Sarah Balle CA
Career role: Founder of Supie, Auckland
Growing up on a vegetable farm in Pukekohe, south of Auckland, Sarah Balle CA understands just how much food grown in New Zealand actually makes it to market – not to mention how small the margins are for farmers.
So, in 2019, Balle left her CFO role in the hospitality industry to start Supie, which brings food to consumers’ tables directly from those who produce it.
After more than a year in the planning phase, Supie launched in May this year. Within weeks, it had more than 1000 members, who shop online and have groceries delivered to their door.
“The aim is to reduce the costs of food – making the food chain fairer – rescue unnecessary waste and give back to the community.
“The aim is to reduce the costs of food – making the food chain fairer.”
“It’s about solving the problems that we’ve identified in the traditional supermarket model. We source from producers across New Zealand and now have more than 3000 products available,” says Balle.
Supie currently employs 20 people and Balle is preparing for a second funding round.
“Being a CA has given me significant credibility and confidence for this,” she says. “And we’ve got a huge growth path ahead of us.”
Balle is planning to take Supie nationwide within the next five years. “It will include some pretty amazing technology that we’ve been working on in the background,” she says. “What you see today is just the beginning.”
Jonathan Banks CA
Career role: Manager in the Corporate Tax team, PwC, Perth
Everyone has a right to feel safe and welcome at work. No-one should be made to “fear, filter or hide” who they are, says Jonathan Banks CA, a manager in corporate tax at PwC in Perth, and the Western Australian lead for Shine, PwC’s employee-led network for LGBTI+ people and allies.
“Inclusion in its purest sense is when you can come to work and not leave any part of yourself at the door,” says Banks, who joined PwC in 2017.
The Shine network gives a sense of community to PwC employees who identify as LGBTI+ and advises the firm on how to create an inclusive environment for all. It also works with other corporates in Australia to help them “live and breathe inclusion within their own organisations,” says Banks.
“No-one’s saying that you need to be out in the workplace: that’s an incredibly personal decision. But I take it upon myself to be quite a visible and out member of the work environment, because when you see other people who are out in leadership, you tend to feel much more comfortable to be yourself.”
Inclusion in the sporting arena is also a priority for Banks. He set up Perth’s first LGBTI+ inclusive basketball club, the Perth Spectres, 18 months ago, and says the club is “flourishing” with 25 players across four competitive teams.
“Two leadership qualities I aspire to embody are accountability and equity,” says Banks. “And no matter what I end up doing with my career, promoting inclusion is always going to play a fundamental role.”
“Promoting inclusion is always going to play a fundamental role.”
Diwash Bhattarai CA
Career role: Accountant, PKF Goldsmith Fox, Christchurch
Diwash Bhattarai CA has lived more of his life in a refugee camp than in his adopted country of New Zealand, but already he is well on his way in his accounting career.
Bhattarai is from Bhutan in the Himalayas but, as ethnic Nepalese, his family were forced to flee conflict there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The now 26-year-old was born in a refugee camp and lived there for 14 years before he emigrated to New Zealand with his mother and two older sisters. His father passed away in the camp.
“I’d never heard of New Zealand before I moved here, and I had no English at all. I was adapting to both a language and culture barrier,” he says.
“I’d never heard of New Zealand before I moved here, and I had no English at all.”
Bhattarai did indeed adapt. He finished high school and graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Christchurch. Today, he is an accountant for PKF Goldsmith Fox; he became a CA in January 2021. “I was always interested in business from a young age and saw accounting as a way out of poverty,” he says.
“There were quite low expectations for me from many people, but I had a dream; that was to be an accountant and I made that happen.”
In addition to his professional work, Bhattarai helps many small businesses across different communities in Christchurch, including Bhutanese, Pacific, Indian and Nepalese communities.
“I’m passionate about helping create wealth for people, and that’s the aspect of my job I really love.”
Sharon Chuang CA
Career role: Director, Tax Reporting and Innovation, PwC, Sydney
Sharon Chuang CA lives and breathes innovation. Whether it’s bringing new financial oversight to her church (Hornsby Presbyterian Church in Sydney), introducing automation and technology within PwC’s tax business, or mentoring her colleagues, Chuang is focused on what’s coming next.
“Tax has traditionally been based in law and, because of that, it has been slower to come on the tech journey,” she says.
Using tools such as Power BI, Tableau and Alteryx, Chuang has overseen PwC’s Virtual Digital Academies program to upskill the company in data and analytics. She also works hard to ensure her clients take advantage of the same technologies.
