CFO (Assistant Secretary) Department of the Environment, Australia Finance is more than numbers for Lily Viertmann. It’s a way to focus people on a common goal, and even change mindsets.
The position involves financial management, but I also look after the procurement function, contract management, and all the corporate support units are my responsibility. I see my role as a wide one in terms of being a partner to the business and positioning the organisation for the future. My guiding principle is to leave the place better than I found it. I have more than 100 staff and oversight for a budget of about A$2 billion.
The biggest challenge is always changing the culture of an organisation: getting people to think differently about their roles, how to do things differently rather than just accepting the status quo – to keep pushing the boundaries and moving forward. Not everyone is comfortable with change, but I love reforms. I love working with people to bring about change. I’ve been lucky in that I have a fantastic leadership team who have given me great continuity and stability. You’re only as good as the people with you.
The road to Environment
My career started with a stint in the private sector and university administration. I only came to Canberra because my husband was offered a position. Now I’ve been a public servant for more than 20 years! Government is so diverse and you have the opportunity to really make a difference. I’ve always had pretty broad interests and have amassed quite a depth of experience working in Finance, Treasury, Health, Workplace Relations and Defence. I moved from Defence to establish two new organisations by merging five. I moved to Environment about six years ago.
What is a CFO’s role?
A knack for numbers is important, but that is only a small part of the role of a CFO. It’s about being strategic, building partnerships, customer focus, problem solving and achieving results. It’s about making the complex simpler. I’ve got a passion for helping demystify finance. Many people think it is the domain of the bean-counters, but finance is really everybody’s business. It’s about leadership, bringing people on a journey and all contributing to that one outcome. You can’t do it by yourself.
What we do
The Department of the Environment’s role is to advise on and implement environment policy, to support the Australian Government in achieving a healthy environment, strong economy and thriving community now and for the future. We also control the country’s largest ever market-based environmental water recovery program – about A$2.4 billion worth of water entitlements – and manage Australia’s strategic interests in the Antarctic, the research stations and transport. The portfolio also includes the Bureau of Meteorology, the Clean Energy Regulator and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
This article is from the September issue of INTHEBLACK