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Welcome to the numbers people Podcast where each week we're going to be speaking with some highly regarded senior finance professionals and create experts looking into the ins and outs of what makes finance people and their teams great. The podcast is proudly sponsored by HPR Consulting a leading executive finance recruitment firm. I'm your host Richard Holmes.
In today's episode, we welcome Kate Beattie. Kate is the Deputy CFO of Endeavour Group, Australia's leading retail drinks and hospitality business. She is a highly accomplished senior finance professional with over 20 years of progressive leadership roles, both here in Australia and overseas. She has worked for a number of blue-chip corporates, including the Commonwealth Bank, Worley Parsons, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems to name a few. Kate is an adaptable and driven people leader, and is known for inspiring those around her.
Good morning, Kate, how are you?
Good morning, Richard. I'm very good. Thank you.
Pleasure to have you on the show. I've known about Kate for a number of years, and her reputation is fantastic. Kate, would you like to tell us about your story and your journey so far?
Sure. Thank you. And it's a privilege to be here. So I have had a lifelong career in finance, graduated in the early 90s, in Australia, from the Ainu in Canberra with a commerce degree. But actually, at the time, no intention of being an accountant, I just knew I wanted to go and start working. So I took myself off to Japan, it was the recession that we had to have in Australia in the early 90s. And there weren't many jobs, and there were plenty in Japan. So I started my career by working for a Japanese bank. And I was fortunate that I spoke Japanese. So that was the primary reason why they employed me not because of anything to do with my commerce degree or other skills. But one thing led to another and I went from there to work for a retail startup in Japan in a role that was an accounting role. And at that point, the CFO of the company said, I'm happy to take you on so long as you go and get your CPA or ca qualification and become a real accountant. And that was the real beginning of my career in finance. So I worked there for about three or four years. And that was actually a pivotal moment for me, because the company I was working for was a startup, as I say it was a small retail company that was half owned by a Japanese very large retailer, supermarket retailer, and half owned by dairy farm International, out of Hong Kong. And it was a failure, actually. So I worked there from startup to wind up over a three year period, like being thrust into the middle of a real life MBA environment without having to invest any of my own capital. So I got to do the full company lifecycle in a very short period was effectively the first accounting job that I did, and literally took over from the CFO in the dying days of the company and was kind of the one to wind up and hand over the books to the accountant that would maintain them for the statutory period that had to be held for and then switch off the lights. That was the beginning of that was my 20s. And I came back to Australia and worked for Franklin's for a while and then shifted gears into technology. So I went over to Sun Microsystems, and then after that Oracle and worked in a number of finance roles across shared services, environments, and also statutory financial accounting and management accounting there. And then I got to a point in my career where I decided it was time to work for a nice existing company. So up to that point, had worked only for multinationals and went to Macquarie Bank, where I worked in a corporate role and had the opportunity again, to lead the establishment of a shared services environment in India spend a lot of time travelling between Sydney and India, getting that up and running along the way had two children actually. So one while I was working at Sun Microsystems, and one month I was working at Macquarie and I had got to the point by the time I was ready to leave Macquarie where it was time to actually focus on being a mum for a while. So I took a career break to six months and enjoyed some time with my daughter in her last half year before she started Primary School, which I would say was a pivotal moment where I actually did stop and pause and go, there's more to life than just the job. And from there, I went to Worley Parsons, and worked there for about 18 months and for new Commbank where I spent probably the longest time I've spent in my career to date, which was seven years working across a number of roles, probably the most important of which, to me was working in the retail bank, which was a really fantastic job covered the full breadth of our Strategy and Finance for the retail bank was actually a very exciting time in the Commonwealth bank's history and really great place to be, and then eventually moved from there to land up where I am now, which is an Endeavour Group within the Woolworths group, which is an absolutely fabulous company. It felt to me as I arrived here that it was a great combination of all the things I've done so working in a in a retail business that obviously has the retail core that I have plenty of experiencing but also very oriented towards where's the future going in relation to digital and engagement with customers in e commerce and platforms like that, which I'd spent time engaging in both when I was working in technology companies, but also when I was working in the retail bank, a Commonwealth Bank, so I felt like all of the things I had done in my career to date and kind of landed me in the in a job that had the whole picture when I got to endeavour group and then very excitingly when I got to endeavour group I'm have now had the opportunity to work on the demerger of the endeavour group from Woolworths. So actually within the next couple of weeks, we'll finish that task and things going well by one July will be an ASX top 50 company on the stock exchange. That's my career in a nutshell. across the way I didn't talk much about the jobs I've done in finance along the way, but I was quite deliberate with every
Step by talk to be taking on a role in a different function within the finance space. So, you know, have had the opportunity to cover the full breadth of finance roles from now accounting, transaction services, shared services management through to management, accounting, reporting, business, partnering, divisional CFO, now, Deputy CFO, a
Just listening to you, then Kate, I mean, having that early experience in your 20s of working in that company from a startup to wind up. I mean, that must have been when you reflect back, what a great experience to have, I can imagine at the time, it would have been quite stressful for you. But like, I mean, in terms of learning must have been huge.