Out of hours, Chuang uses her finance and accounting skills on the Committee of Management for Hornsby Presbyterian to help the church with finance and property decisions. She also sits on the Ministry Leadership Team and provides expertise if questions come up about the church’s finances.
Chuang sees herself getting more heavily involved in community activities and looks forward to taking on a bigger leadership role at PwC one day.
“I want to see technology grow because, over the next decade, there is going to be so much change in our industry,” she says.
“I want to see technology grow – there is going to be so much change.”
“I’d also like to work in the non-profit sector, and perhaps sit on the board of a not-for-profit.”
Anna Davis CA
Career role: Deputy CFO, Tower Insurance, Auckland
Anna Davis CA calls it cultural IQ. “How do you bring out the best in people and how do you recognise someone’s qualities? They may not be the same as your own lived experiences and that’s why inclusion – not just diversity – is so important,” she says. “It’s about creating an environment where everyone can contribute.”
It was a desire to make change from within that motivated Davis to join the board of YWCA Auckland in 2018. The not-for-profit runs the Gender Tick accreditation program for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to gender equity, including pay parity.
“I wanted to direct my effort into changing the system – rather than trying to change what was directly around me,” she explains.
“I wanted to direct my effort into changing the system.”
Davis brought a different kind of strategic thinking to the board table. She has had broad finance experience – including with Landcorp Farming, Spark New Zealand and aerospace company Rocket Lab – and been involved with commercialisation in the not-for-profit sector.
Chairing the YWCA board in 2020 required “courageous decision-making”, says Davis. Like many not-for-profits, the charity had a dip in financial support in a tough year.
“This required me to lead the board to be strategic, consultative and decisive,” she explains. “I’ve acquired some valuable skills over the years that I can give back to the community.”
Allen Fan CA
Career role: Investment manager, C-Quest Capital, Sydney
Social impact project developer C-Quest Capital reduces greenhouse emissions by bringing environmentally-friendly cookers and lighting to the developing world.
“A clean cooker means that women [in places such as Africa, India and South-East Asia] no longer have to go into the forest cutting down trees for firewood,” explains Allen Fan CA, C-Quest’s investment manager.
The company also contributes to economic development in those regions. “They can get jobs and raise families. And for the children, it means they can have an education,” says Fan.
Investors in these impact-related investments get a return in the form of carbon credits for the work.
“This industry is the perfect example of what finance is capable of,” says Fan, adding it was his CA training that gave him the skills to solve these real-world problems.
“[Social impact investing] is the perfect example of what finance is capable of.”
“I rely on the knowledge of management accounting, tax and corporate finance to evaluate cookstove projects in Africa against efficient LED projects in India,” he explains.
Fan is also involved in Youthmix, a New Zealand-based non-profit organisation (Fan graduated from the University of Waikato) which, among other projects, teaches financial literacy to young people.
“What we share in common is the desire to help others, to give back to the community and, in turn, make our society better than it once was.”
Jesse Hall CA
Career role: Accountant, Malloch McClean, Invercargill
Jesse Hall CA was on track for a career in organic chemistry when he discovered accounting. Studying at the University of Otago, he took some accounting courses “on the side” and enjoyed them much more than his chemistry. That discovery coincided with him becoming treasurer of the Otago University Students’ Association, where he worked beside the CEO to handle a budget in the millions.
“It was like a crash course as a chief financial officer,” Hall says.
In his first role in public practice in Auckland, Hall was “thrown in the deep end” with Xero. It converted him to the power of technology to help CAs “move beyond the numbers” and into strategy.
“People try and apply old ways of doing things to new technology and that doesn’t always work,” says Hall. “You need an adaptive mindset to understand that when you change you will lose some things which are really good, but you gain more than you lose.”
At Malloch McClean, he has implemented Receipt Bank and Hubdoc, moving accountants and clients to a more paperless system.
“There was a huge hill to climb in creating the business case to ensure we were making the right move,” he says. “I found it took a lot of courage to back the technology, which has led to some real efficiencies. Now, for me, it’s about supporting our team to ensure they are making the most of our tech stack.”
“I found it took a lot of courage to back the technology.”
Rakin Hasan CA
Career role: Senior analyst, Technology and Controls, Deloitte Australia, Sydney
Coming to Australia from Bangladesh as an international student in 2013, Rakin Hasan CA says he understands the challenges faced by migrants trying to get a foot in the corporate door. It’s why he began career coaching as a side passion, helping international students with resumes and interview preparation.
“For international students, getting to tap into the Big Four is hard because of visa restrictions and English language tests,” he explains.
“For international students, getting to tap into the Big Four is hard.”
“After I graduated from Macquarie University, I applied for hundreds of jobs before I got my foot in the door.”
