Simon Moutter has just landed his first blue-chip gig since leaving Spark last June.
He has been named a director of Commonwealth Bank of Australia - aka CommBank or CBA, and the parent of ASB. He'll formally join the board on September 1.
"I've had many calls since I left Spark around interesting opportunities and a few invitations to consider joining boards," says Moutter.
"But when the call came from the recruiter working for CBA, it sounded like an interesting opportunity to contribute to a business that plays a critical role in the economy in both New Zealand and Australia, and I was lucky enough to be chosen to take it on."
Blunt speaking Aussies
He's still a civilian for another fortnight, so won't be drawn on issues like Covid relief or Paywave fees until then, but he will speak about culture.
Ex-Prime Minister Bill English said he was surprised at the bluntness of some of the communication after joining the board of Bunnings owner Wesfarmers, also based across the ditch.
Moutter seems unfazed.
"I have had a bit of experience with the old Telecom's foray into Australia through AAPT, where I was involved for a while - and I think it is actually the case that Australian businesspeople are more direct, and tend to take a tougher line on things and hold their ground," he says.
"And that's a good thing. I like being part of something where people hold an opinion and will debate it strongly, and are not shy of putting their views forward."
Another big gig?
In the meantime, Moutter has been working with a half-dozen startups and mid-size companies (more on which below).
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It's a full plate, but does the ex-Powerco, Auckland Airport and telco boss see one more big CEO role in his future?
"No, I'm probably past that point now," Moutter says.
He wants to stick with working with his current crop of early-stage and mid-size companies.
"I like the flexibility that it provides. It's extremely interesting to work across a few businesses rather than one," he says.
"And of course, I've made commitments to them so that they're not having me around for, you know, a few months or actually they're not short-term arrangements to see these businesses through to a materially different level. So no, you won't, find me on any lists of candidates for any other large CEO jobs."
Simon's not so simple new life
"When I left Spark, I wanted a change from leading large, high profile listed companies and had a preference to work hands-on with private investors to accelerate the growth of some midsize businesses," Moutter says.
"To that end I've settled into the following five business roles. These together add up to a full working week. I'm very hands-on in the first four of these, working alongside the management teams to help drive these businesses forward. The fifth - CBA - is a pure governance role."
1. Executive chairman and operating partner for Intellihub NZ and director of its Australian parent company.
"This is a smart metering business owned by Pacific Equity Partners, with its original foundation in NZ and strong growth upside in Australia, where smart meter penetration is still very low. We are aiming to grow this business significantly over coming years as smart meter penetration grows on the back of competitive market dynamics, environmental sustainability and distributed generation drivers," Moutter says.
2. Director and operating partner for Agility CIS.
"This is a New Zealand-based utility billing and customer experience software company serving utility clients in multiple markets around the world, owned by Silver Tree Equity and Pioneer Capital. This company has significant growth potential as utility markets deregulate progressively around the world and the new market entrants require software like ours to establish competitive utility offerings."
Agility recently bought a US rival.
3. Chairman and operating partner for Smart Environmental.
"This is a waste management business owned by Maui Capital, Milford and other private investors. The aim is to build this business to be a major player in waste management in NZ with a focus on future sustainable waste solutions rather than historic landfill-centred solutions. It's an opportunity for a NZ company to play a big role in finding the means for recycling streams to be processed onshore rather than shipped off to Asia, as they were in the past."
Chairman and co-lead investor in Designer Wardrobe.
"This is a fashion marketplace business which, together with Shane Bradley , I've been supporting since its initial seed funding round. We've grown it to be a pretty significant business today, employing around 20 people, and we're aiming to triple its size over the next two or three years."
5. Non-executive director of Commonwealth Bank of Australia .
Which is where we came in.
Moutter's first four companies are very different beasts from Spark. But how does that manifest, day-to-day?
"One of the things that's starkly different is that the boundary between governance and management doesn't really exist to the extent it does in a listed company environment, where it's a very carefully drawn line.
"In privately held companies, directors are highly engaged, they work as extended members of the management team and bring their skills and expertise into play - sometimes on a daily basis."
No longer 3am eternal
Moutter seems more relaxed than in his time in Spark's big chair. So how's his work-life balance these days?
"I haven't really got the balance quite right," he admits.
"Because when you work across five companies, you have to manage the volume of work because, of course, they'll pull as much of your time as they can.
"And I'm still on the learner level on trying to juggle the diary, which can make things a little bit difficult. But I'll get there."
With lots of new companies, work is a bit front-loaded as he gets up to speed, he says.
There's pressure, but it's of a far different sort than when he ran a phone company, power outfit or airport, when 5000 people were waiting for him to quickly nut out a solution to any given corporate crisis.
"So I'm less inclined to wake up at 3am in the morning, spring awake and start trying to solve a problem because I know actually, I do have more time," Moutter says.
"So yeah, so that's quite a good thing."