Martin Kriewaldt explains why he has enjoyed working on Company Directors’ National Conference Committee.
Company Director (CD): What are your current directorships?
Martin Kriewaldt (MK): I am chairman of Hyne Timber (a 130-year-old family-owned private company) and InteriorCo (an unlisted office fit-out and furniture supplier), and a director of ImpediMed (a US-focused medical device company commercialising Australian technology).
CD: What is your background?
MK: Originally I practised as a lawyer (a partner at Allens), engaged on matters of importance to management across a wide range of industries. It taught me the legal aspects of business were not always the most important.In my directorship career, I have been chairman of Suncorp, Infratil Australia, L J Hooker and (Brisbane) Airtrain, and a director of Macarthur Coal, Campbell Bros, GWA, Oil Search, QDL and Peptech. In the not-for-profit space, I was chairman of Opera Queensland and a member of various church, school and university governing bodies. I was also president of Company Directors’ Queensland Division for three years.
CD: What do you most value about your Company Directors membership?
MK: The major benefit is education – there are always new ideas and approaches to be evaluated and implemented. We should never stop learning.
A close second is the networking opportunities afforded by the many events Company Directors holds. The help and experiences of fellow directors are an opportunity to learn and the social interaction with others in a common profession is marvellous. Some of the characters I have met at these events still bring a smile with the memory of them and their personalities.
CD: What do you enjoy about your involvement with the National Conference Committee?
MK: Working with the conference team, Jannene Stephens-Roberts and her assistants, is the chief joy. Their enthusiasm and dedication to the task are palpable. I share their goal to make each conference better than the last and to smooth any administrative matters that were not perfect the last time. It is a daunting task, given the importance of the event. Making it all run smoothly while also delivering fresh, interesting and challenging material puts pressure on the team, but it responds brilliantly, as seen by the satisfaction results.
Another pleasure is when a part of the conference hits the spot. The sight of Noel Pearson, who had so powerfully challenged our social conscience, being mobbed with offers of assistance after his inspiring speech at a past conference will live with me for a long time. It was also a great satisfaction to have been a part of bringing the prescience of Niall Ferguson to our Christchurch conference at the start of the global financial crisis.
CD: What will be the key issues raised at this year’s Company Directors conference in Singapore?
MK: The importance of Asia, not just China, has been clear to directors for some time. The conference will add to their knowledge and provide some thought-provokers on this. Where are we going? What could lie ahead? What opportunities could emerge in the future or what forces could affect our businesses? To answer these questions without considering Asia will leave many businesses in difficulty.
CD: What are the benefits for directors attending the conference?
MK: Apart from the education and stimulation, the interaction with one’s peers – fellow directors in less formal surrounds. The more often one attends, the more "old friends" one meets and the more fun it is.
CD: Which areas of directorship are of particular interest to you?
MK: Seeing shareholder wealth emerge from good execution by management is the reason we are directors. For me, there is the added bonus of learning what makes the business tick.
CD: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt as a director?
MK: To steal Nick Greiner’s line: "It’s the people, stupid!" No corporate governance rule is more important than: "Hire good people!"
CD: What will be the biggest challenge for Queensland directors this coming year?
MK: Diversity! The proportion of people from Queensland on interstate boards, especially the ASX 300, is far too low. Queenslanders make up 19 per cent of Australia’s population and shouldn’t be ignored.
CD: Who inspires you?
MK: Youth – there are so many good, capable young people coming on. Their vitality and enthusiasm are wonderful and their naivety heart-warming – and a spur.
CD: What are your interests outside of work?
MK: Church, family, the arts (especially opera), travel, sport and reading.
Martin Kriewaldt FAICD
Australian Institute of Company Directors’
National Conference Committee
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