Philip Neutze CPA is the CFO of Auckland Airport Ltd, New Zealand's busiest airport.
New Zealand’s largest and busiest airport deals with 260,000 aircraft movements and 17.3 million passengers a year. Keeping track of so much traffic requires a CFO with both feet firmly on the ground.
The CFO role
I look after transactional finance, procurement, treasury and investor relations, legal, strategy and our business intelligence team. By market capitalisation, we’re the largest New Zealand listed company, with market cap of just over NZ$8 billion and annual revenue of about NZ$575 million.
We also monitor our associate companies, Queenstown Airport and North Queensland Airports.
But wait, there’s more
I also head up regulatory and aeronautical pricing, including the long-term infrastructure investment plans to support aircraft landings and departures, processing passengers through the terminal, processing freight and servicing aircraft on site.
Legal reports through me; a lot of that involves contract negotiation with airlines, duty-free operators, retailers and construction contractors.
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Where it all began
I grew up on a farm in the South Island, did an agricultural science degree then worked with the NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Palmerston North for three years. A statistician I worked with was into wheeling and dealing on the sharemarket. At morning tea, we’d chat about P/E [price/earnings] ratios and how to pick the right shares. He advised me to do an MBA, and that’s how I moved into the commercial arena.
The first was when I left science, studied an MBA and moved into the commercial world. I initially worked for Treasury in Wellington on tax policy, and the opportunity to move into investment banking was quite a milestone for me.
The second was when I decided I’d had enough of investment banking and put my corporate finance expertise into practice in the commercial sector. I moved to Auckland Airport six and a half years ago.
Thinking like a CFO: Making financial decisions ‐ learn how a CFO perspective is applied to many of the activities and financial decisions you make on a daily basis.
We focus on continuing professional development and encourage our teams to add to their qualifications. We’ve had a number of people who have become qualified accountants while they’ve been on the team. I always encourage my team to attend the annual CPA Congress – we get up a posse and attend together.
Absolutely key for a CFO is to have a great team – it can be an immensely busy role, so you need great people around you. Give them accountability, but make sure to have an open-door policy so you can clear away any issues.
Be prepared to delegate and mentor them so they understand clearly what you’re aiming to achieve, and pass on your experience and perspective.
While I was in banking, I worked with New Zealand’s Commerce Commission on competition law and aggregation of market power during mergers and acquisitions. Working for Treasury – and also for Auckland Council, where I did a three-year stint – gave me a good understanding of how to get the key messages across to politicians.
You’ve got to push the right buttons.