"The optimist"
Richard Deutsch FCA

Richard Deutsch FCAChief executive officer, Deloitte Australia

  • Deutsch was appointed CEO of Deloitte Australia in September 2018.
  • During the pandemic, Deutsch is focusing on the things he can control.
"We need to look at what we can do to control our own destiny."
Richard Deutsch FCA

As the world continues to stare down a health and economic crisis of unprecedented scale, Deloitte Australia CEO Richard Deutsch FCA is focusing on the things he can control. And he suggests the rest of corporate Australia should do the same.

"We need to look at what we can do to control our own destiny," he says. "We can produce in Australia and create in Australia, irrespective of the fact that our international borders might be shut for a while."

Despite the significant setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Deutsch is continuing to drive a culture of innovation at Deloitte. That includes upskilling employees via a new online learning platform, as well as continued investment in digital platform engineering and cloud technologies.

Deloitte has also intensified its focus on Australia's A$5 billion space industry, which Deutsch says may help to fuel the country's economic growth.

"For me, it's an area that's really exciting because it's a field where Australia can become a global centre of excellence and ensure that our status as the lucky country continues going forward.

"I also think people find meaning and purpose in the work they do if it is deeply connected to the ways that Australia can reboot its economy," he says.

Richard Deutsch FCA interview

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"The visionary"
Anjum Rahman FCA

Anjum Rahman FCAProject lead, Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono

  • After the March 2019 terrorist attack in Christchurch, Anjum Rahman FCA helped set up the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono to counter divisions and hatred.
  • It brings together NGOs to collaborate in a 'constellation' model.
"We wanted to know… how we could effectively counter hate."
Anjum Rahman FCA

For human rights activist and community leader Anjum Rahman FCA, the deadly terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques on 15 March 2019, which killed 51 people, were a turning point.

“We wanted to know how we could stop someone getting sucked into that kind of space, and how we could effectively counter hate,” she says.

“It was really obvious that we needed a collective effort, to work together on a strategic approach to solving it.”

That dreadful day became the impetus to setting up the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono, a movement aimed at helping New Zealand embrace its diversity and promote belonging.

The Collective uses a constellation model that brings together diverse partners from multiple fields to solve social problems.

“We organise the meetings, the logistics, the background work that will allow people to be present in the room and work together. Work hubs assign tight goals and define the terms of reference, allowing for more strategic approaches.”

Rahman believes that in order to make the world a better place, one needs to make change where they are.

“To me, success is achieving that change to where people are truly working together,” she says. “When they can just be who they are, their most authentic selves, and not having to suppress part of themselves to be accepted.”

Anjum Rahman FCA interview

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"The financial firefighter"
Gemma Preston CA

Gemma Preston CAPublic financial management expert, International Monetary Fund

  • Preston was seconded to the IMF in 2016 and is now based in Washington D.C.
  • She says personally and professionally, it’s a challenging time to be in the US.
"I’m an accountant among a bunch of economists and I continue to push myself."
Gemma Preston CA

Gemma Preston CA calls it “global firefighting role at the centre of the crisis”.

As a public financial management expert in the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Affairs Department, she is part of the team pushing a global recovery effort by helping countries to strengthen their economic and public finance capacity through technical support and training.

She was preparing to fly to Ethiopia from her Washington DC base when the COVID-19 stay-at-home order was issued for the District of Columbia on 30 March. Since then, she’s been working from home about 2km from the Capitol during one of the most divisive times in recent US history.

“Personally and professionally, it’s both a very challenging and exciting time to be based in the US,” Preston says.

Preston was seconded to the IMF from the Australian Public Service in 2016. “I expected to learn about global economic issues, but not about how important a role history plays in shaping people’s perspectives,” she says.

“Recognising people’s backgrounds and their culture is important in general, but it’s so important in being able to bring people together.

“I’m an accountant among a bunch of economists and I continue to push myself,” she says. “It doesn’t always feel comfortable, but I think that’s a signal you are growing.”

Gemma Preston CA interview

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"The life saver"
Brett Sandercock CA

Brett Sandercock CAChief financial officer, ResMed

  • Brett Sandercock CA oversaw a tripling of ResMed’s shifts and supplies to meet demand for its life-saving ventilators.
  • He describes the experience as like being in “a whirlwind”.
"The whole company is driven by the mission, which is to help as many people as possible."
Brett Sandercock CA

Helping to save the world, or at least the people in it, is “extremely hectic” work, according to Brett Sandercock CA. But at least you can do it wearing ugg boots.

While many businesses have floundered since COVID-19 hit, medical equipment company ResMed, where Sandercock is CFO, had to move almost as fast as the virus itself to ramp up production of its life-saving ventilators.

“Going from one shift to three shifts a day, sourcing parts. It was a matter of trying to get them made and get them out to patients as fast as possible,” Sandercock says.

While working from home has enabled him to take a more relaxed attitude to his dress code, he has come to worry about the potential for burnout.

“Productivity is up and people are working harder than ever, but you’ve got to be really careful about burnout – that lack of delineation between work and home,” he says.

“It’s been a little bit surreal and very humbling, because you’re in the thick of it – you’re in this whirlwind. But the whole team and the whole company is driven by the mission, which is to help as many people as possible.”

Brett Sandercock CA interview

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"The governance guru"
Saira Aziz CA

Saira Aziz CAAssistant manager, EY Qatar

  • Saira Aziz CA relocated from PwC in Sydney to Qatar in 2016.
  • Aziz wants to demonstrate the value of good governance standards to smaller businesses and government entities in Qatar.
"I feel really proud when we’re benchmarking against government entities in Australia."
Saira Aziz CA

When Saira Aziz CA relocated from Australia to Qatar in 2016, she expected to see her fair share of sand dunes, but she didn’t expect that her role with PwC Qatar would have her seeing so much sand quite so soon.

