Jacqui Walshe - be clear on your vale proposition

September 2022


What boards or committees are you currently on and why?

I am currently Executive Chairman of Southern Travel Holdings (main subsidiary The Walshe Group) – a company in the aviation and tourism industry which markets and distributes major global travel brands.  I am the long-term CEO of this business and a majority shareholder. I have recently been appointed to the Tourism New Zealand board, as international director – in line with their recruitment objective of diverse experience and skills in their board renewal process. 

What other boards have you been on?

For six years I was deputy chair and chair of audit and finance at Australian Tourism Export Council; three years as audit and finance chair at Weave Youth and Community Services (indigenous and youth focused NFP); and thirteen years as director on Liontamer Investments (Australian fund manager which had specific expertise in the design and distribution of capital protected funds) which included two years as chairman.

What are the areas of expertise you feel you bring to your boards?

My obvious area of expertise is tourism and aviation, but more broadly I understand entrepreneurship, service export and brand marketing, from an Australian and New Zealand perspective.  I have over twenty years of both NED and CEO experience, which has included seven years as CEO of a public company when I led a transition from public to private ownership, and successful leadership through regular periods of extreme disruption.  This gives me the requisite governance plus CEO background with plenty of resilience and an enduring innovation perspective.  While not a qualified accountant, I am very confident and capable in matters of audit and finance, hence frequently participate in and chair those board committees.

When and why did you decide to pursue boards?

I am fortunate to lead a company where I have reasonable flexibility with my time and a personal desire to gain additional business learning and insights – particularly at board level.  My board journey began in 2003 and I was fortunate for many years in that my roles came through personal connections and unsolicited invitation.  This can only take you so far and in the last two years I have become more strategic and conscious regarding my portfolio career, investing more time in building my network and thinking about the type of company where I could best add value.

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome in pursuing boards and/or serving on boards?

My biggest challenge is expanding my network outside of my own industry and letting the right people know of my interest in being considered as a non-executive director.  I am having to market myself more effectively as a potential board candidate to get considered for larger company boards and across a broader spectrum.

What do you most like about your board roles?

The best aspect is the intellectual and strategic challenge that comes with participating in boardroom discussions.  While my governance and commercial experience enables me to confidently contribute around the board table, I benefit from being exposed to a range of new issues and circumstances from a very different lived experience to mine.   The broader perspective I have gained over my NED career has been invaluable.

Have you had mentors and/or sponsors and have they helped you? If so, how?

I have had several sponsors recommend me for board roles that I wouldn’t have known about or considered myself for.  This has been invaluable at key stages, and I am fortunate to have a number of strong advocates across my professional networks who are always willing to put in a favourable word on my behalf.

How has WOB helped you on your board journey?

I was fortunate to be invited to participate in the WOBSX programme and learnt a huge amount from our chair, Kathleen Conlon, and my fellow syndicate members.  I recognised my ASX director network needed to expand, so joined the follow up Board Encounters programme, led by Cheryl Hayman.  The knowledge and confidence I gained from both programmes, has sharpened my approach and applications – with particular thanks to WOB for their advertising of the Tourism New Zealand board position.

What, do you think, are the most useful skills you have gained which have helped in your Board career?

Personal success with my own service export business through some very challenging times has given me an entrepreneurial mindset, listed CEO experience and audit and finance competence.    I am able to contribute confidently in discussions relating to people, customer, strategy, finance and governance.

Any words of advice for other women starting out in their board journey. 

Complete the GAICD course as a first step – it is both a base line credential for board roles and an important overview of what being a director means and the specific competencies you need.  It is easy to underestimate or misunderstand what is involved in director roles, so this is a good place to start.  You will need to be clear on what your value proposition is and which organisations are likely to be interested in your unique experience for their boards – being too vague or general in your ambition doesn’t take you very far. 

Can you tell us something other people might not know about you (for example are you a past Olympian, an expert jam maker or a secret soprano?). 

I’m an avid reader – 4-5 books a week – which can be a combination of library books, Audible and Kindle when I’m travelling.