Date posted: 24/10/2018 8 min read

Made in the military

Ian Goodwin’s experience in the Army Reserve has served him well, from the IMF to his current role as Deputy Auditor-General of NSW.

In Brief

  • Ian Goodwin had a personal need to do more in the public service space and registered for the Army Reserve.
  • During the September 2016 floods in western NSW Goodwin lead the DACC efforts.
  • In 2017 he joined the Audit Office of NSW as Deputy Auditor-General. “Having good integrity is important for the citizen’s trust in government, and that is the role that I want to play," he says.

Late September 2016 brought disastrous spring floods to western New South Wales. Water filled the streets of Forbes and Condobolin as the Lachlan River hit a 25-year peak. Thousands of people were caught up in the flood and more than 100 properties were isolated by the floodwaters. And Ian Goodwin FCA, Deputy Auditor-General for NSW, was there playing an instrumental role as captain of the 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers in the Army Reserve.

Goodwin’s career in the Army Reserve is just one of many roles he has played in and out of public service. Early in his working life he was a senior bank analyst at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). He became a senior manager for banking and capital markets at EY, had two stints at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) between 2001 and 2008, and worked as group executive director at the Australian National Audit Office. In 2017, he settled into his current job as Deputy Auditor-General in the Audit Office of NSW.

Making a contribution

So with such responsibilities in the world of auditing and finance, why did he choose to put on the army greens? “In my time working in the public service as an auditor, I realised I had a need to do more in the public service space,” he reflects. “I wanted to make more of a contribution.”

He was also looking for disruption.

Goodwin says he was in an influential but comfortable role in the public service, and he sought greater variety in life. Which is what he got. He says he would go to work on a Tuesday as a member of the senior executive service, and then on Tuesday night would put on the uniform, and take a role that was much lower down the food chain. In Reserve life, he says, you deal with a lot of different people, and your commanding officer may be someone who would report to you in the civilian world.

Goodwin was considered a troop leader, someone with experience in civilian life but no senior experience in the military, when he joined the Army Reserve. Forbes and Condobolin changed all that, says his commanding officer, Lt Col Scott Francis of the 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers. When Francis took on the role of commander, Goodwin was slated to go in as second- in-command. According to Francis, the squadron wasn’t in a good place, and there was animosity about the way it was being managed.

He was a brand new captain, and then he was put into a job he was not expecting and fulfilled all his requirements perfectly
Lt Col Scott Francis 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers

“He was a second-year captain, and he took on the role with gusto,” says Francis. “Ian was able to shape training very well, and within a year was able to surpass expectations about his ability. His role within the squadron was, and remains, very important.”

In the September floods, the military was called in for what is known as Defence Aid to the Civilian Community (DACC). The army had to provide logistics, and was under the supervision of the State Emergency Service. The commander who was slated to oversee the relief effort had to return to civilian life, and so Goodwin put his hand up to lead the DACC.

“The task had a high profile both within the military and among the politicians,” says Francis. He says Goodwin does not self-promote: “he gets on with the job but those jobs bring attention to him because of his competence”. He was the right person for the DACC job.

Goodwin created a battle map showing all the resources on the ground. If the SES needed a truck to go to a property, he made sure it was properly recorded, with the right equipment, and ensured that command knew what had been deployed and where.

“When the SES moved to Condobolin, they set up a web camera on Ian’s battle map because it was such a great tool to understand what had been deployed,” observes Francis. “He was able to introduce army skills to assist the SES.”

Over the course of the relief effort, Goodwin regularly updated relief leaders on what was happening and where. Francis says Goodwin was in contact with the vice chief of the Defence Force – more or less a junior captain providing intelligence to a three-star general. According to Francis this was a highly unusual situation, but reflected well on Goodwin’s competence in the field.

“He got a Bravo Zulu, which is a recognition for a job well done,” says Francis. “He got a lot of coverage for his work, because 10 months earlier he was a brand new captain, and then he was put into a job he was not expecting and fulfilled all his requirements perfectly.”

It’s not all army

Goodwin’s first job out of university was in the Paramatta office of a large multinational accounting firm. But he quickly moved to the RBA, where he held a senior bank analyst role between 1994 and 1998.

The RBA brought together two of Goodwin’s key interests – banking and financial services. “I was no different to any young person,” he says. “I was interested in government and politics, and the RBA seemed like a good place to be.”

At the time, the RBA provided supervision of the banks and financial services firms. Goodwin was working on his chartered accounting qualifications; once he got them, he says, he entered the world of head-hunters, and was regularly offered jobs at twice his RBA salary. “That was the start of my journey in a lot of ways,” he says.

A mentor approached him about working at the then Ernst & Young. The job had no clear role but was ostensibly part of the audit practice; Goodwin recalls that the partner who gave him the job could not accurately say what his first day would look like. Intrigued, and wanting a job he could shape himself, he signed up.

Goodwin says he learned a valuable lesson from his time at Ernst & Young: there was no need to follow the well- trodden path. It was up to you to take a good idea and make it your own. The 1997 Asian currency crisis and the 1998 Russian debt crisis meant that Ernst & Young was doing project work for the World Bank. And while Goodwin was visiting Thailand, he came across a magazine ad for a role at the IMF.

“I joined the IMF in 2001 and arrived in Washington DC one week before 9/11,” Goodwin says. The family had a difficult time: Ian had walked away from a well-paid job in Australia, but after the World Trade Centre attacks, DC was a different place. Nevertheless, he says, the experience focused him on public service.

At the IMF, his team had to explain the importance of accounting to economists focused on broader issues. Goodwin had to learn fast; Australian experience doesn’t go far in countries where the entire economic system needs rebuilding. “It’s not going to work when you go to the Congo or Liberia,” he notes.

“So we would identify what would work, and try to influence the country we were working with, as well as the economists, and make it part of the program negotiations.”

Andrew Tweedie, director of the IMF’s finance department, explains that Goodwin was extensively involved in the early stages of the IMF’s safeguards policy – the policy that spells out the governance, reporting, control and auditing systems that countries need before the IMF will lend them money. Tweedie also found him balanced and diplomatic, with strong technical skills and subject matter expertise and a good strategic sense of what the IMF was trying to achieve.

Between his two stints at the IMF, Goodwin was group executive director for the Australian National Audit Office. He says that in this period he was lucky in that he had the latitude to make changes in the way audits were conducted. Then in 2017 he joined the Audit Office of NSW as Deputy Auditor- General. He was looking for a fresh challenge. The NSW government, he notes, is a large organisation with many interesting transactions.

“Audit is one of the integrity pillars in terms of governance,” he says. “Having good integrity is important for the citizen’s trust in government, and that is the role that I want to play."

Joshua Gliddon is a journalist with 25 years’ experience. He has edited at The Australian Financial Review and The Bulletin magazine.

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