With a colourful career spanning many different roles and industries, Rowan Cole shares with us his journey from graduate accountant to a passionate professional advisor for thriving small-cap companies. Although he never technically worked for PP, we won’t hold that against him!
I have enjoyed a diverse career journey that has taken me through various roles in different industries. Although I never actually worked with PP I started work with KMG Hungerfords in 1986 straight from university, where I joined business services at Nauru House. My main apprenticeship was doing the bookkeeping and accounting for a private import company every month, which taught me never to rely on experts and forecasts for foreign exchange and interest rates. I watched the A$/US$ go from $0.80 to $0.60 within a matter of weeks, almost putting my client out of business, which no one had predicted at the time.
Following Hungerfords merger with Peat Marwick, I sought a secondment to Computer Audit, where I worked at 500 Bourke St. I also tutored at the University of Melbourne in auditing on behalf of KPMG for a few years, trying to scout for talent. At the time PP de-merged from KPMG, although I looked to go with PP, the best fit for me was to remain as a Manager in Computer Audit with KPMG until I left the following year.
Since then, I have had roles in internal audit, risk management, operational roles in financial services, and as CFO, investor relations and Company Secretary, the last 18 years with ASX listed companies. To keep on top of my game and add gravitas to my opinions, I collected a number of qualifications to support the various roles, including Certified Information Systems Auditor, Certified Internal Auditor, Diploma of Investor Relations, Executive MBA, Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance (Chartered Secretary) and Graduate of the AICD Directors course. I maintain my qualifications actively, with a keen interest in ethics, board accountabilities and decision making and fit-for-purpose Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) reporting.
I feel that most of my professional growth, however, came from watching how business happened within the firm and with clients, and modelling interpersonal skills from two books which were recommended to me early on, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and How to Win Friends and Influence People. I believe that whilst technical skills are foundational, you need to hone your interpersonal skills to successfully apply them and make the most of yourself.
The two achievements in my career of which I am most proud are creating Australia’s first national indigenous credit union and selling a closed gold mine for $100, which generated a $30 million profit on sale from the release of rehabilitation obligations.
Some of my proudest moments were in my early years, where I called the bluff of an American investor who threatened to have me sacked if I didn’t give him the month’s profit result immediately. Better to be sacked by him than be killed by my manager, Phil ‘Polly’ Bennet, because I hadn’t completed the work before providing an answer. In my second year, I won a $5 bet with Sid Catlin on the interpretation of the then-new leases accounting standard.
I have had many people who had a particular impact on my time alongside PP and where I am now. These include my first supervisor, Grant Padula, who set the expectation for quality of thinking/work and neat presentation, whilst maintaining a sense of fun. Phil Bennet, my first manager, accepted nothing less than perfection in execution and presentation. Ron Pitcher had respect for everyone in the room, and his business insight was exceptional. Competing with my peers to be our individual best, in particular Louise James. Graham Collier, KPMG Computer Audit partner, was an outstanding mentor and leader of people.
Since I started my career, my situation has evolved considerably. I have moved through various roles, industries and responsibilities, which has been both personally and professionally fulfilling.
As for my future plans, I enjoy helping people and simplifying complex issues. I have been with The CFO Solution since 2021 as GM Corporate Services and, amongst other things, interpret ASX Listing Rules for small-cap companies and act as their intermediary with the ASX. I also helped four listed clients with their first ESG reports last financial year. I will continue to seek out roles where I can add value and make a positive impact.