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Over But Not Out

Over But Not Out

Not everyone, however, holds ambitions of a seat at the board table or a late-life career. Some want to shift completely out of the corporate arena, bound for a more conventional form of retirement

SIDEBAR: Travelling Man

A keen cyclist and world traveller, Frank Liebeskind has also done tours as CIO, COO and finds himself in the CEO seat

Frank Liebeskind's first role as a CIO was in 1980 when he was hired into Kerry Packer's Consolidated Press.

"It fascinated me to work for someone who was more extroverted than me," quips Liebeskind. It was not ego, however, that kept Liebeskind in the role, or led him to permanent or interim CIO roles with Australian Cement Ltd, MMI Insurance and marketing loyalty rewards company Pinpoint (where he was first CIO and then COO). Capability and competence underscored his success and allowed him to pepper his career with stints in general management and third-party services before leaving his last full-time job in early 2005. He was not planning to stop work - just move into another job.

He admits that he never stopped to think about what he wanted to do "because every job fell into place". This time it did not.

As far as preparing to retire from a financial standpoint was concerned - well, Liebeskind simply could not. He had not been planning for retirement and most of his assets were tied up in his home. Even without the financial restrictions Liebeskind simply did not want to step back from the workplace. "I will work for as long a time as I feel I can contribute," he says.

After leaving his last job and without a full-time role in the wind he returned to his roots in consulting, only to find it a bit frustrating, "because I could see the answer, I could tell them the answer - but I couldn't implement it myself".

Looking for alternatives, Liebeskind understands it is not going to be easy to find a full-time role. He stops short of accusing recruiters of ageism, although says he has taken his age off his CV along with the fact he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship. Even so, "they see the experience and add it up and work out I'm in my 50s".

With a track record in technology and e-commerce companies, he has rediscovered a passion for working with start-up companies. Recently he has been developing a business and financial strategy in association with Sydney Capital Partners for CSIRO spin-off Funnelback, and in June was appointed interim CEO. "I started to rethink what I wanted to do and what I enjoyed doing. I will continue in that direction - not that I'd ignore a tap on the shoulder, it's just that I'm not waiting for the tap on the shoulder," he says.

"Yes, in some ways I'd like to go back to the CIO role but I am really enjoying doing business strategies, positioning and mentoring. The financial benefits are quite different, of course. These are start-ups so they can't pay much but there is the opportunity in the future to be involved in share equity options. I am willing to back my capabilities and experience, as I always have.

"With a permanent job and the recent changes in superannuation, I could put a lot of money into super. With start-ups, when they get to the IPO or trade sale then the superannuation's taken care of too.

"I don't care what I do as long as it's fun and a challenge."

When it is time to wind down Liebeskind has other ambitions; work alone will not define him. "I watched my father work until he was 70 and then he stopped and he didn't know what to do," he says. Meanwhile he expects even partial retirement to be at least five to 10 years away and then he would like to work three days a week and spend the other two "on other things, travelling, photography, writing books". He is also fit - being a keen cyclist, gym member and squad swimmer, although he admits these days that he is a little too intimate with his knee surgeon.

SIDEBAR: Questions to Ask

What are my options?

How might I maintain a link with business and continue to make a difference?

How do others handle the transition from the corporate ladder to something else?

How can I plan and prepare for the next phase of my life beyond the purely financial aspects?

Source: Re-inventors

SIDEBAR: To-do List

1. Actively plan for the next phase of your career - financially, intellectually and emotionally.

2. Ensure that you have a sustaining intellectual outlet.

3. Nurture your life and contacts outside of work.

4. Be prepared for a period of psychological adjustment between CIO-dom and the next phase of your life.

5. Don't be limited by boundaries. Recognize your working life as a continuum of changing opportunities.

6. Recognize the peak of your career is the mountain top - but have a planned descent rather than a plummet.

7. Don't be ageist. You can contribute for as long as you want.

8. Come to grips with the new rules affecting superannuation that were announced in the May Federal Budget.

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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