Starting with Beach Energy in 1997 as its sole finance person, Kathryn Presser is now company secretary as well as CFO.
When she joined, the company had five employees and turnover was A$1 million. Now it's about A$800 million, with 200 staff.
In the beginning
After school I had a part-time stint in the army before working for an accounting firm. In the army I was in ordnance support and logistics. Then I went into banking before helping with the start-up of the Adelaide Casino in internal audit – that was a bit of an eye-opener. After a period at university, I went into support for the oil and gas industry through aviation – helicopter and fixed-wing – in the late 1990s.
I’m from an army family. My father was a civilian in the military and I’ve been with the Army Reserve for about 20 years. Through that experience I’ve developed a lot of leadership skills. It’s all about decision-making, sometimes under adverse conditions.
Getting out of the banking industry to become internal audit manager in the rollout and opening of the Adelaide Casino. The next major boost was the Beach CFO role in 2005. It’s not until you step back a little that you get that career perspective and think, yes, I’m the CFO of a top ASX 100 company. I actually made it!
I treat Beach’s finance and admin team as a current operations team – day-to-day accounting and management of numbers and operations; and a future operations team – cost control, budgeting, forecasting. Our turnover depends on the oil price. A big part of it is our capital expenditure budget of A$500 million. About A$300 million is in oil and gas development, maintaining cash flow and operations. About A$200 million goes on exploration, looking for new prospects locally and overseas. The oil price is going in the right direction at the moment, which has increased our revenue: our revenues are about 60 per cent oil, 40 per cent gas.
We had a foray into coal-seam gas, but it wasn’t a good fit. There comes a time when you have to say, it’s not for us. It’s hard letting go when you put your heart and soul into something. Industry was saying, this is the way of the future and you’re getting out? But a few years later you can step back and say you made the correct decision.
Best career move
Making the move to oil and gas in 1997. Coming to a company that was in disarray was a big gamble, and it was about to embark on significant litigation. The oil price was low, between A$10 and A$12 a barrel – very uncertain times. But I felt the company had a lot of integrity. I liked its values and the move provided the opportunity to use my skills in budget planning, financing, reporting and managing.
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I’ve learned persistence at Beach – and belief in the company, particularly at the start when shareholders were giving us a hard time, wanting to sell the company. It’s a success story: to go from a A$10 million company to a A$1.8 billion company. Because we have such a flat structure here we can be nimble and make things happen. The lesson is you can work together to make it happen.
This article is from the February 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.