Q&A with Jodie Blackledge

Jodie Blackledge stepped into the CFO’s role at the ASX-listed Austbrokers Holdings Limited on 1 July 2015, after joining the business in April. Austbrokers is a leading insurance distribution, underwriting agency and risk services group.

Aside from managing the finance function, as CFO Jodie is also responsible for the business’s risk, compliance and group legal functions.

Jodie works alongside CEO Mark Searles, and the executive team to deliver Austbrokers Holdings’ strategy to support growth in its partner businesses and deliver value for shareholders.

Q: Can you tell us about your career and how you got to where you are today?

My experience is broad for a finance executive, which is something I bring to my current position because there is a desire for the CFO role to be more strategic.

I worked as a chartered accountant in the early part of my career and then moved into investment banking; working in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions, so I have been dealing with Boards from an early stage.

I also have experience in business strategy at both a group and also a grassroots level, which is something I was able to develop when I was at AMP. This has influenced how I think about finance and how to grow a business.

I have also worked as a Chief Operating Officer in a heavily regulated business and also as the Chief Financial Officer of a small listed business.

I believe I bring the breadth of all this experience to my role.

Q: What has been the most rewarding parts of your career? 

For me, it’s the opportunity to work with my team to devise and develop strategy and to see this come to fruition in the finance function and in business growth.

I get a lot out of that side of my role and it is one of the reasons I moved out of the more advisory, chartered accounting and investment banking roles into a role inside the business.

Q: What have been the most challenging aspects of your career and how have you overcome these challenges? 

One of the most challenging roles as a leader is learning how to stand apart and speak about what you believe in, even if it is not popular.

As the CFO, sometimes your role is not always to be a facilitator; sometimes it’s to be critical. This is a real learning experience, one that is often challenging.

Another challenge is how to manage change. My aim is always to lead with empathy, but that is not always easy when your decisions impact people. You can lose sleep when you’re aware of the impact of change on people in the business.

Q: Tell us about your role and the most exciting aspect of it?

As the CFO of Austbrokers, I’m part of a very successful and fast-growing business, with a real entrepreneurial spirit. When we listed the business in 2005 our market capitalisation was $100 million and now it is $500 million.

At the moment we are looking to set the business up for its next stage of growth and consolidate what we already have.

We are looking at our capabilities, our organisational structure and the role of finance within this, and how this will drive the next stage of our development. It is much harder to grow a larger company than it is to grow a smaller one, but it is still a very exciting time.

Q: Where to from here for you?

My focus is on building a successful career with Austbrokers, to be able to look back with pride at my time in the business.

Longer-term, we will see – I sit on the board of a not-for-profit business at the moment and down the track I could be interested in exploring this avenue further.

Q: What is your advice for other young female finance executives in terms of how they can put themselves in the best position possible to attain CFO role?

Staying in the workforce while also managing caring responsibilities such as looking after a family is critical if you want to take that next step in your career. However, it is essential to be able to work in a role where your contribution is valued and that also has a degree of flexibility.

It is also essential to push yourself and step outside your comfort zone. You also need to have self-belief and have people around you who believe in you and put yourself forward for positions even if you don’t think you are totally ready. It’s all about seizing opportunities as they arise.

Jodie Blackledge’s Top Career Tips

  • Gaining experience in a variety of roles, in businesses of varying sizes and across many industries, is invaluable when building a career.

  • Make sure you’re developing business-wide and strategic skills to add as much value as possible to the CFO role.

  • Expect to have to make difficult decisions as part of the role.

  • If you’re taking time out of the workforce to assume caring responsibilities find a way to stay engaged with the business community and keep developing your skills.

  • Don’t be reluctant to step outside your comfort zone and put yourself forward for new opportunities.

 

This article is courtesy of Chief Future Officer, powered by American Express.

By GK Horizons -

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