- Jane Stanton talks to Acuity magazine about her hopes and plans for her year as president.
- The 2018 president has taken a year off from her career to focus solely on her presidential duties.
- Stanton plans to build community relations and help break down the stigma around mental illness during her 12-month term.
By Amy McShane.
This organisation’s greatest assets are its membership and their extraordinary knowledge, experience and diversity, according to the new president of Chartered Accountants ANZ, Jane Stanton FCA. With a year at the helm of the organisation, the Sydney-based FCA says she plans to use her term to focus on building community relations among the membership.
“I’m focusing on connections and what it means to be a part of the chartered accountants community – how, as a member group, we can support each other and how the organisation can support its members,” she says.
“The wonderful thing about our membership is that everyone has a story to tell. That’s what I love about meeting members – it’s the diversity but the commonality as well. Everyone is doing incredibly different, amazing things, but at the same time, we all think the same, and there’s something very comforting about that.”
Indulging the travel bug
Stanton started out, in her words, as an impressionable 17 year old at PwC, knowing absolutely nothing about accounting or auditing. At PwC, she followed in her father’s footsteps and achieved the CA qualification.
Working at a Big 4 firm allowed Stanton to move overseas and progress her career – an opportunity she grabbed with both hands. Growing up in a family that travelled a lot, she’s always had the bug to see the world and accounting was the perfect career to provide that. “The designation itself is really the passport,” she says. “That’s the great thing about being a chartered accountant is being able to leverage my accounting qualification to indulge my love of travel and immersion in different cultures.” While at PwC she worked in Tokyo, Jakarta and London.
While it’s one thing to see the world as a tourist, the CA designation enabled Stanton to see the world through a different lens. “Actually being able to live there and interact with people on a day-to-day basis is really different. I always say that accounting is the true international language, so that’s been a huge benefit for me,” she says.
Stanton then moved to Macquarie Bank, where she spent 10 years working primarily in the finance division, which also offered the chance to leave Australia. “At one stage, we were doing a global general ledger implementation, so I spent a lot of time with the finance teams around the world supporting that implementation,” she says. “Then for my last 18 months at Macquarie, I was based in Hong Kong, but working throughout Asia. I also got to spend an extended period of time in New Delhi, which was fantastic.”
Battles with mental health
The past decade has been spent at Suncorp. Stanton began with a focus on risk governance, then moved to risk assurance and finally completing the circle by returning to audit, this time in internal audit.
In a voluntary move when Stanton took up the presidency, she decided to leave her job at Suncorp. She made the decision for a number of reasons. It allowed her to step back and reflect on where she would like to go next in her career. But it also affords her the opportunity to be in the best possible health for her time as CA ANZ president.
As a sufferer of chronic depression and anxiety, wellness isn’t a one-time achievement, she points out. It’s an ongoing management process. “I’ve lived my entire life with anxiety and depression, but I’m sitting here today as president,” she says. “Obviously, I’ve had to make choices about how that’s going to work best for me and one of those choices was that I will focus solely on the presidency.
I’ve lived my entire life with anxiety and depression, but I’m sitting here today as president.
“You can still be successful and you can still be professionally fulfilled, so long as you manage that illness effectively. You can still do everything you want to do. It’s not a life sentence.” With stressful jobs and large workloads, mental illness is a problem within the profession, a problem that still carries a substantial stigma. But breaking down some of those barriers is another area on which the new president plans to focus.
“In a profession such as ours, we have an enormous incidence of mental health issues, so how can the organisation and its membership support members who may be experiencing that? There’s shining a light on the resources available, but also, in some respects, normalising it as well.”
For young chartered accountants facing pressure to succeed, Stanton’s advice is to not define yourself just by your work. “I had a very competitive mindset … I could work harder and longer than anybody else. The reality was, I was so tired and stressed. I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly and I wasn’t interacting with friends and family. I wasn’t working effectively.
“You need to love what you do, and you need to get fulfilment from what you do, but it’s only one aspect of your life. That’s probably been the most difficult thing – to actually find another identity for myself outside of work.
“As a young person, I’d created all these expectations around what I thought people wanted, but I never actually sat down and asked them. If I’d actually taken some time to manage some of those perceptions, I think the outcome would have been really different.”
Related: Is your health affecting your work?
How CA ANZ members can avoid receiving complaints about errors due to ageing, mental health issues or stress.
A constant change
As Chartered Accountants ANZ goes through a transformation, Stanton’s hope is that the result meets members’ expectations and increases community engagement. “It’s how the community identifies and represents itself. At the end of the day, the benefit of being a CA is the peer group.”
Despite the profession facing a time of disruption, it is the ethics, values and core skills of chartered accountants that will survive, says the 2018 president. “I don’t think the core skills of an accountant will necessarily change, but it’s how those skills are applied,” she says. “We need to make sure that we continue to provide an education platform that enables our members to be in a position to leverage, grow, develop and adapt, particularly in an environment where there’s so much data and information that we will always need audit. The things that we’re auditing and how we go about auditing, that will constantly change.”
Amy McShane is a journalist for Acuity.
Photography: Andrew Ratter