Life Fellow Merran Kelsall AO FAICDLife on major challenges

Thursday, 02 May 2024


    Kelsall, the current chair of Dementia Australia, has 25 years’ experience as a company director and last year completed her term as president and chair of CPA Australia, where she played a significant role in the turnaround of the membership body. As a longstanding AICD member for 37 years, she was awarded Life Fellowship this year at the Australian Governance Summit (AGS) in Melbourne, in recognition of her significant contribution to making society stronger through effective governance. She has also been very active in attending AICD events. Kelsall is a director on the boards of Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, CareSuper, the Medical Indemnity Protection Society and the Tarrawarra Museum of Art. 

    Turning around a large organisation which has experienced major setbacks is no easy task. But as the former president and chair of CPA Australia, Merran Kelsall AO FAICDLife played an instrumental role in restoring the reputation of the accounting member organisation and its renewal.

    “We lost the trust and faith of the members,” she told the AICD in a recent interview. “The reputation of the organisation had been damaged and so our tasks were to find a great CEO. We then embarked on the governance turnaround.

    AICD Life Fellow - Merran Kelsall AO FAICDLife02:07

    “The strategy and the constitutional reform were all about actually fixing governance and restoring member trust and pride in the designation and indeed the whole accounting profession.”

    Andrew Hunter was appointed CPA Australia CEO early in April 2018 in the wake of controversy surrounding the previous CEO, Alex Malley, who was removed by the board due to member objections over his use of CPA Australia funds and his remuneration. The CPA Australia board composition also changed due to resignations.

    Kelsall said she is proud of all the board achieved. “We came on board at a very difficult time for the organisation and as a board we oversaw turning it around.”

    The board also developed a new strategy that was much more outward facing, looking at how to reinstate the attractiveness of the profession, make it appealing to the next generation.

    The accounting profession overall is one which is suited to transition to board and other roles, she added.

    “I think the accountancy profession is a fabulous one and can set you up for almost any role in any sort of organisation. And I don't just mean that you start with traditional technical and financial roles which are almost sort of expected to be number crunching skills.

    “It's much broader into the so-called softer, more nuanced skills of communicating, listening, being able to be strategic, manage risk, and think about big issues from geopolitics to external things that impact an organisation.”

    The accounting profession is also perfectly placed to play a major role in providing services to manage ESG and sustainability, she says. These services include collecting data, analysing it and making changes to measure it internally for reporting and assurance externally.

    “It's a marvellous training ground that can take you almost anywhere.”

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