- 2020 CA ANZ President Peter Rupp FCA supports generational change and is keen for new CAs to be heard.
- He says it’s important to get input from CAs while the CA Program is being redesigned (it relaunches in 2021).
- Rupp encourages CAs to network by participating in member forums or attending workshops.
By Stuart Ridley
Peter Rupp FCA starts his term as president of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand with a focus on the future. He wants CAs to expand their repertoire of skills, and will be listening closely to members to ensure CA ANZ delivers what the CA community needs.
An audit partner in Deloitte’s Assurance and Advisory Group in Perth, Western Australia, Rupp became a member of the WA Regional Council in 2011 and a national councillor in 2014. But he first worked in accounting half a world away in the UK.
From the UK to Perth
It was just before Christmas in 2003 that Peter Rupp FCA arrived home from the Deloitte UK Reading office to tell his family he’d been offered a three-year secondment to Western Australia. The children were young and he and wife both figured if it didn’t work out, they had a “lifeboat back home”.
“I like to review my career every four years and it looked like a huge opportunity with all the growth projected in WA,” says Rupp. “Three years later, it didn’t make sense commercially to go back to the UK where the recession was starting to hit, while in WA the mining boom was in full swing. My young family had excellent support networks in Australia, too, so we didn’t want to leave.”
Rupp admits one attraction of working at a larger firm was the opportunity to travel and immerse himself in new cultures. These days, those opportunities are more available, he notes, particularly for younger CAs.
“Having that CA qualification opens doors through our formal global accounting alliance and, informally, through the member network, which makes travel a lot easier,” he says.
Coming through testing times
Rupp gained his CA qualification working in a hotel’s finance department. He remembers a managing partner at Touche Ross & Co (which merged into Deloitte in the UK in 1996) telling him that balancing work and study pressures would make him resilient and better at his job.
That partner was right. Rupp says that learning to handle pressure and long hours set him up for a career-defining project soon after becoming a CA.
A client called Dr Solomon’s – the anti-virus software business started by Alan and Susan Solomon in their Buckinghamshire home – was experiencing phenomenal growth worth tens of millions of pounds and Rupp was brought in to help with audits.
In three years, he helped guide Dr Solomon’s through a management buyout, a NASDAQ float and a £393 million sale to rival software company McAfee.
“Opportunities like these are where CAs really feel we’re making a difference,” says Rupp. “It tested me at every level, not just technically, but also [through] long hours working in lawyers’ offices in Bishopsgate, making sure all the numbers were presented and various filings were correct.”
The Dr Solomon’s float in 1996 was one of the first NASDAQ listings in the US of a private issuer from the UK, so Rupp and his team had to deal with a raft of new regulations coming out of the US.
“It felt like we were blazing a trail and it was very satisfying,” he says. “It instilled in me a love for working with small businesses and helping them realise value in a compliant and orderly way.”
Rupp continues to find his work with private companies very rewarding, although discretion stops him from mentioning current clients. Instead, he highlights the major growth in private investments as an opportunity for CAs skilled in being a confidant as part of the trusted adviser role: “You experience sincere gratitude for the work and value you bring to private businesses,” he says. “It’s more than just doing the work to get paid: it’s genuinely personal.”
Taking the job no-one wanted
picture: 2020 CA ANZ President Peter Rupp FCA.
Another big career step was taking a job none of his peers wanted: a professional standards role in the firm’s London office.
“No-one else saw the importance of it at the time and I just put my hand up,” Rupp recalls. “I think that’s a lesson for a lot of people: you might not see the benefit of an opportunity until you’ve actually volunteered to do it.”
The role turbocharged his technical competence in new rules and regulations, while also impressing on him the need for quality reporting at every level.
“Professional standards are fundamental to building trust in our profession, which has come full circle now with the Australian Senate inquiry into audit quality,” he adds.
“Separately, we’re [CA ANZ] doing some advocacy in partnership with other accounting bodies on the recognised accountants’ exemption for financial advice on SMSFs, which disappeared in 2016. We’re vouching for the entire profession to ensure the regulation acknowledges the ethical standards and qualifications of accountants.”
Advisory is a CA’s secret sauce
For six years, Rupp has been a volunteer director with Regional Arts WA, a not-for-profit organisation that supports community programs in dance, visual and performing arts.
Not-for-profits need as much, if not more, help with budgets, planning and financial performance than other organisations, says Rupp, and he recommends working with them as a good way for CAs to develop advisory skills. CAs can thrive as advisers in the start-up community, too, he says.
