Commonwealth Bank CFO David Craig on Public Speaking and Leading the Pack

In this edition of the Robert Half CFO Masters series, Commonwealth Bank Chief Executive Officer David Craig talks about the importance of communication and the pursuit of excellence necessary to those seeking banking recruitment…

“I was always nervous about public speaking,” confesses accomplished financial professional David Craig, currently the Chief Financial Officer of Commonwealth Bank. It is precisely this candor and commitment to self-improvement, combined with his reputation in change management that marks him as a role model for young professionals seeking a  banking career.

Before joining Commonwealth Bank in 2006, David Craig was the CFO at Australand and spearheaded their complex re-capitalisation. Prior to that, he was Global Transition Finance Leader for IBM Business Consulting Service following the acquisition of PwC Consulting, where he held the title of Global Chief Financial Officer and was based in Philadelphia.

For 15 years he served PriceWaterhouseCoopers Australasia as Chief Operations Officer and Senior Audit Partner, specialising in banking, finance and management. Currently a director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Craig is a member of the Australian Institute of Company directors and the Finance and Treasury Organization.

“Look,” he says of the priorities in his high-profile position, “I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important communication is. In fact, I think in a very senior role like this it’s almost all communication. I spend all my time talking, explaining, whether it’s one-on-one or in very large groups, whether it’s to investors, to bankers, to whoever. I think that the skill of a good CFO is to take the very complicated and cut it down to the core essence and then try and explain that.”

But what about those nerves when it comes to public speaking? “It’s absolutely something I’ve worked on right from the beginning,” he says earnestly. “I got into Toastmasters, I’ve been on lots of courses, I just keep working and working at it. At the end of the day, to me it’s about two things: it’s about preparation, and it’s about really taking the thing seriously and coming up with a style that suits you. It took me a long while, but it certainly comes down to preparation and practice.”

This determination is part of a larger strategy to acquire the broad knowledge necessary in a banking and finance career. “Well, I think life, you know, we’re all lifelong learners, we have to be,” he says. “I’ve had all my core training. More and more these days there’s a huge amount of reading just to keep up with all the technical change in my industry and in the profession. So I take that seriously and spend a lot of time particularly on technical reading and in leadership reading.”

Craig is constantly striving for excellence in all facets of his company. “Always, always,” he avows. “Take a profession, an area like the banking industry. Lots of incredibly competitive and incredibly successful companies all doing the same thing. The only way we can beat them is by being better at absolutely everything we do. When someone gets the job done and they’re finished and they’ve achieved it, I say ‘great, now, can we do it better? What do we do next?’”.

Confronting your deficiencies head on, staying abreast of career-related information and constantly striving to be better: solid advice from a successful finance professional to those seeking a career in finance.