire organisation.

    "I found travelling to our managed eye clinics, in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, gave me a real sense of the issues and challenges faced by our in-country finance and management teams. It armed me with the information I needed to be able to support and guide them to success," says Orr.

    Andrew Bell, former CEO for The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, says that he wasn't aware that chartered accountants could work across both sides of an organisation so effectively; and that Orr's depth of knowledge allowed her to tackle multiple issues facing the charity.

    Fisher says "She has helped our organisation to be more resilient and sustainable. The resilience and sustainability of organisations are two key drivers for me in my governance. "[Very quickly] she became a key member of our senior leadership team and her thoughtful methodological accountant's approach is greatly appreciated by others here.

    Originally published by Stuff limited

  • Meet Mark Twomey CA who is driving greater impact for a NFP

    Ability Options puts its purpose at the heart of everything it does. It’s a not-for-profit organisation, but there’s a good reason why it’s run like a business.

    Bankers, often painted as the most ardent capitalists, aren’t the most obvious candidates for making a significant impact on a not-for-profit organisation. But then again, perhaps they are.

    Mark Twomey CA worked for over 20 years in banking and finance, and later as a Chartered Accountant (CA). But for the past decade, he put his corporate management and CA skills to good use by hopping over to the not-for-profit sector and for the last 18 months has taken on the role as chief corporate services officer at Ability Options.

    “For purpose,” he corrects. “I like to think about this work as the ‘for purpose’ sector. We are constantly asking ourselves, what impact does this have on the people that we’re supporting? Whether that’s through employment or that’s through disability. It’s a good aspect of the job, and it’s a great feeling to have.”

    Ability Options is a non-government not-for-profit organisation providing employment and disability services, with many of their clients funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

    Dubbed the “ greatest nation-building project on earth”, NDIS is close to its full rollout, delivering $22 billion in services and support to Australians each year. The scheme’s introduction some four years ago changed the funding landscape for Australian charities dramatically, transitioning services previously administered by the government to the participants themselves who have the choice to use organisations like Ability Options, forcing many to restructure their operations and become more efficient.

    Ability Options amalgamated a number of services, now spanning 32 sites across NSW, yet its mission remains the same: to “support people who need assistance to achieve their aspirations and inclusion in the community”.

    Mr Twomey was hired, among others, to help the organisation navigate its growth and development.

    “Change is always a challenge,” he says. “But we’re working well as one group. We’re getting better with our reporting, and better with our IT and infrastructure. This year, we’ll turn over more than $100 million, and we employ over 1,200 people.”

    Not bad, for a sector often overlooked by the media, policymakers and society, despite its important role working in these sensitive and complex policy spaces.

    While the introduction of the NDIS brought widely-welcomed changes to service provision, the industry is still plagued by under-resourcing due to the current payment system, lack of frontline training, and an increasingly casualised workforce, with many staff having to work less than full time across multiple jobs, while also dealing with unstable rostering arrangements and a lack of pay.

    Mr Twomey says it’s an ongoing challenge navigating the complexities and challenges of the industry, and his Chartered Accountant (CA) qualification has been valuable in facing these, head-on.

    “A good CA is somebody who actually questions things,” he says. “They look at the finances, look at the operations and look at the way the business is run as a whole and asks relevant questions about it. They identify the issues and then find a solution to it. The CA course teaches you to do that.”

    Julia Squire, CEO of Ability Options, says the two chartered accountants (the organisation’s group financial controller is also a CA) in the business are “instrumental in developing our decision-making based on data analytics and understanding the services as well as the numbers”.

    “This has added value and efficiency and means that corporate support services are now as integral a part of service delivery, planning and governance as our senior operations managers and frontline staff,” she says.

    Charities and not-for-profits are also something of a hidden powerhouse of the economy, contributing the equivalent of almost five per cent of direct value to Australia’s GDP, which is on par with the retail trade industry and more than nine other industries. Despite their contribution to the Australian economy, Ms Squire says driving significant revenue in the disability and vulnerability sector is challenging because it’s often overlooked by society.

