Lessons from the Boardroom with Farinne Georgeopoulos
Farinne Georgeopoulos is the Managing Director and Founder of Exelix, an advisory management consulting company which operates across Australia and Asia. She has over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, senior executive and advisor to company directors and C-suite within private, public and not-for-profit sectors in Australia and Asia Pacific. Farinne is also a Non-Executive Director of the Museum of Chinese in Australia and Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee. She is also an Independent Member of St Vincent’s Health Network Audit and Risk Committee. Farinne speaks various Chinese dialects and has travelled extensively in China and throughout Asia.
You were recently appointed to the board of the Museum of Chinese in Australia (MOCA), congratulations. What appealed to you about this board role?
Thank you, it was an honour to be appointed to the board of the Museum of Chinese in Australia, the latest addition to Sydney's vibrant art and culture landscape. MOCA will be a centre and focus for the discovery, preservation and promotion of the history and heritage of people of Chinese descent in Australia and will be a trusted custodian of Chinese Australians' collective legacy for future generations.
MOCA will carry forward a rich legacy of historic significance and aims to advance the diverse stories and experiences of the Chinese community including their positive contribution to our society, and the important part they have played in building Australia into what it is today.
However, what also captured my interest was the opportunity to make a positive contribution to the history, educational and cultural life of Sydney and Australia. MOCA has an exciting and bold vision to increase the understanding and visibility of Australia's cultural make-up and to also more broadly represent diversity and cultural inclusiveness. These values aligned with my own, and personally resonated with me.
I am looking forward to contributing to the realisation of MOCA’s vision into a successful reality.
What other boards or committees are you on or have previously been on?
As well as being Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee for MOCA I am an Independent Member of the Audit and Risk Committee for St Vincent’s Health Network. My previous experience includes Chair and Advisory Member on numerous committees across various industries including healthcare, financial services, government, transport infrastructure, agriculture, social services and education.
What are the areas of expertise you feel you bring to your boards?
I am currently the Managing Director and Founder of Exelix, an advisory management consulting company which operates across Australia and Asia. I have over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, senior executive and advisor to C-suite and company directors across public, private and not-for-profit sectors in Australia and Asia Pacific.
My background includes being part of the Senior Leadership Team at EY (Ernst & Young) Australia as well as Managing Director and CEO of a consulting firm operating in Australia and Asia.
I bring a broad range of expertise to the boardroom from commercial acumen, strategy and risk management, through to governance, leadership, business operations, program management and implementation.
In addition to being an NED at MOCA, I am Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee. I am also an Independent Member of the Audit and Risk Committee of St Vincent’s Health Network (SVHN), a leader in the field of medical science and healthcare delivery. It has been a privilege to serve on the SVHN ARC throughout the entire pandemic where I have experienced various levels of complexities and gained further invaluable knowledge, experience and insight. This has strengthened my expertise as a board member with extensive audit, risk and compliance experience.
Furthermore, I have two decades of experience conducting business in Asia. At a time when Australian companies are increasingly looking to new markets in Asia, I bring a unique value proposition in terms of my Asia expertise. In this regard, it is important to be aware that establishing a business presence and relationships in Asia requires a particular type of strategic mindset, astute cultural awareness and an appreciation that a ‘one size fits all’ business model will not work in a diverse region.
The diversity and versatility of my professional and personal experiences has allowed me to develop a mindset that is open to different perspectives, peoples and cultures. It has also equipped me with listening and observation skills which are critical attributes for conducting business and navigating the boardroom.
I believe that my expertise, together with my people-oriented approach, strengthens the composition of boards where values are aligned.
When and why did you decide to pursue boards?
I had been encouraged over the years by board members in my network that my experience and skill sets would be well-suited to the boardroom. However, my response was that I simply did not have the time due to frequent travel domestically and overseas for business, and also because I felt that I still had more that I wanted to accomplish before being ready to make a contribution to boards.
The move toward boards was more of a natural progression rather than a decision at a specific point in time. I also believed that it was essential to accept board roles where I felt that I could make a meaningful contribution to the organisation’s vision and purpose, and where values aligned. On reflection, it was probably a combination of the right timing together with the right opportunity.
What do you most enjoy about board roles?
As board members, we have the privilege to oversee and influence an organisation’s strategic achievements, future direction and culture while also having a positive impact on the wider community.
I also enjoy using my management consulting expertise and entrepreneurial acumen to contribute to the realisation of a company’s vision and purpose. It is particularly rewarding to see the positive results of my contribution to the collective decision making of the board translate into value for stakeholders.
One of the benefits of a board career is the ability to engage with the community across multiple sectors and industries. The idea that a board portfolio can consist of a wide range of sectors and industries is particularly appealing to me.
On a personal level, I am always striving to further enhance my boardroom skills and therefore relish the opportunity to work closely with more experienced colleagues and to learn from them.
How has WOB helped you on your board journey?
I have always valued my association with WOB in terms of its reputation in the board space, and in particular, the organisation’s tireless advocacy for women on boards. I have always found the WOB team to be professional, supportive and effective in assisting women to pursue board careers.
Why do you think it is so important for there to be more diversity at leadership and board level, and what do you think can be done to improve this?
I believe that diversity brings a valuable range of perspectives, opinions and recommendations to decision making on boards and in leadership more widely. It provides for the cultivation of different viewpoints when collectively coming together in the decision-making process for the overall benefit of an organisation.
In terms of how diversity in leadership could be improved, I believe that as a starting point there needs to be broader awareness and acceptance across the leadership landscape that women and culturally diverse candidates have real and significant value to add to any organisation.
In other words, there needs to be greater acknowledgement that the value is not just theoretical, but rather, that there is a real and tangible benefit to an organisation’s bottom line by appointing women and culturally diverse people to decision making positions.
What are your interests outside of work and the boardroom?
I believe that it is important to have other interests outside of work. I am currently involved in a number of philanthropic endeavours including the areas of medical research, Indigenous healthcare and training, and women’s refuge.
I enjoy pursuing one of my passions, oenology (the study of wine) and have completed certifications with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) London. I also thoroughly enjoy reading as widely as possible from history, commerce, economics, science, art, music, politics to sociology, current affairs and fiction.
One of the pleasures of reading widely and engaging in a broader mix of interests is the ability to connect with, and relate to people in a more meaningful way. It also, in my view, allows for much more dynamic thinking.
Read more about Farinne on LinkedIn
Women on Boards acknowledges that this is one person's perspective and journey and that challenges and perspectives are different for each individual. WOB advocates gender balance and cultural diversity within board and leadership roles. We endevour to share member journeys and stories as part of this.