National managing partner, tax, KPMG Appointed September 2009
I’m from the Canberra-Goulburn area, off a property. I travelled 30 kilometres to school when I was only four and a half. Every afternoon I’d have to find the bus, and think about what to do if it didn’t turn up. I had a high level of responsibility very early.
In my last year of school, I was an exchange student in the US. I went to Washington DC to study all aspects of government and that turned my mind to economics.
I completed a Bachelor of Economics majoring in accounting and a Bachelor of Laws from the Australian National University. I graduated in 1988. My mother was disabled and only went to Grade 6. My father, coming off a farm, did the school certificate. They realised how important education was and making the most of opportunities. My being the first [of three children] to go to university was a big thing for them.
My first job was as a tax graduate with Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Company, the predecessor to KPMG. I became a chartered accountant, worked in corporate tax and met my husband Jeff, who also worked for KPMG. In 1990, he was offered a secondment to Britain for 18 months and I transferred, too.
Back in Australia we realised we hadn’t made the most of our time in Britain, and so we returned in 1993 with KPMG. I worked with extremely large global clients, who moved expatriates around the world. We helped them manage the tax responsibilities.
I was working with seven female partners, which was extremely unusual. It enabled me to understand how they operated and then choose the aspects I thought would suit me. It was challenging work because you’re dealing with different organisations, cultures and laws and explaining that to clients.
In 1996, I took eight months’ maternity leave after I had our first son, Michael. Then the British firm started talking to me about a partnership, so we had to decide if we would commit to being there. But coming home was an easy decision. The firm enabled me to transfer back here in 1997.
I had our son Andrew one year later and then in 2000 I was made a partner. I was working with six partners and they were all aged over 50 and scheduled to retire within eight years. So I was put in charge, aged 39, in 2002.
In 2006, I was made global head of international executive services, with 2500 staff across 128 countries. I was travelling about 30 per cent of my time. Jeff took a break and looked after the boys. I was worried he had given up a career, but he loves it. He’s still based at home, but has taken on projects.
Today, I lead 76 partners and about 750 staff. My mantra is that we grow the most by doing the most difficult things. Because we both started out on the same career track, Jeff understands what I do. He will be there asking questions and making me think in a different way. That’s gold.