Hasan had turned that zeal to help into paying work, but when COVID hit last year he pivoted to offering his services for free. Seeing those around him lose jobs and struggle to put food on the table made him want to help.
Hasan says becoming a chartered accountant was a dream formed in primary school. He has worked for three of the Big Four firms, and has a passion for technology, despite never having studied IT.
In particular, he’s interested in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, and the way they could change the accounting profession.
“I now work as an auditor focusing on assurance of technologies.”
Hasan also enjoys educating clients on topics such as finance transformation and trust by design.
Apoorva Kallianpur CA
Career role: Finance business partner, NBN Co Limited, Sydney
Apoorva Kallianpur CA believes passionately in diversity, empathy and inclusion. By day she works as a finance business partner for broadband builder NBN Co in Sydney; outside of work she’s a volunteer board director and treasurer for the Regional Disability Advocacy Service (RDAS).
“I am a strong advocate for social justice and believe we all play an integral role in creating a more equitable and inclusive society. No step is too small in creating a change,” she says.
“We all play an integral role in creating a more equitable and inclusive society.”
RDAS operates disability advocacy services across north-east Victoria as well as the Riverina and Murray regions of southern NSW.
“As treasurer, I have been able to use my CA and professional skills – strategic planning, audit and financial and risk management – to help RDAS accelerate its social impact,” she explains.
“I’m proud to serve with a talented group of board members and work with a passionate management team to make a meaningful change.”
Kallianpur wants to use her leadership to make the world a better place and find innovative solutions to drive global change.
“I truly recognise the importance of leading with empathy and integrity,” she says. “I want to lead a team of purpose-driven people who feel comfortable enough to speak their views and be challenged in a positive manner. That, to me, would be success.”
Michelle Mudawarima CA
Career role: Team leader, Performance (Strategy, Planning and Reporting), Commerce Commission, Wellington
Michelle Mudawarima CA’s first question is usually “Why?” And she says young finance professionals should be using that three-letter word a lot more often.
“In a professional sense, if you want to make a difference, you need to question the norm.”
With New Zealand’s Commerce Commission, Mudawarima is driving change to reporting.
“In my view, public sector entities sometimes report in silos, because one entity can have so many functions,” she says. “When I first started, I suggested we report more as one organisation, and it was really successful.”
In 2019, she organised an event with the Wellington Planning and Performance Network called “Nailing the Annual Report” and invited experts to provide input.
“I took the feedback onboard when I started planning our annual report and got buy-in from the leadership team to change the layout,” she says. “For the second year running, it’s received Bronze in the Australasia Reporting Awards.”
Mudawarima, who moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe as a child, says her ultimate goal is to make a difference by asking her favourite question.
“Understanding the ‘why’ is key to being able to influence others and, ultimately, make a tangible difference. Leadership is really about being able to influence others to willingly go on the ride with you.”
“Understanding the ‘why’ is key to being able to influence others.”
Elenie Panos Carey CA
Career role: Partner, Head of Strategy and Transformation, Audit, KPMG
Early in her accounting career, a colleague told Elenie Panos Carey CA she shouldn’t wear such colourful clothes; she should wear grey instead. It’s advice Carey will continue to ignore when she returns to KPMG Australia from New York as a new partner commencing in August.
Carey, 35, has been with KPMG since university and had roles with the firm across three continents. From Sydney she moved to Denmark, where KPMG merged with EY and she worked in the new KPMG start-up. “It was a true start-up with no staff, no office and no clients,” she explains.
From Denmark she moved to New York and, since 2016, she’s been a senior director in strategy and transformation.
“As an innovation leader, I led the proof of concept for using smart glasses in inventory counts, so client and staff have a better experience when performing this essential audit procedure.”
She takes many memories home with her. While in New York she undertook a double Executive MBA at Columbia University and London Business School and last year gave birth to her daughter in a medical mask at the height of the pandemic.
Carey aspires for a chief executive or board position on a large, listed company one day.
“To be an inspiring leader requires a thirst for knowledge, curiosity and passion to inspire and empower talent. It’s leading with strong core values to enable the success of others.”
“It’s leading with strong core values to enable the success of others.”
Ketvi Roopnarain CA
Career role: Group finance manager, Smart Pension, London
When Ketvi Roopnarain CA left Mauritius at 18 for a scholarship in Applied Finance and Accounting at Sydney’s Macquarie University, she embarked on an international career. Roopnarain, 32, a published academic author, worked in academia before moving into financial services with roles at AMP and Westpac.
“The world is changing so fast, as a finance professional you need to continually challenge and disrupt yourself,” she says. “International work experience was always part of the plan.”