“I’ve been blown away by what’s happening in Catalyst, our program connecting CAs with start-ups that came out of CA ANZ’s strategic review three years ago. The big motivation for accountants to participate in CA Catalyst isn’t remuneration – it’s about being involved at the beginning of a business idea that could potentially become massive or even game changing.”
Rupp says Catalyst’s secret sauce is linking entrepreneurs motivated to make change with CAs who can provide the business smarts to make it happen.
Rupp predicts more than 50% of most firms’ work will be in advisory, including technology, business transformation and risk management, with especially high demand for trusted advice on risk.
In his year as CA ANZ president, Rupp is committed to promoting the diverse consulting skills of chartered accountants and will continue to encourage new members to expand their repertoires.
“As more tasks are automated, our thinking is what really adds value to the work? Sometimes you can’t run before you can walk, but we’re paid when we run very fast – and we’re seeing a lot of our younger accountants wanting to fast track into a more advisory type role.”
Entrepreneurialism and the future of work
Rupp will be having a lot of conversations with young CAs about their ambitions – and he’ll encourage them to have many more conversations in the real world.
“It’s incredibly motivating to see young CAs writing their own scripts, running their own businesses and being highly mobile,” he says. “There’s a wave of entrepreneurialism we want to encourage for members at all stages.
“Automation, analytics and AI undoubtedly drive efficiency and relevance in a highly competitive market; they also free up time for the cerebral work and human connections.”
“Automation, analytics and AI… free up time for the cerebral work and human connections that computers can’t do.”
Rupp also sees a bigger focus on the purpose of work, as upwardly mobile CAs rate businesses on how they address global issues they care about. These include sustainability, climate change, and eradicating modern slavery or money laundering in the supply chain. Then there are the more personal concerns such as flexible working and mental health support.
“Supporting purpose at work is a virtuous circle,” he says. “When you make those commitments to good practice and look after your staff, you’re enhancing their ability to do good work.”
And while he agrees instant messaging has its benefits, Rupp recommends building real connections with people face to face. He encourages CA ANZ members to explore networking opportunities in person, such as participating in member forums, visiting start-up hubs as part of CA Catalyst, or attending workshops.
He also recommends participating in MyCA, an online hub for members that gives fast access to CA ANZ events, content and courses. It also connects members in online forums to exchange ideas, and includes mechanisms to vote up member ideas to the board and council.
“It’s also very useful for ‘crowd solving’ challenges that you might be having in your specialisation, as it’s an excellent networking and knowledge sharing platform,” Rupp adds.
Rupp is used to wearing several hats
Rupp has been active on CA ANZ councils since joining the WA Regional Council in 2011 (serving as chair in 2015) and was CA ANZ vice-president for Australia 2018-2019.
He is used to balancing multiple commitments, and has the strong backing of his boss, Richard Deutsch, CEO of Deloitte Australia. Deutsch served as president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2009 and as a board member for six years, so he understands the demands of Rupp’s role.
“I am incredibly pleased Peter has been appointed to the CA ANZ presidency for 2020,” says Deutsch. “I encourage him to use this great opportunity to be bold and lead the profession as it continues to transform for our next generation of accountants.”
Rupp is looking forward to engaging with chartered accountants during his travels across South-East Asia and the UK. As a dual member of CA ANZ and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, he plans to build more connections with both professional communities.
And when he’s not travelling, he’ll keep a personal promise at home.
“I’ve always been busy and travelled a lot my entire career, but I’ve also made sure that, whenever possible, I retain the sanctity of my weekends and time with family,” Rupp says.
“One of the things I really enjoy at home is playing the piano. I could try to master some of Chopin’s Etudes, though actually I’d really like to play the theme to Forrest Gump [by Alan Silvestri]. It sounds simple, but it isn’t as straightforward as I thought it might be – and I think it’s good to put your mind to something completely different.”
Rupp’s priorities for 2020
Supporting generational change
“I want to make sure new CAs are heard when we’re designing the strategy. They’re driving digital transformation while reverse-mentoring the rest of us. I can provide leadership and, dare I say, wisdom, though they’re applying the technology. There’s a lot each generation can learn from each other.”
Providing value for all members
“We have a very diverse group of members at different career stages, in different industries and sectors, so as a professional organisation we need to show we understand their needs; particularly as we’re redesigning the CA Program to relaunch it in 2021.”
Encouraging members to have a voice
“Everywhere I go I want to hear from members about what’s going on so I can help escalate it. We’re advocating for members to build trust in the profession and want to hear about their contributions to the community, ethical leadership and public good.”