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My day with the public sector CFO of the Year

My day with the public sector CFO of the Year

A Victoria university student shares his experience of a full day shadowing with Paul Helm, CFO of NZ Transport Agency

I have recently accomplished my first shadowing of a top level executive manager and decided to share what I have learnt with others. My day started at 8.30am in the NZTA building in Wellington and Paul certainly didn’t waste any time. Straight from the beginning, he explained his two fundamental beliefs:

1. A smart CFO never says “no” to any project, but merely describes the consequences of any action. This is particularly important in a publicly-owned corporation, which manages the taxpayers’ money, but also applies in any other privately owned companies as well. The idea is that the decision making body (government, CEO, shareholders etc.) makes an informed decision based on CFO’s input, it is not for the CFO to allocate the money (as I have falsely believed).

2. Paul’s business plan throughout the years has always been the same: Customer-driven and fiscally responsible. Both parts are equally important and will not work without the each other. Delivering excellent services that put us in huge debt is just as irresponsible as focusing solely on the financials of a project.

A CFO’s day seems to be filled with meetings with various stakeholders – be it his team members, managers from different departments seeking consultation on NZTA projects, a friendly visit from an overseeing auditor, or just an informal coffee with the general manager. The highlight of my day was to witness how Paul has taught his people how to think and operate independently, be responsible for your own work and never micro manage.
This experience has given me a great insight into the everyday life of a CFO. I’m very grateful such shadowing exists (a big thanks goes to the CPA Australia for organising this) and would certainly like to encourage others to pursue similar goals and undertake any practical challenges to broaden their views.

David Rektorys,
Victoria University student

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