    “That means that when the policymakers do their thing, the people we support aren’t always visible, engaged or prioritised. Because society doesn’t value everyone, the workforce is undervalued, and we drop down the pecking order for funding, visibility and inclusion,” she says.

    Mr Twomey says the not-for-profit sector requires administrative rigour, adoption of technology and accountability that’s the hallmark of corporate business. After all, no matter how worthwhile the cause, if you’re unable to balance revenue and expenses, the organisation will end up in debt.

    “Like any business, we’ve got to invest in our infrastructure, we’ve got to update our systems, and we’ve got to keep updating our tools like the equipment we use. To do that, we've got to make sure we have funds to be able to sustain that. We need to make sure we’re not wasting our money,” Mr Twomey says.

    To have a sustainable impact, Mr Twomey says Ability Options is focused on two things – achieving its goals of growing its service offering and making a modest surplus.

    “It’s really cool in the way that people have embraced the fact that we can be business-like without losing our purpose. We want to keep doing the things that we do and keep supporting the people who want and need our support, for a long time,” he says.

    Managing the growth of the organisation involves streamlining processes and procedures and ensuring there’s consistency across all 32 office sites, whether that’s in the Hunter Valley or Shellharbour.

    “It’s about getting people to understand that it’s not about cutting costs for the sake of cutting costs – it’s about getting things right the first time, so we don’t have to redo them. We’re cutting down on the administrative burden that’s on our staff,” he says.

    Ms Squire says the recent changes to operations have improved efficiency without impacting on quality. “This means that despite the limited funding available, we are developing, growing, improving and are sustainable,” she says. “A high-quality, efficient organisation means we can do more to support people who need us.”

    Originally published on news.com.au

  • Lara Ariell FCA, Driving Transformation at Inland Revenue Department

    Chartered accountants are often associated with the high-rise corporate world, but their influence and knowledge also underpin the strategies and policies of the public sector.

    As CFO at Inland Revenue, Lara Ariell FCA is charged with maximising the efficiency of every tax dollar spent in her organisation. And her commercial nous and collaborative ethos have been instrumental in transforming back-office processes at IRD; changes which are being shared across the public sector.

    Ariell's career path was somewhat different from many graduate accountants. She chose to work at PWC (then Price Waterhouse) in the aftermath of the 1987 stock market crash, specialising in receivership and insolvency.

    "I was working with a lot of people who'd had great ideas, but who hadn't thought through the financial implications of decisions around their business. We didn't have a label for the work we were doing back then; now you would call it change management. The whole process made me incredibly risk averse," she explains.

    Receivership work was stressful, but she says it also taught her that accountancy wasn't just about balancing books and recording transactions. Emotional intelligence, communication skills and the ability to see the big picture were also vital; all skills that she learned through her years of training as a chartered accountant.

    Ariell eventually moved into the public sector, starting with a role at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, where she was part of a team charged with rolling out NCEA. She loved having the opportunity to bring what she'd learned in the corporate world to the public sphere; approaching the tightly controlled budgets in the same way she'd approach a company with cash-flow restrictions.

    "People who have hired me are aware that I came from the 'pointy end' of corporate accounting," she says. "I was approaching things with a commercial mindset."

    It was the beginning of a career that would see her take on roles at the Ministry of Justice and Te Papa, before moving into her current role at IRD.

    The role was initially a 12-month secondment, but she stayed on and has now been with IRD for four years. She explains that she walked into a "large transformation process", primarily of the customer-facing sector of the organisation.

    "Our philosophy at IRD is to be agile, intelligence led and customer centric. But for the front office to achieve this, the back office also needs to be on board," she says.

    To this end, Ariell has driven a process aimed at establishing more efficient back-office technology, processes, and building people capability. One aspect of this has been the transformation of the enterprise system that underpins all of IRD's behind the scenes functions.

    "We wanted people to be able to do their day-to-day tasks without having to fill out endless paper forms. It was important to develop an internal structure that made administration very easy."

    She gives the example of claiming back expenses, a seemingly simple process that could cause unnecessary headaches.

