Janelle Whyte CPA is navigating a brand new role as financial controller of Fremantle sailing club in Perth.
Some sage advice from a former boss led Janelle Whyte CPA to make the decision that accelerated her accounting career. “I had a brilliant mentor who was instrumental in my decision to go for CPA accreditation,” she says. “I’m so grateful for that nudge, because being a CPA has opened doors for me that wouldn’t have existed otherwise – including, most recently, a role with the level of flexibility needed when juggling a young family.”
Early in her career, Whyte worked as an auditor for a mid-tier firm in Perth, which required a lot of travel.
“I was doing a lot of travel north to Broome and other parts of Western Australia and, because you’re dealing with a lot of different places and different organisations, you get really good skills and understand how different places work,” Whyte says, adding it was a great way to gain experience and get the groundwork she needed.
In 2006, she became senior finance manager at YMCA, where she oversaw a team of 10. It was important to her to work on relationships and build a happy team. “You’re only as good as your team,” she insists. “That’s my number one thing: making sure people are happy in their workplace and happy doing their role. That way you have a great team.”
In 2012, Whyte took a new position as financial controller for Perth-based stockbroker and wealth manager DJ Carmichael, where she worked for seven years.
In June this year, DJ Carmichael was sold to national wealth management house Shaw and Partners, which was looking to expand its presence in Western Australia (WA).
Whyte says there have recently been extra regulation and compliance costs placed on the financial services industry.
“With the Royal Commission [Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry], the industry is bracing for more. For smaller brokers that is harder to manage, so it makes sense to merge to achieve economies of scale.
“We explored a lot of different avenues to build DJ Carmichael, and we were highly successful. The business really turned around in the past five years, which put us in a strong position to amalgamate with another broker.”
While some people find adapting to new systems stressful, Whyte thrives on change. “I guess no one’s really comfortable in change, but if you’re more open to it, then you can get better experience that way,” she says.
Being agile also means she can adapt well to market changes and circumstances out of her control. “A lot of accountants have had to change companies quite regularly since the WA mining boom,” she explains. “There appear to be more opportunities in comparison to the prior three years; however, there is a lot of contract work rather than permanent positions. This is a challenge in itself.”
Keen to expand her skills once again, Whyte moved out of financial services this year, into a new position as financial controller at Fremantle Sailing Club (FSC).
“I wanted to learn a new industry,” she says. “FSC is one of the largest sailing clubs in Australia. I thought it’d be something really different.”
Like DJ Carmichael, FSC is family friendly and a quick, easy commute from Whyte’s home. With two young children, she appreciates being able to work flexibly, but acknowledges that she’s also become much better at managing her time.
“You always think you have good time management skills, but once you have kids, you’re really forced to have exceptional ones,” she says. “I think that’s the biggest thing with working mums: every minute, every half hour counts, and you just don’t waste time.”
A keen runner, Whyte says exercise helps her stay fit and manage stress. “It gives me a sense of calmness combined with energy to take on the next challenge.” She also believes in not being too hard on yourself. “If you’re managing things as well as you can, you can only control what you can control.
“I can’t control the market. I can only make quick decisions based on the information I’m given,” she says. “I guess that’s one way I deal with things: pre-empting and looking to where the organisation should be going or could be improving. I also think if you take care of your clients, your clients will take care of you.”
One piece of advice
“If you don’t know the answer, don’t pretend you do or make something up. You’re better off coming back with the correct answer, not making something up because you feel under pressure.”