I think it was, you know, it's funny, I've reflected when I've been interviewing for jobs along the way. And they asked what has been the sort of defining moments in your career, and it feels bad to be going back to my 20s. And saying, well, the job I had in my 20s was quite defining, but it really was, that was a stage in life where if I'd followed the traditional path of going into an accounting firm, I would have been doing audits. Instead, I was helping both startup and then wind up a company literally sitting in the same row. But there were only ever been a handful of people in the finance team in that company. So I was doing everything from working out how to do cash reconciliations to implementing point of sale systems to, as I say, ultimately, winding up the company and managing the hand over the book. So it was one of those very rare experiences where you get to do every part of the finance function in a small environment, but nevertheless, very hands on environment. Because I spoke Japanese and the owners of the company were half the Japanese joint venture partner and half the Hong Kong based joint venture partner, I often got the opportunity to sit in the board meetings and help culturally translate between the two parties to the arrangements are really did get an amazing exposure at a very early stage in my career, and also got thrust into an environment where there wasn't a rulebook, I wasn't learning from anybody how to do the job, I literally had to work it out as a witness, because we were in startups, and so had to take on the ownership of making it work in an environment where there was no one to, you know, teach you or hand over to you or that kind of thing. So very much out of my depth. On many occasions, I remember sitting in a cash office in a newly opened supermarket, one of my jobs was to make sure that we managed to the cash. And it was a very cash driven environment at the time. And we had a couple of cash machines that we were supposed to be depositing the cash into. But when you open a supermarket, you get extraordinary volumes of sales. And we were literally drowning in cash, physical cash, sitting in the cash room with the door locked, trying to feed the cash into the machine as fast as we could go. And I was thinking, I think I've screwed up here. At the minimum, I needed to get the cash collection Armorgard Tax Service to come more frequently than my going home that night with the smell of cash is lately all over my body going off, we got through but Geez, that was quite an amazing experience to talk about being in the deep end, extremely character building for you mean, I can imagine you'd be days where you're like, you've never done what you're about to do. The whole job was never done what I was about to do. That's right. I guess when you reflect back, I mean, that learning game would have given you the exposure was so valuable to Korea? Yeah, I think so. And I think there's something in the psychology of recognizing that you're doing something you've never done, there isn't a rule, but you've just got to work it out and sort of owning it, owning the stress of it, working through it. And I guess risk managing that as well as obviously, I think I've found that I quite quickly get to a point of working out in my own mind, what's the worst thing that can happen here? And how am I going to mitigate that? Like, what's the resource I need to have backing me up? Or where do I need to go for advice, and I think that mindset is a valuable one to have. So you don't feel desperate with the sense of being overwhelmed. It's more, okay, I'm feeling overwhelmed. Now not I need to recognize what the boundaries are, I can put around these to make it manageable. Something similar is applied to me now in working through the demerger of endeavour group from Woolworths group. Because again, I found myself in a role where I'm regularly responsible for at least setting up things I've never set up before. So you know, we're establishing we're moving from being a division of a large company to being a standalone company. So of course, needing to establish functions that we haven't had before, like Investor Relations, Treasury, tax, external reporting, and so on. And much as i understand the shape and size of those functions, and what they need to do, it's the first time I've been responsible for recruiting for them, standing them up and making sure that we have a playbook for what they need to be doing. And again, find myself regularly thinking, Oh, well, I'm day in day out dealing with a set of questions and equations that I haven't dealt with before, and therefore have to find the right resource, the right project management, the right settings to make this manageable and not run unnecessary risks on behalf of the company.
That makes your role exciting though, that challenge. Reflecting on your career, Kate? I mean, you've worked for all these great companies over the years, like when you went overseas, and you came back? Did you have a career plan or development? where wanting to do this? Because you've got such a broad career in terms of you touched on it before you've touched on everything? Is that something you set out to do or not?
