Jon Raby knows how to make every dollar work hard and says his strong work ethic comes from growing up in a family where his parents made a lot of sacrifices so their children could get ahead.

The chief financial officer at ASB bank was born and raised in South Africa's Cape Town: "I grew up in a family of three kids which didn't have a lot of money. My parents sacrificed a lot to give their kids a good education. That gave me a strong work ethic."

Raby has now spent more of his life in New Zealand than South Africa and calls New Zealand home with a large part of his career spent in the banking sector.

He went to university and became a chartered accountant. "I always did have a knack for numbers."

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But he also spent more than 10 years outside of accounting, being involved in securitisation of assets and liabilities and online banking.

Raby fell back into the CFO role because the managing director asked him to do it.

"I have been doing CFO roles ever since."

Raby says he loves the job because it involves strategy formulation and execution.

"You get involved in a lot of different areas. It has huge intellectual stimulation."

Raby joined ASB in 1999 as a finance manager and has held various roles within the Commonwealth Bank of Australia group including CFO and acting CEO of Sovereign, as well as CFO, retail banking and enterprise services at CBA.

Six and a half years ago he moved back from the CBA role to be ASB's chief financial officer and the bank's financial results have gone from strength to strength during that time.

In 2012 the bank had a net profit of $685 million while this year it declared a net profit of $1.177b — the second year in a row the bank has made more than a billion dollars.

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It was that strong performance which drew the attention of the judges.

"Jon is an integral part of the management team at ASB that has posted very strong absolute and relative results over the past five years," Deloitte Top 200 judge Jonathan Mason said.

"Jon thoroughly understands ASB financials and is especially good at reviewing margin management which is the most important profit driver at banks."

However, it's not the profits that Raby points to as his proudest moment at the bank but helping others develop their careers. He always sets himself a target when he starts a new role — a primary success measure — and this time it has been centred around the overall quality of talent pool.

And he is pleased he has seen a high proportion of good leaders that have gone on to do more.

"I now have former members of the senior leadership team who are now on the executive [team]."

He is also involved in reverse mentoring, where younger team members work with managers to understand the challenges of today.

One of the biggest challenges of the job is getting the balance right between investment and profit.

"I think getting the balance right between investing in the business and driving the right financial result is something you have got to be careful about. Are you investing enough for the future?"

There are also the challenges around the pace of change around customer expectation and the regulatory programme and agenda.

Banks have been subject to a range of legislative changes this year including anti-money laundering, the Financial Services Legislation Amendment bill as well as changes to the Financial Advisers Act and the Reserve Bank Act.

And because of that, says Raby, another challenge is not spreading yourself too thin.

"We don't think of these things as compliance overheads but it's about trying to contribute to the financial success for all New Zealanders."

On top of that there has been increased scrutiny from the regulators in the wake of Australia's Royal Commission into misconduct in the financial services industry.

The Financial Markets Authority and Reserve Bank have been inside all the major banks asking questions.

But even before that the bank had been making changes.

"We have been working on a programme of change since 2015," says Raby.

On top of that the CBA group sold Sovereign to AIA this year and Raby played a critical part in the transaction and demerging the New Zealand life insurer from its sister company ASB.

The Top 200 judges said Raby is highly respected by all the stakeholders he interacts with including investment banks, other lead team colleagues, board members, and multiple CEOs.

"He is the type of CFO who will stand his ground with the board and management."

They commended him for being reliable and dependable as well as being tough and analytical.

Finalist
Mark Royle,
Chief Financial Officer,
Freightways

Mark Royle, CFO of Freightways.
Mark Royle, CFO of Freightways.

Freightways chief financial officer Mark Royle is seen as an integral part of the success of the business and has helped the company to steadily build shareholder value over time.

Royle has been a chartered accountant for more than 30 years and has been part of the senior executive team at the courier business for 18 years.

His role includes strategy and direction as well as group financial performance and all reporting responsibilities as a New Zealand share market-listed entity.

Royle has been CFO at Freightways for more than 10 years over which time the company's net profit has more than doubled.

In its June 30 2010 financial year the business reported a consolidated net profit after tax of $28.9 million. This year its net profit hit $62m. Its revenue has also risen during that time from $328.5m to $580.9m this year and shareholders have reaped the rewards with higher payouts.

The judges said Royle was highly respected by key stake holders in the banking and governance community as a CFO who thoroughly understands the business.

Freightway's financial performance is seen as transparent on key accounting judgements and the judges said Royle knew the value drivers of the business inside out.

"Mark is the ideal, highly competent CFO who allows the CEO and directors to not have to worry about financial surprises," Mason said.

At the same time he doesn't feel the need to shout about his achievements.

"Mark does not promote himself within the business community, instead being a quiet, consistent high performer."

Finalist
Nigel Greenwood,
Chief Financial Officer,
Synlait Milk

Nigel Greenwood, CFO or Synlait Milk.
Nigel Greenwood, CFO or Synlait Milk.

Nigel Greenwood has helped Synlait weather both its ups and downs over the last eight years and has a reputation as a hard worker who gets the job done.

Greenwood trained as an accountant and began his career as a junior auditor at an accountancy firm in Christchurch.

He got his first chance to stretch himself by working in the firm's Cape Town office in South Africa where he found himself taking on bigger and bigger audit jobs.

Greenwood returned to Christchurch only to find he needed a new challenge and jumped at the chance to join the Lyttelton Port as CFO after working with the port board to help set up a corporate structure.

He spent eight years with the port which included helping it to list on the share market where he gained experience working with investment bankers and shareholders.

Greenwood then moved on to take up roles with Gough Group and Crane Distribution before joining Synlait eight years ago.

But it has been no smooth ride for the dairy company.

It went through tough times during the global financial crisis and had a failed share market listing attempt and investment from Chinese firm Bright Dairy.

In 2013 the company finally went public and it has grown in strength since then with its market capitalisation rising from $322 million to over $1.5 billion.

Greenwood has helped oversee subsequent capital raisings and Synlait's investment in new plants at sites in Dunsandel and Pokeno.

The judges said Greenwood was a key part of the Synlait team contributing to the successful execution of its strategy.

"Nigel is well regarded by banks and those he works with both at Synlait and across the business community."

Mason said he had built excellent relationships with Synlait's bankers and sought to innovate in the finance space appropriately. "Nigel has attracted great people to work with him and mentored his team."