"I believe in orderly succession planning and board renewal": Q&A with OneVue Chair, Gail Pemberton November 2017


Gail Pemberton had the “deeply gratifying” experience of watching OneVue’s transition from start-up to listed company as the firm’s founding chair. Now, after 10 years in the role, she tells Industry Moves why it's the right time to move on. She also speaks of her introduction to the industry - "a very long time ago" - looks back on a challenging but exciting career highlight, names her greatest influencers, and shares a tip for her successor.

What initially attracted you to a career in financial services?

It was a very long time ago that I started in financial services. So long that I won’t share that date with you. To be honest at the outset of my career I was passionate about information technology. That’s where I wanted to invest my career. I think it says a lot about the financial services sector however that it was that sector that provided the early opportunities in technology careers. It was highly innovative at that time. And it was gender neutral – technology talent was scant and unlike many professional careers in that era there was no gender bias.

Why is now the right time to step away from your role as Chair of OneVue?

I believe in orderly succession planning and board renewal. Companies grow and change and new skills and leadership are required on the Board but this has to be balanced with continuity. I think that after 10 years as a Director one does start to lose some degree of independence of thought and at some stage, whether it’s after 10 or 12 years of tenure, Directors should retire. There’s never a perfect moment but there are different circumstances for each company and each Chairman/Director but in the case of OneVue, I believe the time is right for me to hand the leadership of the Board to Ron. That’s been our plan for some time.

Can you tell us about what it was like to watch OneVue transform from a start-up into the ASX 500 listed company that we see today?

It was deeply gratifying. Not just the achievement of the financial growth but also the relationships I’ve built and seeing the growth and development of the staff.

"The single most important relationship in a company is that between the Chair and the Managing Director"

What advice would you offer to your successor, Ronald Dewhurst?

Ron doesn’t need my advice. He’s a highly capable individual. But if I had to offer him just one piece of advice it would be to recognize that being the CEO of a listed small cap is a very tough and sometimes lonely role so he should always be present and supportive. That doesn’t mean there can’t be robust conversations but there also has to be trust and mutual respect. The single most important relationship in a company is that between the Chair and the Managing Director.

…and what’s the best piece of advice that you have received?

When making an investment, weighing up a job offer or a board appointment, don’t just look at the financial data. What makes companies successful in the longer term and great places to be, is their culture, their energy, how they treat their customers and their staff and the passion with which they articulate and live their mission.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life/career so far?

Allan Moss from Macquarie Bank had the greatest influence on my career while I was an executive. I’ve had many influences since I’ve moved to an NED career. Connie Mckeage has been an important one of those and a friend as well.

Can you share one of your career highlights with us?

When I was an executive at Macquarie and I’d only been there around 12 months, I was selected to put all of the systems in place for Macquarie to obtain its banking licence in 9 months. I had no staff at the outset. I’d never had that level of responsibility before without any guidance. It seems unbelievable today. But we did it and there wasn’t a glitch. It was the most difficult and challenging thing I’d ever achieved up until that point in my career but it was also the most exciting.

What was your very first job?

A trainee computer programmer at Sun Alliance insurance.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Like most things in life it’s about planning. Make sure the calendar has time marked out for travel, family and friends and exercise and “me” time.

What’s next on the cards for you?

More of the same. I may take on a new board role in time. I’m pretty happy with my professional and personal life.

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