Initially, I'd say I developed a bit of a rulebook for how I would decide what the next role should be, as I went along probably from about the third role. By the time I was leaving Franklin's back in Australia, I was pretty clear that each role needed to feel genuinely like a stepping stone rather than a sideways step. So I needed to be quite deliberate about why I was going to the company. Was there something about the company or its context or why was I going to the particular role what new learnings I can have and ideally it's both, right? Ideally, you go to a company where the company itself is doing something you haven't done before. So you get to understand a new industry or a new operating model or commercial model. Ideally, there's something in the role that is new or a challenge. So each step is a building block on what I've done before, when I'm leaving companies, or when I'm shifting roles, when I became more conscious about the concept of my career and my growth, and where was I going to end up at the end of the season, probably less focused on where am I going to end up but certainly very focused on making sure that each step is a learning step. And what I'm not stagnating or not feeling like spinning wheels doing something I'm not learning much from.
So whichever role you were looking at at the time and how to help that challenging development?
Yeah, ideally, have a significant dimension that was different. Like I said, maybe you move to an existing company or movie industry or move from a financial control role to a business partner and role.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career like yours, like you have had a great career, what's the best advice?
I think everybody's journey is their own, I think it's really important to enjoy what you do. And I know, there's been at least one role where I've left because the company environment wasn't the right one. For me, personally, the culture wasn't right. And the job itself was not one in which I was growing significantly. I don't think you should regret making quick calls about that. And moving on. And I do think each step you make, my advice would be to think about what is the learning or the growth or the opportunity that you're hoping to get out of the next thing that you do. And then when you're in it, making sure you are getting that and sort of owning and managing that and not letting yourself get into a situation where you feel that you're stuck, there really isn't a stock, we all have choices about where we work and how we work and who we work with. And there is no need to feel like you don't have options, that it's a sort of, you're not enjoying what you do. I think that's riskier to you and your reputation and your sense of well being and your sort of growth or lack of than any risk you take on making a choice to move.
100% agree with Kate, I mean, the nature of working in my job in the recruitment industry, we see a lot of people who are unhappy and kind of feel stuck. And I just think sometimes like it's just the job, just have that confidence to move. And I love that point you made about you've made one mistake, well, not a mistake, but you recognize it's not the right culture for yourself. I think people put too much pressure on themselves like they've got to go to that perfect role and make that real world advice or make an early call is a good thing can make that call early as well. You don't have to be there yet. I think enjoying what you do reflects in everything in life, doesn't it?
Enjoy work, and you bring it home, and it fits all your relationships at home, your family and friends. And that's no good.
Life is too short to be feeling unhappy. I mean, of course, we all feel unhappy, temporarily sometimes. But if that's a prolonged feeling, Pan, owning it and doing something about it, it's important, but also things say at least once or twice in my career, I've made the mistake of getting excessively loyal to a company. And then the company goes through fundamental change, and it shakes the foundation of your belief in what you're doing and why you're there. And I'd say as a result of that, my perspective has pivoted a lot away from being loyal to the company to being loyal to the people I work with. And I do regularly say that to people now when I'm mentoring or giving advice to others companies just to construct the value in a company using the relationships and the people that you work with and how you feel about being there. And the learning journey you're on there. It's not the company itself. And companies change when leadership changes, and it's quite okay to make a move at that point. If the environment you're working in no longer feels like the right one for you.
We see that a lot, Kate,where the culture of company is fantastic, the leadership changes and it becomes quite toxic. Last year was a great culture and this year it's not a nice place to work. So important. Get the right leaders in place.
You touched on it before,Kate, around being overwhelmed. When did you feel overwhelmed can imagine the nature of your job, there's a lot going on lots of pressure and stress at times when you do feel overwhelmed. What is your release?
I've always exercised. Having a routine, like an exercise routine is really valuable. And I'd say you know, just to reflect on a personal story briefly. I got divorced about five years ago, and I was working really hard at the time I was in a busy job and going through a divorce. And it felt like my life was just shaking a lot. It was quite hard to sort of obviously when you get divorced, all the dreams and hopes you have for your futures family start to crumble and you feel a bit like your foundations are being rocked. The one thing that I held on to for consistency and to give me a sense of something I could control through that period in my life was the daily exercise routine. And in my mind, it wasn't about the daily routine, it was actually about the value that I got out of getting up going for my rant or going to my Pilates class or getting out on the bike with my friends. That was the one thing I could rely on as being stable and core and valuable in the multiple ways that exercising is you know, it's the connection with other people. It's the physical well being and the attached to that, obviously, the emotional well being you get out of the adrenaline of exercising. So I'd say that's the one thing that throughout everything has been auto maintaining my sense of being in control of something when everything else is out of control.