    "Previously, staff would need to fill in expense claims forms, attach their receipts to it, then send it to the people in finance. The receipts might go missing; the people in finance might need more information; and the claimant may not get paid for weeks."

    She's overseen the automation of the process (via a simple phone app) which significantly reduces both the administration and the payment times.

    All the back-office systems and processes have been upgraded under Ariell's guidance. The traditional business process for such upgrades is to first establish the needs of the organisation, then take the product to market to create a bespoke product.

    But as the large-scale transformation of the public-facing wing of the organisation was taking up much of IRD's resources, Ariell was directed to find a simpler and less risky way to implement change.

    "We looked around other organisations to see what they were using, so we could adapt it for our purposes," she explains.

    "We discovered an efficient process model for human resources, procurement and administration being used by the New South Wales government, which they licensed to us for use."

    They were able to access this at an extremely competitive rate, and Ariell's insights as a Chartered Accountant allowed for it to be tailored to the particular requirements of the organisation.

    IRD spearheaded the implementation of this process model; it's proven so successful, that it's being made available for use by all New Zealand government departments.

    Ariell is extremely people-focussed and passionate about providing new opportunities for the large team of chartered accountants (CAs) she manages.

    "IRD is a big agency and our CAs have great skills. Many of them have worked at IRD for their entire career, and as we are looking to have a smaller team eventually, it's really important for them to have experience outside of the IRD."

    She is facilitating opportunities for CAs to shift into other government departments, to share their expertise with new organisations.

    "Understandably, there is some nervousness around this, but I am committed to making the process [of changing roles] safe, to help them build their personal brand, and to create positive outcomes for them and the agencies they visit."

    COVID-19 has been a game-changer for New Zealanders. The IRD has been one of the agencies at the coalface–supporting individuals and businesses as they wrestle with unprecedented financial disruption. Ariell says that IRD's response to the needs of New Zealanders over the past six months has proven the value of the changes she has helped facilitate over the past few years.

    "It has really proved that everything we've done during this transformation period has been worth it. The positivity, resilience and attitude of the people who work here shows that all the effort has paid off."

    Originally published by Stuff limited

  • The CA helping to lift the worlds poor out of poverty

    As a young girl growing up in Sydney’s northern suburbs, Meredith Scott FCA might have assumed that privilege was her right. Instead her family gave her a grounding that would set her up for a life of contribution. Most weekends, her parents would take Scott and her siblings into the inner city, where they would work with homeless and refugee families through their church.

    “In my family helping others was predominant. It was embedded in me that that is what you do,” Scott said.

    The daughter of an engineer, Scott was one of the first in her family to go to university and her stay-at-home mum pushed Scott to make the most of the opportunities that were denied a previous generation of women.

    Graduating in 1985 she interviewed for the Big Nine, as they were then, but accepted an offer from Arthur Young (now EY) because, “it wasn’t all about my father or my brothers. It was actually about me, which sounds pretty sexist and old-school but that’s what a woman going into accounting in the mid-80s had to deal with.”

    Hired into the auditing division, Scott started her Chartered Accounting training — a critical accreditation to understand the highly technical nature of the audit process. Scott says the 3-year process instilled in her a discipline and a love of learning that she draws on today.

    “The discipline and the attitude that you get from becoming a CA and a long career in auditing is really important in doing any sort of business post a purely accounting-focused career. There‘s certainly that discipline looking for the anomaly and finding a way to either understand that better or to exploit it in some way. There’s always something to learn,” she said.

    With a CA designation under her belt and some time in North America, Scott stepped into a management role. She was thrown into the complex process of trying to unwind the tangled holdings of the collapsed Adelaide Steamship company, an entity with controlling interests in many leading Australian brands including Woolworths and David Jones. It exposed her to corporate reorganisations and to senior management at EY. In a high-powered meeting with a syndicate of bankers, she corrected her superior, who also happened to be the chair of EY’s board of partners.

    “The technical knowledge and understanding that you build on in the CA program to give you the confidence to say, ‘well, no, actually, that’s not right – this is . . .’, is quite incredible.”

