CFO Spotlight: Caroline Rawlinson, MYOB

MYOB’s Finance Chief, Caroline Rawlinson says as a CFO, what is important is to have equally high levels of ‘book smart’ intelligence as well as emotional intelligence – IQ plus EQ – to be successful in the role.

“To me, a successful CFO is smart and capable and very socially adept,” she says. It is a philosophy that has supported her throughout her career.

New Zealand-raised Rawlinson has had an impressive career.  It was kick started with an economics and law degree at the University of Auckland, followed by a sought-after graduate role in the corporate finance team at PwC. Taking career risks and constantly seeking to challenge herself and grow her skills has propelled Caroline into strategic roles in the fishing, construction and building products industries. More recently, she has held CFO roles in both listed and private equity backed businesses in the technology sector.  This growth mind-set saw Rawlinson spend three years living in Shanghai as CFO of Formica Asia.

“It was a challenging role and sometimes it seemed like it was going to beat me. But it was the most rewarding and amazing experience. When I joined, the business faced significant challenges from both internal and external sources. We were able to improve governance standards and turn the financial performance of the business around. I’m really proud of that,” she says.

“As CFO, you have to referee the game as well as be on the field. I love wearing those hats, navigating relationships and stakeholders across multiple fronts.”

Caroline Rawlinson,

At MYOB, Rawlinson has a broad role and remit as CFO. Aside from finance, treasury, tax accounting, and commercial finance, she is also responsible for legal, risk, strategy, program management and M&A.

“My teams are involved in almost everything that’s happening across the business. My role is also broadening, alongside the transformation of the business. Some of my teams are focused on making sure we’re making the right commercial and strategic decisions and executing effectively. Then, I manage other teams that provide the guard rails in the business when it comes to regulatory compliance and risk management. So as CFO, you have to referee the game as well as be on the field. I love wearing those hats, navigating relationships and stakeholders across multiple fronts.”

Tech talk

Rawlinson says there are certain idiosyncrasies when it comes to working in tech.

“You have to be comfortable working at speed, relative to other environments, and you have to be comfortable with ambiguity. This is because it is hard to know when you’re introducing a new feature into your software whether it will resonate with customers over the long-term and drive product take-up. As a tech firm, we also have access to vast amounts of data our software generates, which helps guide strategic decisions. We know exactly what our customers are doing with our product at all times.”

She says tech environments are often inclusive spaces, given the workforce tends to be more multicultural than other environments. “You get a sense of inclusion and belonging in the tech environment that may not be as prevalent in other sectors. This helps support the values and the culture of a business.”

Making lemonade

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity for MYOB’s small business customers to ramp up digitisation of their operations and the business solutions software firm has been right beside them on that journey. Its finance team has been instrumental in MYOB’s ability to do this.

CFO Caroline Rawlinson acknowledges COVID has been an incredibly challenging experience. But she says it has also opened up opportunities for customers to think differently about how they run their businesses.

“We are dedicated to providing them with the tools they need to run efficient, effective, successful, healthy, growing businesses. This is important because MYOB’s research shows one in five small businesses have low or no levels of digitisation.”

Strategic intent

MYOB’s strategy is to offer digital services that are critical to the success of businesses. To this end, it recently brought workforce management software, Roubler, into the fold.

The investment allows MYOB to add to the tools it can offer small businesses to better run and manage their business. “My team was closely involved in the signing of this partnership, which is now close to fully integrated into our software,” says Rawlinson.

A partnership with invoice financing firm Butn is another example of a tie-up whose purpose is to give MYOB’s clients what they need to make their business as productive as possible.

“Access to cash is one of the biggest issues for our small business customers. With Butn, businesses can receive payment for an invoice the same day it’s issued, as opposed to waiting 30, 60 or 90 days for payment. In the past it has been more difficult for small businesses to secure an invoice financing partner. Even if they could, it would take weeks, and substantial paperwork, to put an invoice financing solution in place. Butn can do it within hours online. That’s really exciting,” she adds.

MYOB is also joining forces with lending platform Valiant. This partnership allows small businesses to easily compare and contrast a range of options for different debt instruments, including working capital funding, overdrafts and business loans.

As for the future, Rawlinson says MYOB remains focused on adding to the tools it provides to its clients to make it as easy as possible for them to run their business. Her work will continue to be instrumental to this, which is good news for MYOB and its customers.