Career advice from three leaders within the world of finance

Jonathan Foxley Career Advice, Senior Finance

Been there, done that…. Career advice from three leaders within the world of finance.

As many young accountants’ step into grad programs across the nation, I thought I’d reach out to a few senior finance leaders to talk through their experiences and seek their advice for upcoming accounting and finance professionals.

The conversation covered their personal experiences of how their careers in finance began, the key skills they needed to develop and progress into a finance leadership role, and their advice for upcoming accounting and finance professionals.

The senior finance leaders interviewed included Richard Pearson, CFO at Mortgage House, Lisa Hodgson, Finance Director at AON, and Wayne Vergano, CFO at Marsh.

Richard Pearson, CFO at Mortgage House, is a senior finance leader with extensive experience as a business partner, working with several global banks and start-ups both locally and in the U.K and South Africa. Richard has a broad interest across a range of business activities, with past experience in treasury, retail banking, investment banking, private banking and asset management.

Lisa Hodgson, Finance Director at AON, has held several senior finance roles across multiple industry sectors including Medical devices, FMCG, Retail, Manufacturing, Food ingredients, Animal Feed, Construction Hire, Professional Services and Superannuation. She is an experienced financial leader with experience across Financial control, risk management, FP&A, business acquisitions, M&A, strategy and leadership.

Wayne Vergano, Chief Financial Officer at Marsh Pty Ltd in the Pacific Region, has been presented with a wealth of opportunity in a career spanning three decades at Marsh. Wayne is a Director of the Marsh Pty Ltd Board and a member of the Australian Executive Committee, and on the Board of Marsh's Papua New Guinea and Fiji companies.

1. How did your career in finance begin?

Richard Pearson (RP): Having read civil engineering at university, I always had a strong business interest and was attracted to working in the City of London.

Lisa Hodgson (LH): I joined the graduate program at BDO in London as a trainee auditor. Things were different back then, when we used lots of coloured pens and had to carry big heavy boxes of audit files around the city. It seems so alien to me now.

Wayne Vergano (WV): By accident. After having a couple of jobs in retail and government after school, I decided to study accounting part time as it seemed to fit into what I was doing in the office environment. I later took it to stock broking where I started managing admin and taking on accounting responsibilities. 

2. What are the key skills you think you need to develop to progress to a finance leadership role?

RP: There are a number of key skills but it’s important to develop your communication skills, giving you the ability to influence stakeholders. Be a team player, remembering that we achieve more together. And keep learning. The world is a changing place, so you need to change too and experiment with new ideas.

LH: The ability to make the complex simple through first rate communication skills, after all finance is a foreign language for many and the role of finance is to translate.   Curiosity and a desire to understand how things work and probably the most important one is the ability to form connections with a broad range of people. 

WV: As CFO my bias is financial planning and analysis. The key is business partnering, becoming a trusted advisor to the business so people skills are important. Ultimately a CFO has to play the role of catalyst, strategist, steward and operator. This involves the ability to work in cross functional teams, lead, influence and being adaptable. If this is your chosen finance path you should have development of people skills in mind from early in your career.

3. What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

RP: Take time to develop your network. Set clear goals for what you want to achieve. Be open to opportunities - Things may come out of the blue so be prepared to try something different. And most importantly, look after your health - Your career is like running a marathon, ensure work-life balance for exercise, a good diet and spending time with family & friends.

LH: See every day as an opportunity to grow and learn, connect with new people and be confident in your abilities.

WV: Be inquisitive. Seek out opportunity rather than wait for it to come your way. Stay true to your beliefs and convictions. Find good people and work with them – they can only make the good you better.


If you are a mid to senior finance professional considering a move or would like a confidential discussion about your career future, please contact Jonathan Foxley.