Date posted: 19/03/2019 8 min read

Striking gold with the FEI Mentoring Program

In 2004, Chad Barton CA was one of the first mentees in the FEI Mentoring Program. Now he’s a mentor to Tami Kaplan CA.

In Brief

  • The Financial Executives Institute (FEI) Mentoring Program matches aspiring financial executives with CFOs of leading organisations.
  • The program is limited to a cohort of 70 emerging finance leaders. It starts in June each year, with nominations due the previous February.
  • Chad Barton CA says being a mentor is a good way to reflect on his leadership style with his own team at The Star Entertainment Group.

As told to Meredith Booth

Photo Steve Baccon

Chad Barton CA

Chief Financial Officer, The Star Entertainment Group

I was one of the second intake of mentees for the Financial Executives Institute (FEI) CFO Mentoring Program in 2004. Tim Regan, the FEI president and chief operating officer at Mirvac at the time, was my mentor when I was a commercial director at Optus.

A few years after, I left Optus to become chief financial officer of EDS (later acquired by Hewlett Packard). In 2008, I wanted to pay forward the opportunities I’ve had and became a mentor in the FEI program. I’ve done that now for eight of the past 10 years.

Each of my mentees has been different and each has looked for different types of advice. It’s not all about professional development and career; quite often people are going through something in their personal lives that is influencing their professional life.

“There’s no other program I’m aware of that allows an up-and-coming leader the opportunity to work with a top 100 ASX-listed CFO.”
Chad Barton CA

I’ve had a good mix of mentees, both men and women. I’ve found women tend to not put themselves up for a role unless they feel they have 100 per cent of the required capabilities, whereas men may not have all the capabilities but will “have a crack”.

Before I began mentoring Tami, I spoke with her boss, former Perpetual CFO Gill Larkins, to get her perspective on the opportunities and challenges Tami was facing. But after that, it’s a one-on-one confidential relationship.

Tami was very quiet and, in our first meeting, it was slow to get the discussion flowing. We are both introverts, which is a common trait with many CAs. Our conversations have never been about the technical aspects of our roles. We don’t jump into “I’ve got a balance sheet challenge”.

We catch up every month or so over coffee or lunch. Tami has pushed herself to take on new challenges, to get out of her comfort zone and have candid conversations about the obstacles she faces. The confidence she’s gained to really have a voice and believe in herself has been quite amazing.

With Tami, I think she has the confidence to have a crack. She’s got huge opportunities ahead of her. She’s really putting herself out there and even done things I wouldn’t have done.

The Star has internal mentoring programs as well, but I tend to think they wouldn’t be as liberating as this program because you’re totally “off the record”.

I also see the time that I spend with my mentee as an opportunity for me to reflect on my leadership style with my team and how they’re developing as well. Another benefit of being a mentor in the FEI program is that one of my team gets to be mentored by another CFO. There’s no other program I’m aware of that allows an up-and-coming leader the opportunity to work with a top 100 ASX-listed CFO and get one-on-one dedicated time for their professional development. It’s hugely valuable.

Tami Kaplan CA

Tami Kaplan CA and Chad Barton CATami Kaplan CA and Chad Barton CA.

Finance business partner, Perpetual Limited

I was given the opportunity to enrol in the FEI Mentorship Program by my CFO and it was something I couldn’t pass up. The idea of gaining access to a CFO to discuss my career seemed like a real privilege.

I’ve been in the finance profession for a long time and held roles ranging from audit to consulting and financial management. At Perpetual, I’m currently in the Commercial Advice and Planning team, supporting the investments division as a business partner. I’ve always had a very analytical bent and a curiosity that has put me on the path to where I am now.

“I think what I’ve learned… is that there is really no downside in giving something a go, to take a bit more of a chance.”
Tami Kaplan CA

I see the importance of finance professionals taking on a more strategic role in the business and being valued as a trusted adviser. I was interested to explore this with Chad. He has also shared with me his thoughts on how to get your message across in an effective way to stakeholders.

I think what I’ve learned from Chad, in our sessions so far, is that there is really no downside in giving something a go, to take a bit more of a chance. He always says, “what’s the worst that can happen?”

I’ve tried to also apply this outside of work. Something I recently started is laughter yoga. It releases endorphins and you feel great. It’s about connecting with people and stress release.

Work-life balance is very important, especially as you get into more senior roles and things become more demanding. It’s important to do things outside of work so I can give my best at work. Mostly I get my energy from being outdoors. I’m a relaxed soul; I don’t look for thrill seeking. I want to find ways to recharge.

When Chad and I met, we didn’t really talk about the fact we were both CAs. It was a given. We’re focused more on leadership and soft skills than technical.

Chad worked me out pretty quickly and helped me pinpoint what my motivations have been to this point, and to now get me really thinking about my career and leveraging my strengths.

I initially thought our sessions would be very business focused. I was surprised that wasn’t the case and how candid he’s been with me. I feel like we’re old friends and I forget I’m talking to a CFO.

Part of the value of this mentoring is that it is outside my workplace. I have had many supportive and great managers, but with Chad I feel there are really no holds barred in what I can say to him because he is removed from my everyday environment.

He’s helped me focus on the skills I need to develop and to think about the competencies that a manager needs to become a successful leader, not just a manager. I now have a better awareness of the things I need in my toolkit to take into my next role.


Financial Executives Institute Mentoring Program

The Financial Executives Institute (FEI) Mentoring Program began in 2003 with six prominent CFOs and aspiring financial executives. The program now involves close to 70 CFOs with mentees in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. FEI’s president, David Craig FCA, attributes the program’s growth to its strong participant feedback. Many of its alumni are now CFOs and mentors themselves.

Nominations are due in February for the next yearly program, which begins in June. Participants also receive complimentary access to FEI member-only events and discounted tickets to FEI’s networking lunch program.

To nominate or discuss becoming a mentor, contact FEI chief executive Michelle Reynolds Patel on 0404 015 810 or email Michelle.ReynoldsPatel@fei.org.au. Fees apply. Find out more at www.fei.org.au/mentoring.


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