That's a great way to look at it. You're in control of your own exercise. And you touched on before about the “Tour De Cure” you've just recently don't ride with those guys. And I think with this podcast, I'll put the “Tour De Cure” website on there because I think it's a fantastic, amazing organization. So reflecting back at what has improved your working life the most like you would have seen everything in the last last few years?
Career, what's improved in the most, I'll show my age in this one. But you know, when I started my career, we didn't even use computers. So my first job was using a word processor to produce documents. And we sort of shared one computer amongst three or four people. So that kind of takes you right back. So I would have to say, based on that, one of the things that's improved my working life the most is technology. And we've bemoaned technology a lot because of how much it interferes in our personal time. But I think there are two sides to that equation. Obviously, it's an efficient working tool. But it also gives you flexibility. COVID has particularly given us the opportunity to take a massive step forward in offering flexible working options to people. Personally, I would say that, before COVID started, I was probably getting to a point in my career where I was starting to work out how much longer I could continue the corporate working cycle for this, I do my exercise before work, or getting up exercising, getting into the office by 830, working all day, getting home six, seven, whatever time of night, the cyclical finance stuff means that sometimes that's more like 11/12 at night and thinking, I'm going to get to a point where I can't do this anymore. And it's time for the next generation to take over from me. And you know, I'm okay with that. But I need to start thinking about my exit, and then COVID came. And of course, COVID was devastating, is devastating still for many people. But what it did was give us the opportunity to reset how we work. And for me, that's been incredibly valuable. So now I have the benefit of technology, and the benefit of being able to manage my way of working in a way that works for me far better than it used to an example I would give a daughter in year 12 now, and for the first time in her whole life, she has me home quite regularly in the morning. So I get up and I make her coffee, and I make her toast and avocado and send her off to school. And after we'd been doing that for a month or two in COVID. She said to me, Mom, where have you been all my life? And I thought, wow, you know, I felt bad and good. Where have I been all their life, but the ability to have that engagement with family while also obviously we all were still working with big working days, just doing it a different way? It’s made me think that this is much better than me is a much better way of working right now I go into the office for half days, or I just go in when I need to change my equation a lot.
I completely agree with you Kate. I think we talked about this work life balance, and what does that mean, but it's very much an individual thing. And I think with parents, especially even for myself, like the fact that I can have breakfast with my kids and help out in the morning as opposed to just rushing out the door. giving it to my wife, it's it just improves relationships as well.
I have a member of my team whose wife had babies during COVID. And you know, one of them had one baby pre COVID and one baby during COVID. And he reflected to me recently that the experience the second time around was so much better. He's been able to be home through the period of having the second baby and be far more present as a father. Look after the older one, while the younger one is looked after by the mother. And he just said that the two experiences and so much better the second time around where he could feel like an equal participant in the parenting.
That's a great story. And his engagement with the business is amazing, fundamentally retain that person longer because the way he's being treated.
I certainly hope so because we value him very highly.
Over the years, Kate, you've managed large teams, medium sized teams. You mentioned within Macquariec when you did that shared service project, when you recruit talent, what is the most important thing you look for?
So when I'm recruiting people who are going to work directly with me, there are two fundamentals. One is can I see them in my job either relatively quickly or injured course. because ideally, the more senior you get, the more you need, and want your team to be able to fill any gap that you create. When you focus on specific projects. Or when you're more you know, towards managing board relationships and looking outside the company, you need a team that can hold the function together. So I look for people who I didn't see, either temporarily or permanently moving into my role. So look for really strong, credible strength capability. And the other thing is very much the culture or interview for culture first, normally, people come with a CV that tells you they can do the job technically, but they need to be able to work collaboratively. I think the more senior you get, the more the job is about solving problems with other people. It's not about can you do your job within your remit? Of course, we all can by a certain point in our career, it is far more about when there's a job that's new to be done or where there's a problem to be solved. How would you go about doing that? Will you reach out to your colleagues? Will you be willing to give up ownership of something because you can see someone else has a capability that can fill a gap? Will you be willing to share resources where you think first about the greater good and the greater need of the team or the company? Or what do you think about yourself in your role first, recognizing that someone is going to collaborate first is really important.
