Moving up the echelons of Finance

Moving up the echelons of Finance

10 minute read

Rod Jackson


While ascending the proverbial corporate ladder, there will be several points of opportunities. However, the climb should not overlook one’s family priorities or your partner’s career.

This was one of the leading reflections shared by Westpac International’s CFO Rod Jackson at an alumni engagement event hosted by the ANU College of Business and Economics in Singapore, where Rod reflected on his 40-year career and his ascendency on the corporate ladder.

“One of the key challenges that we will all face in our career, besides where we are headed, is how will we manage our family and friends in it. This is probably the first decision that I had to make,” Rod admitted.


In a candid speech, Rod disclosed the key junctures that he faced in his professional life. Tracing back his journey from his time at The Australian National University to the family decision to move to London and then later to Singapore. Dotted with dilemmas and opportunities, Rod painted a picture to the audience of what the corporate ladder is in the world of Finance.

“When job opportunities came to me or I sought after them, I would have to ask ‘will this job take me where I need to go?’ I think this is where career goals help in making decisions. It is not always just your career that should take priority. Your family and your partner’s career has to take priority too,” Rod asserted.

In a career spanning over four decades, Rod has been responsible for Westpac’s financial and strategy management for eight countries - US, UK, India, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Fiji and Papua New Guinea – overseeing operations of over 80 Finance teams.

It is critical to develop new learning styles while ascending the corporate have a mind set to learn and grow

His previous positions at Westpac included Chief Operating Officer (Europe & Americas), General Manager (Finance), and Chief Financial Officer (Retail and Business Banking) in Sydney. He has also served as the Chief Financial Officer of St George Bank. 

Rod believes that having diversity in experience also helps one decide what area to focus on, especially when there are multiple corporate ladders to choose from. 

Rod recalled the moments that pressed him to consolidate his career by pursuing a Masters, and phases that required him to focus on his family. He urged the audience to experience an international Masters program, as one gets trained in several disciplines and could gain a rich experience with potentially 32 nationalities in their class, like he did.

Moreover, Rod further emphasised how critical it is to develop new learning styles while ascending the corporate ladder. A point he summarised by calling it “mind set versus skill set”.

“For instance, I have a skill set in economics and accounting but there are not enough jobs for people with those skill sets. Mind sets, on the other hand, is a learning style, an aptitude; a willingness to take things on; a willingness to adapt and grow; and it is the difference we need in our students today. It isn’t just learning a skill set in technical aspects but a mind set to learn and grow,” he said.

From a leadership perspective, Rod considers that the softer skills of any leader has never been more important. He urged leaders to be more open, flexible, ready to take on ideas, keep diversity of the things around them, respect and encourage differences, and certainly encourage flexibility.

 CBE Associate Dean Vinh Lu, Rod Jackson and CBE Dean Steven Roberts.

In addition, he believes that for a leader there is no substitute tool or mantra, better than sitting down with people to feel inspired. 

Responding to an audience question on corporate resilience, Rod regards it as a “tough yet important” trait to have as the corporate world is becoming more difficult in the era of technology, further stating that he fears that there is a human loss involved in the corporate structuring. He pointed out that corporate cultures, governance, risk management, and compliance issues are huge challenges that are involved in reducing human loss.


Speaking about his time at ANU, Rod confessed that the environment at ANU opened his eyes beyond academics, including to his own politics views.

“Having grown up in a dairy farm in rural Victoria, then to go to a primary school where I was the only student in year 6, my opportunity at ANU really opened my eyes. It was a choice that really started my career,” Rod said.

The event in Singapore offered a terrific opportunity for our alumni community to meet, network, and reminisce their time at ANU, in Australia and overseas. The College of Business and Economics will host more of such events in Australia and overseas in the coming months.