Aiming to ensure a healthy result

AS the chief financial officer and deputy chief executive officer of NIB, Michelle McPherson will be in the hot seat this morning to provide forensic financial detail on the health insurer’s half-year profit results.

But while she acknowledges the stress that comes in the lead-up to such events – the webcast of today’s results is streamed to allow NIB’s 160,000-plus shareholders, and interested punters, to tune in – her anxiety stems from another source.   

‘‘We do get feedback saying our level of disclosure is very good, but that means my team has to perform at a very high level. They do, but that puts a lot of pressure on them and their families and their work-life balance,’’ says the mother-of-two.

‘‘We all pull together to get it done but it can mean long hours sometimes. But we are happy to do that because we can see the results.’’

Mrs McPherson’s personal score card is also impressive. 

Raised in Sydney, she planned to be a teacher but instead became a chartered accountant, obtaining a bachelor of business and graduating from the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Hired by Caltex Australia in 1993, she rose through the ranks to become general manager of one of its service divisions. 

In 2003, she joined NIB as chief financial officer and relocated to Maitland, where her horticulturist husband Andrew was raised. 

Playing a driving role to prepare the health insurer to list  publicly , Mrs McPherson says its ‘‘seamless transition’’ to the ASX in 2007 remains a highlight.

So too the company’s move a year later to its eco-friendly   Honeysuckle headquarters.

‘‘We’ve created a workplace where our people are happy and enthused to be part of the organisation, can work collaboratively, and grow and develop and have access to new opportunities.’’  

Mrs McPherson is a director at the Newcastle Port Corporation, a non-executive director at the Hunter Valley Grammar School and the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, on the University of Newcastle Foundation Advisory Board and the university’s board of advice at the faculty of business and law.

With her office overlooking the port, she’s been known to call Newcastle Port Corporation boss Gary Webb to check a vessel isn’t in trouble and says her directorship with the corporation has enhanced her role at NIB.  

‘‘As a CFO reporting to a board, it can be hard to put myself in the shoes of the directors in terms of understanding where they come from,’’ she says. 

Mrs McPherson says her role at NIB is constantly evolving, and last year another addition was taking on responsibility for the training of frontline staff. 

Last week NIB announced a 6.6per cent rise in premiums following the federal government’s approval of a 5.6per cent increase. Mrs McPherson says it’s never pleasant to deliver such news but stresses NIB is focused on adding new products to meet the needs of its customers.  

Mrs McPherson credits her husband, the primary carer of their primary school-aged children, for being a good leveller when she’s wound up about work.  

‘‘He’ll say ‘is anyone going to die?’ and I’ll say ‘No, they are just numbers on pages’ – but you take it seriously because it is important.’’

GIVING FOCUS OF FORUM 

PHILANTHROPY has hit the front pages recently thanks to the multi-million-dollar donations by businessmen Graham Tuckwell and John Grill to educational institutions.

On Wednesday it will be topical in Newcastle at an educational forum organised by Fitzpatricks Private Wealth, in association with Westpac Helicopter and Targeted Business Solutions.

David Ward, of the Australian Philanthropic Services, will speak on the various giving structures and taxation incentives available. 

For more information on the event, to be held at the helicopter service’s Broadmeadow base, call Kristyn Pratt at Fitzpatricks on 49265099.  

Meanwhile, Kahibah Sports Club is holding a bowls gala on March 3 to add to the $50,000 it has raised for Westpac Helicopter. To register a team or find out more information call the club on 49432987.

HELPING SMALL BUSINESS

RETAIL is doing it tough and with this in mind the Business Centre (Newcastle Region) on King Street and the Australian Retailers Association will next month host a development program designed to assist small businesses. 

The program aims to refresh skills, advance knowledge and investigate behaviours to ensure the economic sustainability of local retailers.

For more information call the centre on 49257700.

BUSSING IN TO ADVISE

THE Small Biz Bus rolls into town today and will park at the corner of Darby and Queen streets, in Cooks Hill, between 10am and 5pm.

A panel of advisory ‘‘passengers’’ on the bus – an initiative of the NSW Government and sponsored by NAB and Telstra – will provide free, high-quality advice to local businesses. 

NEW  LEGAL APPOINTMENT

SPARKE Helmore has boosted its Newcastle ranks with the appointment of Martin Taylor, Jennifer Anderson and Darren Rankine. The three special counsel join the commercial and projects group, which comprises more than 15 specialist lawyers, including four partners.

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