Open communication and adaptability: Two CPAs on success at NAB

Jerome Tymms CPA and Shaun Steenkamp CPA from National Australia Bank (NAB). Photo: Jarrod Barnes.

Jerome Tymms CPA and Shaun Steenkamp CPA from National Australia Bank (NAB) attribute their strong working relationship to open communication and being adaptable, while making the most of their complementary skills in learning from each other.

Jerome Tymms CPA

Head of financial control and governance for group business services at NAB

I first met Shaun when he was working for the bank’s group accounting policy team on the implementation of the new Australian Accounting Standards. I was dealing with him, given that part of my responsibilities is looking after our property portfolio as well as the strategic sourcing team, and the lease accounting standard had impacts on both.

The three words I’d use to describe my first impression of Shaun are confident, capable and thorough. Even though he was articulate and knew his subject matter well, when people asked questions or made suggestions, he would listen intently before responding, rather than necessarily presuming he had it covered. When he didn’t know, he was quite frank about it and would say, “I’ll get back to you”.

I thought he would be good for the finance partner position in the enterprise property and strategic sourcing team, and that the role would be good for him. It’s a role that requires a certain level of technical accounting knowledge, which he had demonstrated through the accounting standard policy implementation.

That impressed me – I thought I could use some of that technical knowledge in the team. The way he carried himself also gave me comfort that he could lean into a more commercially focused, stakeholder management-type role. I considered it a good development fit for him in terms of his future and the skills he could build.

He has settled in well. Shaun is highly organised, structured and methodical in his work. He is very good at sharing his knowledge with junior team members. He has also very quickly built strong relationships with some of the senior stakeholders in the sourcing and property teams. These relationships are critical to him being effective in the role. 

Although it’s a strength, his thoroughness can slow him down in our fast-paced work environment. His ability to turn around that first iteration quickly is something that he’s developing at the moment.

We’re both open communicators. We’re happy to talk about what’s going well and what isn’t. That really helps in keeping the lines of communication open. Overall, he’s adaptable, and I’m adaptable too, which is necessary for the role.

Where we differ is that I think more freely and will move from topic to topic fairly fluidly, whereas Shaun is a little bit more structured in his thinking. He manages me well when I have thoughts across a range of topics in one discussion.

For me, learning how to check in with him and coach him in the right way has been a bit of an experiment. It’s teaching me to step back – I don’t necessarily need to know everything that’s going on. He’s very capable.

Having been in a commercial role for a long time, I’m enjoying getting a refresher from Shaun in some of the nuances of accounting standards.

What Jerome would change about Shaun: I don’t think I’d change anything about him. He’ll develop in his own way.

Shaun Steenkamp CPA

Finance partner, enterprise property and strategic sourcing at NAB

I first met Jerome two years ago, when I was the associate director for group accounting policy at NAB. I worked closely with Jerome on a project to understand how the Australian Accounting Standards Board’s new leasing standard would affect the bank.

He struck me then as very detail-focused. He understood what he was talking about and asked challenging questions. In that first impression, he came across as quite intimidating.

Once the project finished, he asked me if I was interested in trying something different – a role with more commercial exposure than the policy-focused roles I’d previously performed. I said yes, and in December 2019, started working for him as finance partner in enterprise property and strategic sourcing.

From the outside looking in, Jerome appears to be a strict manager. Once you’re within his team, his work style is a lot more relaxed. He likes to say that he’s not a line-of-sight manager, so he doesn’t care where I am and what I’m doing on a particular day, as long as I deliver the outcomes that we’ve agreed on.

He often talks about the 80/20 rule – he knows there is a time when close enough is good enough, and he knows when you need to prepare an accurate answer.

Overall, he expects high-quality and very considered work, but he’s a huge proponent of work–life balance. My wife had our first baby in late December last year, and he’s been very supportive.

He doesn’t mind me working from home or taking the day off here and there if I need to. He’s very accommodating. I have quite a lot of flexibility to do what I need, which is quite interesting, because that’s not the impression I had when I first met him.

Jerome consistently displays good judgement.

Being a financial professional, you get queries from every angle, but he’s very good at avoiding knee-jerk reactions. One of his strengths is deciding what’s important and what isn’t, and what needs to be answered to what degree of accuracy.

He takes a very methodical approach to managing people’s expectations of what the finance function can deliver.

He knows when to step back and reconsider a problem and look for a better answer – although it’s challenging when that happens very close to when you’re meant to deliver the final outcome.

What Shaun would change about Jerome: His 8 o’clock “let’s discuss” emails. It turns out there are a few people in his team who joke about the same thing.

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