“On my second day on the job I was driven out to the middle of the desert where I was assigned to an audit of Qatar’s largest steel producer in the Mesaieed Industrial Area,” she explains.

“Suddenly, I was in the middle of the desert, in a foreign country, and the only coffee available was Nescafé Gold instant. It was a shock to the system!”

Since relocating, Aziz has moved from external audit into consulting, and is now in a varied role as assistant manager for EY Qatar’s business consulting arm, working within enterprise risk.

Aziz says Australian governance standards are commonly used in Qatar. “A prime example of this is my current engagement, where we’re helping a government entity put into place risk oversight across other entities… We come in and do a current state assessment, and then we’ll look at best practice: standards from the US, the UK, Europe and Australia.

“I feel really proud when we’re benchmarking against government entities in Australia. As a CA who’s from that region, I can do so much to help implement that here in Qatar.”

Saira Aziz CA interview

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"The opportunist"
Alison Watkins FCA

Alison Watkins FCAGroup managing director, Coca-Cola Amatil

  • Coca-Cola Amatil’s total sales volumes slumped 33% in April 2020 as pandemic lockdowns came in.
  • Alison Watkins FCA steered the business to cut costs, take stock and reprioritise.
"There’s a lot of opportunity there if we are bold enough."
Alison Watkins FCA

“It’s certainly been a unique half,” says Watkins of the first six months of 2020, speaking to Acuity just days after Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) reported its half-year results and ongoing net profit after tax fell 35% to A$112.1 million. Total sales volumes across CCA slumped 33% in April alone as lockdowns bit.

“In Australia, we had the bushfires as well so, for our Australian business, we’ve literally not had one normal month in 2020 … It’s been an extraordinary time,” Watkins observes.

Still, CCA managed to grow its market share during the nadir of the COVID-19 shutdown and trim A$60 million in costs in the first half of the year.

As a senior executive, Watkins believes in practical leadership solutions. During the bushfires, for example, her company donated 250,000-plus bottles of water and Powerade to those on the front line.

She is similarly pragmatic during COVID-19, offering hand sanitiser for healthcare workers and hands-on support for small businesses to build an online presence.

As for rebuilding the economy, she believes reform areas should “definitely” include investing in skills and tax incentives for business investment.

“One of our values at Amatil is to deliver for today but build for tomorrow,” says Watkins.

“There’s a lot of opportunity there if we are bold enough,” she adds. “I think it’s an exciting prospect for us.”

Alison Watkins FCA interview

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"The problem solver"
Alan Chew FCA

Alan Chew FCAFounder and managing director, Houston Technology Group

  • Alan Chew FCA helped build NZ’s COVID Tracer app and he’s focused on improving processes in medical clinics.
  • Digitised forms and self-service kiosks would save time, reduce costs, and allow doctors to see more patients, he says.
"The entire industry has been totally forgotten by innovation. It’s crazy!"
Alan Chew FCA

Alan Chew FCA, the man who built the prototype for the COVID Tracer app now used widely across New Zealand, has a new goal in his sights: a digital revolution in New Zealand’s medical clinics.

“The entire industry has been totally forgotten by innovation,” he says. “It’s crazy!”

New Zealand’s medical clinics, for example, send 12 million text messages each year, costing them about NZ$2 million. Clinics also spend colossal amounts of money and time on paper forms.

After a patient fills in that paper form, it takes the receptionist between seven to 10 minutes to process the data from each form, Chew says.

Chew’s company, Houston Productivity, has a solution: digital forms that patients fill in either online or at a digital kiosk at the clinic.

“We have removed 95% of the labour of processing that form and increased the accuracy,” says Chew.

“What we could do with the kiosks is turn it into a situation you might encounter at a self-checkout or Air New Zealand check-in station, where you have kiosks and then somebody who floats around to help you if you need it.”

As for the tracing app, don’t expect it to disappear along with the pandemic.

“That technology has an important role to play in solving a major problem at clinics: patient contact details,” says Chew.

Alan Chew FCA interview

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"The fortune teller"
Nicholas Moore FCA

Nicholas Moore FCAChair, The Smith Family, former CEO, Macquarie Group

  • Nicholas Moore FCA was chief executive of Macquarie Group for a decade until November 2018.
  • As chair of The Smith Family, he is concerned that disadvantaged students will be left behind as schools shut during the pandemic.
"You’ve got to be honest and realise the limitations of everyone’s vision."
Nicholas Moore FCA

Being able to see into the future seems like the optimal requirement for someone who was chief executive officer of Macquarie Group for a decade. But Nicholas Moore FCA, who left Macquarie in November 2018, laughs at the idea.

His approach has always been to accept that you don’t know what’s going to happen so you should focus on the worst-case outcome.

“You can never see the future,” he says. “You can imagine that you can, but you’ve got to be honest and realise the limitations of everyone’s vision.”

The current crisis, however, was one that Macquarie Group almost did see coming.

“When we did our worst-case planning, the macro worst case we always came up with was a pandemic: a pandemic in China and the US.”

Moore is impressed with the way governments and corporations have responded to the pandemic. But as the chair of charity The Smith Family, which focuses on education to lift people out of disadvantage, he’s worried about the children.

“The big issue globally is closing schools. That’s particularly challenging for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds … Some kids just aren’t doing remote learning,”

“Kids forget, like we all do … And when you’re a kid, you’re building on what was laid down last year. So suddenly, if there’s a gap, not only do they not learn, they’re forgetting what they have learnt.”

Nicholas Moore FCA interview

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