    “The managing partner who was also in the room told me afterwards that it was either the bravest or the dumbest thing he’d seen,” she said. However she had no hesitation in backing herself.

    “The technical knowledge and understanding that you build on in the CA program to give you the confidence to say, ‘well, no, actually, that’s not right – this is . . .’, is quite incredible.”

    Those two partners were impressed, and were instrumental in getting Scott promoted to executive director while she was pregnant with her first child. It turned out to be a complicated pregnancy and the child had health issues, and the stress started to take a toll on Scott too. The first doubts of her career crept in. “Maybe I can’t be a mother and an executive director of a big accounting firm,” she thought. But the firm was committed to helping her through, and Scott moved to a four day work week. It gave her more time with her son but didn’t detract from her career - three years later, in 1999, she was promoted to partner.

    It was another trailblazing moment as she was pregnant with her second child.

    “Only three years before, if you were in professional services and client facing and you fell pregnant, it was very clear that you were not going to come back for a client facing role, and that you would be assigned an administrative support role.

    “So to be able to be promoted to partner in a client serving role while six months pregnant at the time was quite phenomenal,” Scott said.

    She was the sixth female partner for EY in Australia. And despite continuing to work four days a week for another ten years, she was elected to the EY Australia board of partners then to the Asia Pacific, then global board of partners.

    Having blazed a trail for women in the auditing profession, Scott is proudest of her role mentoring young accountants throughout their careers.

    “A couple of them refer to me as ‘work mum’,” Scott said, laughing. “But that guidance, discipline and care and support is really important particularly to young professionals who are challenged with balancing it all.”

    After nearly 20 years as a partner, Scott determined that it was time to find some balance for herself. Throughout her career she had always done pro bono work for the not-for-profit sector, and in 2017 she was approached by the Chair of Opportunity International Australia, Ted Kerr.

    With her children grown up, Scott decided that if she was going to log long hours, it was time to make a “real difference” so she took a 60 per cent pay cut to take on the role of Opportunity International chief executive.

    Her audit background was put to immediate use. Opportunity International Australia provides funding to 20 organisations that were alleviating poverty via finance solutions in the developing world but it meant there was a complicated financial structure to maintain. Because they take minority financial stakes in local partners, Opportunity has to influence decisions rather than dictate them.

    “We will work with them to support them, train them, give guidance around best practices (and) ensure that they have the policies and procedures in place to ensure the loans that are given to the right people,” she said.

    “You need that financial acumen so that I can look my donors in the eye in Australia and say ‘those funds are going to where my partners tell me that my funds are going’ and ensure that I can provide leadership and direction and strategy to the organisation.”

    Mark Daniels, Opportunity International Australia’s Asia programs director says that Scott has brought a financial rigour at a time when the professionalism of the not-for-profit sector is ramping up.

    “Technically she‘s absolutely brilliant,” Daniels said. “There’s an increase in compliance and governance in the sector, and with microfinance as a separate asset class, the sophistication and complexity in the industry is so much higher than it used to be. So her skillset is increasingly valued and she has an important role to play in building the confidence of the donors and driving that reputational impact.“

    It’s not just the technical proficiency she brings that is making a difference.

    “She’s a unique individual. 100 per cent on all the time. Yet at the same time she has tremendous compassion and heart,” he said “You can’t not be impacted. It does bring a tear to your eye when you see what we see, hearing the stories of our clients.”

    That impact is driving Meredith Scott. Her focus is on maintaining donor relationships, and contributions during COVID-19, which is having an outsizes impact on the world’s poorest people.

    “COVID is not an issue that is over or close to being over,” she said. “We have to look forward and we have to ensure that we don‘t have a situation where millions more go back under the poverty line.”

    It is a life that has come full circle for Scott, who is back directly affecting the lives of the less fortunate. Looking back over a highly successful, trailblazing career that started with a CA designation, Scott reflects that the through line has always been about making a positive difference.

    “I was a member of EY’s global board of partners when we adopted the tagline ‘Building a Better Working World’ and, well, now I am,” she said.

    Originally published on theaustralian.com.au

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