You've obviously interviewed a lot of people you can sometimes seeing from that. It's that level of arrogance that puts you off a bit, but yeah, I mean, that's the thing. It's that self-awareness, isn't it? It's finding someone who can step into your shoes. I think that's a good point. Because a lot of people and I've seen over the years where it's job security for myself, so I don't want them being too good because they might make me look bad. But leadership, want to surround yourself with people ideally stronger than you is saying about. I don't want to be the smartest person in the room.
Absolutely right. I mean nothing. Nothing makes me happier to be able to bring them along and say, well, it's not me that you need to be listening to here's the person in my team. He's all over it. One because obviously it makes you feel good as a leader to know that you are giving people growth opportunities, but to because it does mean that it opens up your own opportunity to find other ways to grow. And as I said before, keeping on moving or keeping on a growth journey has been important. So I never want to put myself in a position in a role where the team needs me, they rely on me because I'm covering the things that they're not capable of doing, I actually want them all to be able to step up and release me to keep on my own learning journey, if you'd like, it's a very selfish way to think about it. But to add value, you do need to be constantly particularly the more senior you get, the more you need to be thinking sort of upwards and outwards in the organization as opposed to down through your team, you've got the right team in place, the amount of focus you need to spend on managing them in any sense should be quite minimal.
And again, that's great leadership. I mean, when you leave an organization to pass the reins to someone, you've succession planned into your role. And that's a good sign saying that a succession plan is a lot easier in theory. Yes. It's, I mean, working with a lot of different clients, you see it, it's like, how can you not have someone in the business to do this wrong kind of thing, but it's way easier said than done? Yeah, it's often a timing thing to touch on early on in the podcast. I mean, your reputation is fantastic. Tell me something not many people know about you?
So I was gonna say well speak Japanese. That's probably self-evident because I spent time in Japan. But I was actually an exchange student in Japan when I was 15. So from when I was 15, to 16. For a year I spent living in Japan with a Japanese family, the father in the family I lived with was a national champion at Japanese archery, Japanese archery is a meditative practice. At the end of the day, you are shooting an arrow into a target, but it's not about shooting the arrow into the target. It's actually about details specific physical routine you go through before, you're actually releasing the arrow, which is a very committed to the kind of routine and very mindful because it's got very minute steps in terms of where you place your foot, how you pivot your body, how you set up the arrow, how you draw the string, and the process is very much one on a teaches you the process is far more important than the outcome, my Japanese Father through teaching me how to do this archery always said to me, don't worry about hitting the target, hitting the target. He's not the goal. Doing all of the right things physically through the process to get there is the goal. And when you get all of that, right, the arrow will hit the target. There's a lot more than that, in terms of what we say about the journey of life, right? It's like, don't worry about the destination, make the most of the journey on the way and be present in the journey on the way. And I've often reflected on that yesterday, the whole year with him learning how to do Japanese archery, which is an amazing experience, not one that many people get and are genuinely amazing experience and took me to some very beautiful places in Japan, the nature of the locations where they do Japanese art trees, very traditional Japanese wooden houses with deep backyards, and archery target right down the back of the backyard and finish it with a lovely cup of tea and a bowl of noodles. But a really wonderful opportunity again, at an early stage in life. pause and think about how you think about a process differently in a very, very Western way of approaching aiming for goals.
What an experience to have so early on in your life.
Could you speak Japanese before you went over there?
No, it was quite a process of making my brain switch once I got there.
Literally you went you stayed with the family figured out from there. What a great experience. Hey, in the story you just told Kate, I can't imagine many people would have that same experience.
No, I think even at the time, I was aware how unique and special it was, but it really was quite fantastic.
And are you good at archery now?
No. I've got all the gear. The other thing about Japanese archery is you can't just do it once because it's not just about the process of shooting the arrow. It's actually the equipment as well. So the bow was a bamboo bow. And to make the bow work well, you actually have to use it over and over and over again because you have to soften it up. And if you don't keep using it and keep softening it up, it gets very brutal. And I've got a bow but it's become very brutal. So if I was to take it up again, I would have to spend many hours going through the physical process of pulling the bar before it would even begin to start unfortunately not quite up for that at the moment.
That’s fascinating, you learn something new every day!
And that’s Japanese archery
It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I think you've been really insightful and really enjoyed listening to your story. I'm sure the listeners well as well and really appreciate your time and hopefully, we'll have you on the podcast again sometime in the future and that we will appreciate your time.
Thank you, Richard. It's been my pleasure.