ROSHEEN GARNON

Na­tional manag­ing part­ner, tax, KPMG Ap­pointed Septem­ber 2009

The Australian - The Deal - - Meet The Boss -

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.

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