Finance and Commercial Manager
Day in the life series: Q&A with Ros Nairn, Finance and Commercial Manager, AustralianSuper
Over the past decade, the role of finance has changed immeasurably. Gone are the calculators and spreadsheets, and the tear-off cheques that need to be banked. Everything is automated and streamlined - and the role of the finance team has adapted accordingly.
Ros Nairn, who has spent almost 20 years working in finance, has confidently ridden through all of these changes – indeed, her philosophy is to ‘take on change and run with it’.
Here, we talk to her about how AustralianSuper has changed and what it means for the finance team.
First, can you give us a quick run-down of your role at AustralianSuper?
I’m in the finance team within Corporate Services, and we look after two key areas of the fund.
The first is protecting our members’ assets and ensuring that members’ money is safe. We continually assess the fund, to make sure money is where it’s supposed to be – and that the earnings we allocate to members through the crediting rates are correct.
Then, we are here to support the rest of the business to get their work done. If they need to purchase a new asset, we help them think strategically and make the purchase in the most efficient way possible.
Throughout the course of any given day, the vast majority of my time would be spent on strategic issues relating to our members, with about 20% of my time on operational issues.
In your six years at AustralianSuper, you have seen the business grow significantly. How has this changed what you do?
When I started here, we were managing a $33 billion fund. Today, it’s a $95 billion fund – and we have grown our employee base from 150 to almost 500.
In the early days, the finance team was small and everyone knew what was going on in all parts of the business. Today, the team is much larger and individual roles are more specialised. To help drive the growth, it’s vital that we constantly reassess our processes. We are always asking, “What can be automated? What’s outdated?”
We’re always looking for ways to make things more efficient – which comes back to doing the right thing by our members.
Despite AustralianSuper’s growth, your member admin fee hasn’t changed. How do you manage this?
The finance team has worked incredibly hard to keep the administration fee static so that members don’t have to pay any more. But we are always looking at increasing the service to members – just at the same price. It comes back to finding the most efficient – and, in some cases, automated – ways of running our business.
So, even though the member services continue to increase and improve, our internal efficiencies and strategic spending mean that we can keep our fees as low as possible.
When it comes to spending, what are the top three things you look for in a new service provider?
First and foremost, we asses the value for members. This is key, as our number one focus is on delivering an end net benefit to them.
Then, we look at the cost and aim to obtain the best value for members. Finally, we assess the relationship. It’s important that the new provider is a great fit with AustralianSuper, can keep up with our rapid pace of change and has shared values.
As an example, when we looked to implement a clearing house for AustralianSuper, we went out and negotiated with a number of providers. The solution we chose ticked these three boxes around value, cost and relationship – and we’ve been extremely happy with the solution that has been implemented.
You’ve had a very successful career to date. What’s you’re advice for others who have just started climbing the corporate ladder?
My biggest piece of advice to a new finance professional is to get involved in as much as you can as early as you can. I started at PwC when I was 17, and spent 11 years with the company, across its Melbourne, Edinburgh and Boston offices. If you can gain a broad range of experiences, you’ll find them invaluable later in your career.
If you don’t understand why people are asking you to do something, you can’t add value. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – whether it’s about something within your own team, or something required by another part of the business. It helps to understand the reason someone is asking you to do something.
Change is standard now. It’s the new black. To deal with it, you can be an architect or a victim. Life is about the choices you make, not what’s thrown at you. I strongly encourage you to take on change and run with it.