CFO Interview September – Ten Questions with Craig Mitchel, Senior Partner at Deloitte

In this issue of the “Group Scoop”, G100’s monthly Newsletter, we are continuing our series of CFO Interviews titled “Ten Questions”. This month though, we thought we would take a slightly different angle and invite a long term supporter of the G100, Craig Mitchell, to share his views.

Craig is retiring as a Senior Partner at Deloitte after 26 years dedicated service. For almost 20 years Craig has supported the G100 in many ways including by representing the G100 on the ASX Corporate Governance Council in the mid-2000s. We are sure that no matter what new endeavours he will choose to take, Craig will remain a faithful supporter of the G100 organisation.
 

  1. What attracted you to working in finance?
     
    The family businesses during my childhood started it all. My parents’ initially ran a News-Agency/Toy-World store and then a school bus business. I was lucky to have been able to observe, operate and support these businesses as I grew up. I learnt at an early age the value of a good and healthy work ethic, coupled with a focus on people. That is not to say that my work ethic was not challenged occasionally in my teenage years, like when the newspaper wrapping machine broke down and I was woken at 3 am to roll some 4,000 newspapers. My “reward” was a Mars bar, and yes, this was before the digital age and the internet. 
    My father was particularity strong on financial management and operational discipline, having been a bank manager. With his support, I studied Commerce at UNSW and joined Deloitte, where I had a fantastic 26-year career span, leading teams, and being at the forefront of all aspects of finance.
     
  2. What do you enjoy most about the job?
     
    I love the interaction with people, whether it be staff or clients. A vital part of this is developing and coaching teams to tackle assignments that make an impact that matters. Coupled with this is the nurturing and mentoring of individual team members and the joy you get as they grow their careers.
    I also love solving problems, balancing the details while maintaining the strategic goal. Anticipating the forces impacting the scenario and then optimising the outcome gives me a buzz. Yes, that may sound strange but true.
     
  3. What should people know about CFO’s and don’t?
     
    People generally don’t understand the depth and breadth of skills that CFOs can bring to the table. I have truly enjoyed the conversations with fellow Finance Executives and the diversity of skills and experience both professional and personal that exists. 
    From a technical skills perspective, I have been fortunate in my career to cover the foundations of accounting, reporting and tax but have also developed excellent skills in governance, regulatory, risk management, technology, cyber and project delivery while working across almost every industry locally as well as overseas. Add in people management skills and strategy setting allows me to bring a different lens to running a business. 
    We all have similar varied attributes that we use to leverage and enhance the value we bring to our companies as executives.
     
  4. What should a CFO do?
     
    I often view the role of a CFO across four domains: a steward, an operator, a catalyst and a strategist. This role would also cover technical and soft skills centred around building high-performing teams. But when I sit back and deliver guest university lectures to undergraduates, I talk about CFOs helping the business speak for itself. “Business” is a language and accounting is one of the dialects. Our role is to help interpret, analyse, understand and communicate how the business is performing, where it wants to/or should go, and help it get there.
     
  5. What was the most incredible deal you were ever part of?
     
    As we know, confidentiality is essential in our role. But let’s say the 1990s in the telecommunications industry was an exciting time.
     
  6. What is your funniest finance story?
     
    There are a few but given the audience reading this I need to be discreet. One story that I can share and still makes me smile was when I was doing an office review in Jamaica. Yes, there were some “tough” jobs I had to do! Anyway, in one of the rare breaks from Aussie-West Indies cricket conversations – they are genuinely “mad” about their cricket – I was reviewing a file on a paint company and noticed higher than expected stock losses which translated into quite a few litres of paint. I was a little bewildered as to how much paint could be “lost” …then I looked out the window and saw just about every colour of the rainbow on housing roofs stretching across the outskirts of Kingston…..hmmm.
     
  7. If you could change anything about your role as a Senior Financial Executive, what would that be?
     
    There are the hygiene factors such as admin and compliance, which one would like to change, but they are also the foundation from which come the higher-value activities. So let me think on for this one.
     
  8. How do you deal with stress?
     
    We all work in fast-paced, serious, high-powered jobs, and we all need to recognise stress and develop our techniques to recharge and reset. I learnt early in my career that the recipe for sustained high performance is finding balance; time for work, time for family and friends, and time for me. One element may dominate at a certain point in time, and it is vital to recognise this and rebalance when we can. 
    I enjoy escaping into the garden or finding time to be near water (sailing, swimming). I also like to get fully involved in my girls’ activities as well as interact with friends, and that often consists of watching sports (refer to my passion below).
     
  9. What are your passions?
     
    Well, if I said anything apart from following the South Sydney Rabbitohs, I would be in trouble. For those who don’t follow the NRL, they are one of the founding rugby league clubs in Sydney. My grandmother lived opposite their home-grounds of Redfern Oval. I had no opportunity to follow any other team, and neither do my two daughters! While being the most successful club over the past 111 years, there have been some very lean years which also highlights one of my other traits, loyalty. So for 2019, we are in the finals, and in a few weeks, I hope to get to watch them in the Grand Final! 
     
  10. If you could have lunch with three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
     
    Clive Churchill – the greatest Rabbitohs player of all time
    Bill Gates – the technologist, entrepreneur and philanthropist
    Walt Disney – the vision to bring out the kid in all of us and who reminds us to smile