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38 Charter I August 2011
CEOs with 4 sight
The CEOs of the Big 4 accounting firms tell Charter
about their visions for the future of Australian business.
Story Tony Malkovic
You might think that the leaders of
Australia’s Big Four firms don’t always
see eye-to-eye. But when it comes to the
future of Australian business and prospects
for the accounting profession, there’s a solid
consensus that there’s cause for optimism.
Although parts of the economy are in the
doldrums and there are several tripwires to
watch out for, they’re upbeat about our long-
term prospects. But they say we still need
to come to terms with key issues inside and
outside of the office.
Those are some of the thoughts that
emerged when we sought the views of the
Big 4 CEOs – Deloitte’s Giam Swiegers FCA,
KPMG’s Geoff Wilson FCA, PwC’s Mark
Johnson FCA and Ernst &Young’s
Rob McLeod FCA.
CHARTER: How do you see Australia
fitting into the international business
community in the next couple of
Giam Swiegers, Deloitte: I am very
optimistic. I think we will continue to punch
above our weight. We have a country that
is in very good shape and I think we will
be taken more and more seriously by the
international business community.
Geoff Wilson, KPMG: Australia is incredibly
well placed for the next couple of decades.
Our challenge, though, is how do we
take advantage of that as a country? And
while the opportunity today is around the
resources sector, there are many other
opportunities for Australia including in
finance, infrastructure and knowledge
economy partnerships. Our challenge is to
diversify and leverage this unique position
Mark Johnson, PwC: I don’t think there’s
any other country you’d rather be in than
Australia. There’s so much opportunity,
particularly with Asia and China. I visited
China with the Prime Minster earlier this
year as part of a trade delegation. The
relationship between our countries is good
and there are oodles of opportunity. If you
take our firm as an example, a third of our
revenues are now sourced through China,
directly or indirectly. That’s a huge change
in the past few years.
I actually think the best years are still
ahead of us. And not just in resources,
there are plenty of opportunities in financial
services, in professional services and the
services sector in general. Engagement
with Asia is fundamental to our success.
But I think we need to recognise that
our willingness to share knowledge and
experience will be just as important as
mining.The good news is that the accounting
firms are all very prepared to do that.
CHARTER: What are the opportunities
and challenges for us?
Rob McLeod, Ernst & Young: I think the
opportunities for Australia are massive. That
means demands for labour and capital are
But there is a big challenge for business
to examine innovative ways of expanding the
workforce and bringing people back into the
workforce, invariably that’s about flexibility of
Businesses have to think about how to
engage what is an ageing and shrinking
labour force. I think that’s a very significant
matter for Australia.
A related challenge is that Australia faces
the risk of exporting a lot of its young talent.
That competition to retain and attract people
through immigration policy is easier said
than done but it’s something we have to be
extremely sensitive to.
GS: We have to make the most of this
boom. We should not allow this boom to slip
past without making the most of it.
The challenge for us is what do we do with
the two-speed economy.
How do we ensure we make the
necessary investments so that when this
resource boom ends – as it will – that we
have a country that will continue to grow.
MJ: I believe the opportunities far outweigh
the challenges. I think one of the bigger
challenges we have as a country and as a
profession is talent. For instance, how do
you attract and retain the right talent? How
do we have immigration and education
policies that make sure we exploit the
opportunities? And it’s the same with our
profession. We’re in a war for talent with
other professions and businesses and
government. I think infrastructure is the
other big challenge. The problem is our
transport systems and infrastructure are
creaking around this country.
CHARTER: How optimistic are you about
MJ: I’m an optimist. There’ll be forks in the
road – there always are – but Australia is
such a lucky country. The choices we make
are important: for instance, how we engage
with China, how we re-invest back in the
country and how we develop industries and
sectors beyond resources.
GS: I think we have a very entrepreneurial
group of business leaders and an environment
I think we need to recognise that
our willingness to share knowledge
and experience will be just as
important as mining.
Mark Johnson FCA
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