Roopnarain set up her own company to work as a consultant for start-ups in fintech when she moved to London in 2019. Currently at Smart Pension, she has led her team through the pandemic and has been instrumental in the company’s global expansion strategy. Next stop is enabling Smart’s entry to the Australian market with its flagship product Smart Retire.
“One of my favourite quotes is from Maya Angelou: If you’re going to live, leave a legacy,” she says. “The more you grow as a leader, the more impact you can have for positive change.”
“The more you grow as a leader, the more impact you can have for positive change.”
At Smart, Roopnarain is on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and is a mental health champion. An advocate for financial empowerment and closing the gender pensions/wealth gap, she was recently nominated for the Women in Pensions Awards’ 2021 Rising Star Award. She also participates in community outreach programs in Australia, Mauritius and the UK.
Nicole Speirs CA
Career role: Financial controller, construction sector, Canberra
Nicole Speirs CA is a financial controller for a construction firm in Canberra, and works in an industry where women are the minority.
“Construction is still male dominated at this stage,” she says. “I may not be working on construction sites but, from my position, I can work to promote equality in business practices, so everyone feels included, regardless of gender.”
“I can work to promote equality in business practices, so everyone feels included.”
Speirs says few industries have got gender diversity 100 per cent right.
“I think part of the reason for the gender pay gap is that females often don’t have as much one-on-one or casual networking time with decision-makers at the top, so they get left behind,” she says.
Speirs witnessed this first-hand at a company she worked for that was preparing for an annual “boys’ weekend” event to which Speirs and female colleagues weren’t invited.
“I spoke to the directors and leaders in charge and asked them to consider whether excluding a group of employees was right or wrong,” she explains. “The conversation was enough to make them question unconscious bias and the event doesn’t happen any more.”
She credits CA ANZ with giving her the tools to have these sometimes difficult conversations.
“Being a CA has given me a high level of integrity to engage stakeholders in an honest and direct manner. The construction industry, as a whole, places significant value on clear and open communication and I would not have thrived without this skill.”
Ace Tan CA
Career role: Manager of corporate strategy, Carsome, Kuala Lumpur
Ace Tan CA works for fast-growing online car sales platform Carsome. As the manager of corporate strategy, he is putting his understanding of numbers to good use in driving the firm’s growth throughout South-East Asia.
“Being in charge of the financial model and forecast, we have to make ethical decisions to showcase realistic and truthful actual performance – without engaging in accounting or earnings manipulations,” he says.
“Being in charge of the financial model and forecast, we have to make ethical decisions.”
Based in Malaysia, Carsome is emerging as a major regional platform and is strengthening its foothold in Indonesia, Thailand and other markets. The company is exploring an initial public offering – a project Tan is looking forward to. “My role gives me the kind of exposure to strategy I wasn’t getting in my previous work in audit,” he says.
Tan credits his CA training with helping him to “interpret the numbers quickly” and understand how a company is performing. He embraces the idea of the “data-driven accountant” of the future.
As a manager, Tan’s approach to his team is “empowerment and bringing people together” – unlike his own experience in some former roles, “where I was asked to produce deliverables based on specific instructions from superiors, without giving me the liberty to voice out my thoughts.”
Tan is active with CA ANZ as a Regional Councillor for Malaysia, which he says helps him grow his network while retaining a connection with Australia.
Alice Wilson CA
Career role: Senior manager, Global Tax, PwC, Sydney
In her side hustle as owner and CFO of Reckless Brewing Company in Sydney’s inner west, Alice Wilson CA does everything from finance and operations to legal and regulatory work. Over the past 12 months, the craft brewery’s revenue has grown 150% despite challenging conditions.
“Being a small business owner, I understand the hardship that people have been through with the pandemic and keeping the doors open and employees paid,” says Wilson, whose main gig is senior manager, Global Tax, at PwC.
Having a foot in two worlds has given Wilson compassion for the small guys as well as the big end of town. “The corporate world has also had a challenging year, with lots of redundancies. I want to make sure people feel supported,” she says, adding that being a CA means she has the skills needed to handle and adapt to change.
“Being able to trust myself to figure out problems in my business – from financial issues to supply chain issues, all the way through to employment issues – means I can have confidence to solve issues as they arise while keeping my eyes on the future of my business.”
Reckless is currently innovating beer styles and is in the process of building a new manufacturing facility.
“For Reckless, the past 12 months saw a lot of pain in the industry, and my role was to do my utmost to ensure other small businesses could rely on us so our community could survive,” she says.
“My role was to do my utmost to ensure other small businesses could rely on us.”