Meet the double-duty CFO at NZ Inland Revenue

Giles Southwell FCPA. Photograph: Woolf Photography.

Giles Southwell FCPA, CFO at NZ Inland Revenue, has taken on a new challenge in the NZ Ministry of Health.

When is a CFO not a CFO? When he’s turning his expertise to the technology needs of another sector.

The role

As CFO at NZ Inland Revenue, I have oversight for 80 per cent of crown revenue, with a team of about 250 covering facilities management through to crown accounting, departmental accounting, planning, financial performance and investment support. 

At the moment, I’m on secondment to the Ministry of Health as its chief technology and digital services officer ... supporting information/communications technology needs and taking forward the emerging technology agenda.

Why change horses?

I took on the Ministry of Health secondment for my own personal development. Ultimately, technology underpins everything and is where significant opportunities and investments will occur. From a CFO perspective, it was important to gain a better understanding of the role that technology will play in the future.

Passion for serving

I’ve always been a public servant – passionate about working in the public service – in the UK and now NZ. I believe you have to be interested in the end product, and what is more interesting than providing services to help people operate effectively and participate actively in society?

Professional Development: Thinking like a CFO - mind-set and financial priorities: learn basic tips to get you thinking like a CFO and importance of having this perspective.

In the beginning

I never set out to be an accountant. I originally worked for the Audit Commission in the UK, primarily because I wanted to work in the public service. They provided external audits to police, fire, local government, transport and the health service. I’ve always focused my career on value for money, performance improvement, business planning, performance management – the more strategic financial end of accounting.

Lessons learned

I realised as CFO at Inland Revenue that it’s one thing to be confident and comfortable in your own functional discipline, but when you take on a broader role, it’s important to provide leadership not only to your own staff but to also recognise the importance of different perspectives in reaching better decisions. You have to find time for people and ensure you provide an environment for them to grow.

Game changer

While I was working at the Audit Commission in the UK, I was involved in developing and rolling out several significant changes in the audit and inspection regime across English local government. Being involved in such national programs made me appreciate the power of change and the importance of improving public services – and sparked my enthusiasm for working with multidisciplinary teams across multiple organisations. 


NZ Inland Revenue is one of CPA Australia’s recognised employer partners. The Recognised Employer Program acknowledges organisations who have met world-class professional development standards for finance and accounting employees.



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August 2016
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