Andrew Conway is not your typical 29-year-old. As CEO of the National Institute of Accountants (NIA), he has the responsibility of driving an ambitious growth strategy for one of the nation’s peak accounting bodies. However, this self-starter already has a robust resume that illustrates a proven track record in the accounting profession.
Conway worked as an accountant for an insolvency firm in Melbourne before being appointed as the chief of staff to one of the federal treasury ministers. He has also played a direct role in shaping corporate regulation with the Australian Government by being appointed as a representative of the government to international delegations including as an observer of the 2002 congressional elections in the United States.
We spoke with Conway about his accomplishments and plans for the future.
What ignited your desire to have a career in accounting?
I have always had a passion for accounting. Ultimately, my desire to have a career in the profession is driven by a fundamental belief in the role of the accountant in driving wealth creation for individuals and businesses.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment thus far?
Being appointed as CEO of one of Australia’s recognized professional accounting bodies is something I am very proud of. In my role prior to the Institute, I was working within the federal treasury ministry and had direct involvement and oversight of a range of corporate law reforms. This resulted in changes to financial services, corporate regulation and national competition policy.
In addition, I am a director of a not-for-profit community broadcasting body for which, in part, I received a Centenary of Federal Medal through the Australian Honours system. However, in terms of accomplishments, I would suggest most recently having been appointed by the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics as a Professor of Accounting is an accomplishment I am both proud of and keen to pursue.
What are some of the most important attributes of being a business leader in the accounting field?
I believe it is important to have an appreciation of the broader context of the impact of the profession. There is a direct economic impact made by the profession and this is critical in a developed economy. This extends to understanding the profession-political realities such as the standard setting environment; understanding the regulatory interface and workings of governments; being forthright yet diplomatic, but critically maintaining a focus on the impact on members.
We operate with an Executive Management Group which meets on a weekly basis and when we are discussing a proposal, the constant question asked is, ‘What impact will this have on our members?’ For us, members are ‘number one’.
Can you discuss your role within NIA?
In my capacity as CEO, I have overall responsibility for the operations. We have completed a program of systematic review of our strategy and have reviewed and upgraded a range of infrastructure such as our e-commerce platforms. These are designed to ensure we are optimising the efficient use of members’ resources. My principal focus is on our members.
The success and longevity of the organisation rests upon our ability to provide members with the best and broadest possible services to assist them in their work, whether that is in practice, commerce, academe, public sector or in their studies. We have a growing membership base abroad and have developed a strong model in China and Malaysia resulting in a network of offices and member service centres throughout the region.
Why is it important that Australia has a stronger, globalized accounting profession?
A globalised accounting profession is foundation stone for capital market growth. Australia will continue to play a significant role in the development of the accounting profession in developing countries. This will enhance transparency and financial stability in countries and will lead to sustained periods of growth an opportunity. Australian accountants are therefore in a unique position to assist in the evolution of this change and make a real difference.
What are your future goals and aspirations?
I am completely committed to the NIA. I fundamentally believe in what we are doing and in our plans for the future. We have ambitious plans and are fortunate to have a team of wonderful people and a fantastically supportive membership. We therefore not only have the plan, but the capacity and enthusiasm to execute those plans. They will result in membership growth, enhanced influence and a greater regional footprint whilst providing the best possible accounting education program.
You’re clearly a busy young man! What are some of your leisurely pursuits when you’re not working?
I spend as much time as I can with my family. My wife Amanda and I recently welcomed our second child, a little boy Christian into the world. Christian’s big sister Aria is a doting toddler and so I love nothing more than to spend time with my family and friends. I also love music. Whether it is seeing live music of any kind or playing music, I find it extremely fulfilling.