7 Questions with David Coulter

Name: David Coulter

Current title: Group CFO

Current organisation: United Petroleum

University of Melbourne Commerce graduate
Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australian and New Zealand
Variety of roles with PwC, JP Morgan, Colonial and ANZ Bank before joining IOOF in 2007 and becoming CFO from 2009 - 2020. Pivotal role in IOOF's growth by acquisition.
United Petroleum CFO 2020 - present


1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

Having to choose the least worst option

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

You first have to articulate that it is something you want to achieve and why you would be of value to the enterprise that gives you the opportunity. That "why" must not be about you, but about how every other stakeholder will benefit. Once you're clear on your ambition and it is for the right reasons, it is amazing how many good and knowledgeable people will provide you with the opportunities, advice and networks which will be vital in standing out.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I draft a new list of my day's goals every morning and always have time booked with one direct report somewhere in the day. I also make sure I've said hello to as many people as I can reasonably walk past before 10am

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Trust your team to do good things and to tell you what you need to know with perfect timing.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

"Chasing Daylight" by Eugene O'Kelly. The author receives a terminal diagnosis and records how he structured the remaining days of his life. It provides the ultimate guide to dealing with what actually matters.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

Give good people a reason for being there and trust them to do a variety of jobs well. NEVER shield them from the Board (or ultimate highest decision making authority).

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

In my first ever quarter as a listed CFO, my then new CEO read the management team the riot act about the last quarter's performance. We were quite surprised as we felt everyone had done their jobs well over that time. When asked to account for his apparent dissatisfaction, the CEO explained that it was the absence of any mistakes that had drawn his ire. A lack of mistakes meant everyone was working well within themselves and not trying nearly hard enough to do things differently. The ability to make and learn from mistakes is the essence of improvement.