Non-executive director since 2002 serving on 11 Boards in funds management, insurance, OH&S, health, medical research and the water industry. Independent thinker well versed in corporate governance, setting strategy, risk management, stakeholder management, crisis management, corporate social responsibility, change management, renewing culture and growing shareholder returns.
Banking and finance lawyer for 22 years in senior roles in leading law firms, banks, corporate treasury and financial services operations and in particular, international investment banking and corporate finance transactions, capital markets, derivatives, secured lending, structured finance, securitisation of loans, bill payment and payment systems, funds management, mergers, acquisitions and divestments, retail banking, insurance, BASEL regime, ICAAP provisions, and general corporate and commercial matters, gained in Australia, England, Canada and the United States.
WHAT BOARDS DO YOU SIT ON?
Non-executive director of UCA Funds Management, Monash Health, Jessie McPherson Private Hospital, Deputy Chair of Bio Medical Research Vic and Chair of Community Advisory Committee for Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance.
Formerly a non-executive director of Melbourne Health (Royal Melbourne Hospital), Hudson Institute of Medical Research-Monash Institute of Medical Research-Prince Henrys Institute of Medical Research, WorkSafe Victoria, Deputy Chair of Westernport Water, Australian Red Cross (Qld), Victorian Women’s Housing Association and Queensland Institute of Medical Research Trust.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A DIRECTOR?
I joined my first board Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research in 2002 and remained on the board for 14 years including chairing the IP and Commercialisation Committee for 8 years. I had oversight of its merger with Monash Institute of Medical Research and then its name change to Hudson Institute of Medical Research. I am passionate about applying my legal, financial and governance knowledge to support the unsung heroes, the medical researchers who undertake amazing research to build a body of research which results in better health outcomes. I found this experience so interesting and rewarding that it encouraged me to serve on more Boards including Victorian state government boards and in 2008 retired from my legal role at Wesfarmers to focus fulltime on a NED career.
WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT AND MEDIUM TERM BOARD ASPIRATIONS?
My short-term aspirations are to focus on my 4 Boards and continue to provide strategic direction, financial and risk management oversight and to identify opportunities to improve the business, to achieve the best possible outcomes and to effectively Chair a number of Board committees.
My medium-term aspiration is to join a publicly listed, public unlisted or major government board in the financial services or health sectors with a focus on customers and growth as well as being ethical and building trust. I had a taste of Chairing 2 Boards earlier this year for 5-6 months and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, so I also aspire to Chair a board again.
OUTLINE YOUR CAREER BACKGROUND.
After completing a Bachelor of Economics at Monash and a Bachelor of Laws at University of Melbourne, I started my legal career in Melbourne at Corrs, Chambers Westgarth and later Mallesons Stephen Jacques before moving to London to undertake a Master of Laws in International banking and finance law at Kings College, London. I then worked at Norton Rose on large scale corporate finance and investment banking transactions followed by working for an English merchant bank, Chartered West LB. During my time in London I met my future husband, a Canadian and we were subsequently married and moved to Toronto where I worked in the Derivatives team at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and its investment banking arm Wood Gundy negotiating swaps, options and forward contracts. This was followed by a 2-year stint in San Francisco. After 9 years overseas, we returned to Australia where I worked at Wesfarmers as the Treasury Lawyer working closely with the Treasury Group in Melbourne and also 3 years in Brisbane working on the Coles acquisition of the Hedley Hotel Group. I have lived in 5 cities in 4 countries and done just about every type of banking and finance transaction possible. I had always served on one or 2 Boards during my executive career. After 22 years I retired from law to focus full-time on being a NED.
CHALLENGES AND HURDLES THAT HAVE PRESENTED THEMSELVES, EITHER BEING ON OR GETTING ONTO A BOARD, AND HOW YOU OVERCAME THEM?
I was asked to step into the Acting Chair role at Melbourne Health for 5 months after Robert Doyle resigned as Chairman of Melbourne Health. I focused on crisis management, and forged a close working relationship with the CEO and kept the Board informed of all new developments on a weekly basis. I also focused on providing a safe work environment for the 9,000 employees and living the organisations values including respect and caring.
ARE THERE ANY DIRECTORS/LEADERS YOU LOOK UP TO? WHY?
I admire many leaders in our community including Ruth Medd (WOB), Claire Braund (WOB), Elizabeth Proust (Chair of the AICD), Caroline Wilson (sports journalist), Helen Dyson (NED), Sue Peden (NED), Christine Kilpatrick (CEO), Jay Bonnington (NED), David Cousins (NED), John Stanhope (NED), Linda Nicholls (NED) and Kirsten Ferguson (NED). These women and men are brave, resilient, motivated and are actively supporting and encouraging women. They say what they think and call out bad behaviour. They are ethical, interested in “human rights” and act with integrity, respect and are trustworthy. They make the path a little easier for those that follow. They all pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to take risks to achieve success.
HAVE YOU HAD MENTORS AND SPONSORS AND HOW HAVE THEY HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
I recently completed the yearlong AICD Chairman’s Mentoring program where my mentor was John Stanhope. John provided invaluable advice, reassurance and was a sounding board while I was Acting Chair at Melbourne Health and Acting Chair at Bio Medical Research Vic. I am also eternally grateful to my family for their unfailing support, encouragement and confidence in me.
WHATS THE DIVERSITY (GENDER AND OTHER) LIKE ON YOUR BOARDS?
When I first started on Boards on 2002, I was the youngest and often the only female NED. Today I am pleased to say that on all Boards I serve on there is between 40% - 60% female NEDs as well as significant diversity of race, religion and age.
HOW DID WOB HELP YOU IN YOUR JOURNEY TO THE BOARDROOM?
Being a NED is quite a lonely profession and it was comforting that WOB has attracted a like-minded community of female NEDs pursuing similar goals and facing the same sort of challenges. WOB does a great job of celebrating the success of female NED and role models as it’s impossible to aspire to something that is invisible. Weekly emails from WOB raised my awareness of what board roles were available.
ANY TIPS FOR WOMEN STARTING OUT IN YOUR CAREER?
Be prepared – Boards want 3 things – people with strategic, financial and risk management experience. Identify gaps in your knowledge and fill them with work experiences and serving on boards in the not for profit sector as well as various courses including those run by WOB.
Have an elevator speech – a 2-minute speech which summarises your experience, skills and goals.
Network but this involves helping other people and one day they may help you.
Lastly, have confidence in yourself, don’t listen to the negative self-talk that goes on inside everyone head. Be brave, take chances and never give up.