- Karen Buckley CA’s career has taken her from Brisbane to London (for 13 years) and back to Brisbane.
- She has worked as an analyst for the BBC, as a commercial manager for Disney, and is now CFO of a fashion agency in Brisbane.
- Buckley says she loves working with brands, whether it’s a television program or a fashion label.
As told to Meredith Booth
Karen Buckley CA.
When Karen Buckley was aged 25, qualifying as a chartered accountant was a ticket to leave her hometown of Brisbane. Twenty years later, and following 13 years in London and New York working for the BBC and Disney, she’s back in Queensland with a family and a part-time role that is both challenging and rewarding.
Since April 2017, she’s been chief financial officer of Brisbane-based fashion agency Peter McWhirter Agencies, which distributes Dutch brands Scotch & Soda and Love Stories Intimates in Australia. Acuity spoke with her about her career.
Where did your career as a CFO start?
After graduating from the Queensland University of Technology, I spent four years with Horwath Brisbane Chartered Accountants gaining my CA designation. In 1998, I moved to London and got a job as an analyst at BBC Worldwide, which at that time was having great success with Walking with Dinosaurs and Teletubbies.
Was it fun working for Disney?
As a commercial manager, I was supporting brands like Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy. It was hard work, but fun. Mickey Mouse often came past my door.
Disney was using a brand-new Cognos-based operating system which pulled its planning data from the contracts underpinning the intellectual property rights. We worked 12- to 16-hour days starting with time zones in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, and then locally in the UK, then South America came on stream and, last, the US West Coast.
What brought you home?
My [now] husband and I were introduced by friends in London – he was also a chartered accountant from Brisbane. After we got married and had our first baby, we wanted to move home to raise our children. I left Brisbane as a 25-year-old, single, freshly minted CA and returned as a professional, married mother.
I had changed and so had Brisbane. Australia is more advanced and more global than when I left.
Are there similarities between entertainment and retail?
I love working with brands, whether they are programs or labels. My role is not just about the fundamentals of accounting, but what you can do with analytics to drive the business forward. It’s great to be a CFO in a small to medium business, as you’re involved from top to bottom and left to right. Each day brings a new challenge.
“It’s great to be a CFO in a small to medium business, as you’re involved from top to bottom and left to right.”
Is the focus on bricks-and-mortar stores or online sales?
The holy grail for the retailer is to create an omni experience for the customer, or a multichannel, seamless sales approach from online to the store. For a traditional retailer, it’s about leveraging those assets of fantastic people, systems and locations to provide a better service to the customer.
Are you more focused on branded websites or digital department stores and marketplaces?
We work with The Iconic and eBay and have been approached by Amazon and Zilingo [based in Singapore]. Amazon is making a big play for Australian fashion. It’s all about the customer experience and the brand presence that the online department stores can generate, so we look at what’s best for each brand. It is important to avoid the danger of chasing margins to the bottom and training customers to only buy at a discount.
What sort of technology do you rely on?
We use Apparel21 as our ERP [enterprise resource planning]. It incorporates product planning, supply chain, inventory control, finance and retail point-of-sale functionality. Apparel21 is a small company but it services the apparel and footwear industries and a number of retailers are using it.
In addition, we use a Fusion Factory middleware for our integrations and are now working on upgrading our web platform to [Salesforce] Commerce Cloud and will integrate Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud to move us forward in the online space.
What about cybersecurity?
Credit card fraud is a key issue for both bricks-and-mortar sites as well as online retailers. As a business, you have to balance the positive retail experience with protecting your business. Payment gateways’ fraud detectors can be dialled up or dialled down to not take credit cards from one area, but you have to allow customers to purchase faster without additional layers of security. However, you also have to be conscious to protect yourself and your customers.
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