Greg Bryant, CFO of Suncorp Bank
What was your career path to becoming CFO?
I’ve been in the finance industry my entire career after completing a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting and the CPA program, and then later a Masters of Applied Finance. During the final two years of my Bachelor degree, I undertook an accounting traineeship with a small credit union, before progressing within the company to a Financial Accountancy role. Starting out in a smaller financial institution allowed me to develop my skills and knowledge across a very broad range of finance functions.
I changed track a few years on, moving into risk management for approximately five years, advising financial institutions around the world on risk management practices before moving back into a range of management accountant, finance and treasury roles at several other institutions. Throughout this time I gained valuable skills in managing large teams and being a core part of executive teams, with direct assessment and guidance provided on financial impacts of strategic direction and business plans, as well as ensuring fundamental financial risks and sensitivities were understood and managed by those involved.
I’ve been with Suncorp for eight years in a number of senior finance roles, including playing a part in helping the Bank manage through the challenges of the GFC. I would classify this as one of the best learning curves for me, and no doubt for anyone in the financial services industry, with this experience certainly better equipping me for taking on the role of CFO in April 2012 and my future career.
What are some of the challenges you face in your role as CFO?
One of the biggest challenges is taking the time to step back from the day-to-day operations of the business to reflect on the more strategic challenges and opportunities. It is an element I see as core to my role and core to the success of all organisations if they want to stay ahead of the curve and adapt swiftly to the ever-changing environment and trends. It’s certainly an area to which our team is committed.
How has the CFO role changed or evolved during your time in the industry?
The role of CFO, and the roles of finance teams more broadly, have transitioned from that of scorekeepers to strategic partners of the business. Finance teams are focused on providing timely, accurate, relevant and concise information and analysis that empowers the organisation to make decisions. The role of CFO is that of a strategic leader of the business, focused on working with the executive team on developing, executing and delivering the business strategy.
What’s one of the biggest challenges in the industry at the moment that affects CFOs?
The ongoing rate of change, whether it be in response to global uncertainty, challenges flowing from the GFC, regulatory change, technology or even consumer preferences, the finance industry is undergoing, and will continue to undergo, is a significant challenge. Keeping teams motivated and focused on delivering the programs of work required to ensure these changes are implemented in a timely manner is a key focus.
What is your advice for other CFOs just starting out in their careers?
I believe continuous learning and sharing of knowledge to be vital for any professional in any field, and at any stage of one’s career. I don’t think we can ever really stop learning, and in today’s fast-paced and constantly changing environment, the power of continuing education cannot be underestimated. Encouraging members of my team to keep learning and to empower them in their own roles to make decisions and make a difference is also very important to me. I hope it’s something other CFOs do not lose sight of as they enter these senior roles. I also believe maintaining an approachable and open demeanour is important.