Chris Corneil arrived in Australia as a fresh-faced backpacker some 25 years ago. He never left. After a distinguished career in financial services - the last four years of which spent as CEO, Australasia of Russell Investments - his professional life has taken a different turn.
Why did you leave financial services?
I spent 25 years in financial services and the last 15 years at Russell Investments. I left in 2013 following a corporate restructure.
Where are you now?
Today, I am focused on three main activities being corporate advisory, executive coaching and helping to scale up a not-for-profit organisation called StreetWork. Three quite diverse activities, however the common theme that strings them together is helping people (and organisations) manage through change. I wanted to contribute to helping people in diverse and challenging environments.
In what way is your new industry different to financial services?
While many of the issues have a familiarity about them, it’s the organizational context that is different. The “context” in segments like real estate, health & fitness, electrical contracting, not-for-profit and government is quite different to that of financial services.
What do you like about it?
I love the variety and diversity of the issues, segments, and people. Everyday I feel like I am using a combination of my “hard” skills to think through strategic, operational or financial matters and then I flip into helping executives develop their “soft” skills. Several times a week I come home feeling like I have helped to positively change someone’s life. It’s very rewarding and meaningful work and I’ve enjoyed it in a way I didn’t expect.
What don’t you like about it?
When you’re permanently attached to an organisation, and particularly if you are trying to do hard stuff or build something, there’s nothing like the éspirit du corps that develops when your team is successful.
What did you learn in financial services that has helped you in your new role?
Whether it’s manufacturing new products, developing new lines of business or relationships, managing supply chains, distribution channels, or things like strategic change, financial management, regulation and governance, etc., my time in financial services has provided a great platform to use in other sectors. Ultimately putting an organisation together in a compelling way that enables it to thrive is a universal challenge, and developing great people in that endeavor is a constant.
What do you miss about financial services?
Many of my personal and professional relationships are as a result of my time in financial services. I miss not having the same amount of time and opportunities to stay connected with all the great people I have known and respected over the years.
Would you go back to a career in financial services? I am still interested in financial services because of its importance within the wider Australian community. I am considering Board roles to create an ongoing link with the industry and given I am still only half way through my career, it is possible I will return to a role at some stage.