Ben Daly started his working life as a pilot in general aviation. It’s not every day you meet a pilot in a senior finance role.
Today, he’s a high flyer of a different kind, and he recently chatted to The Outperformer about how he went from aviator to accountant.
“The collapse of Ansett and the impact of 9/11 on the entire industry meant 2001 was a pretty difficult time to be looking for flying jobs,” recalls Ben. So he went back to University, and later got a finance job with Quantas.
“I had some great experiences there, but after a while I was keen to get exposure in different industries,” he says.
The next few years saw Ben in a variety of finance roles in the fuel industry, with Caltex and Origin Energy, but the pull of planes eventually proved too strong to resist a return to old stomping grounds.
“My passion for all things to do with aviation never went away, and two years ago I was lucky enough to secure my current role at Sydney Airport,” he says.
Ben is the Group Manager, Commercial Finance for Sydney Airport, managing the team that delivers commercial analytics and insights into the business. He also provides monthly management reporting, periodic reforecasting and the annual corporate plan. His primary responsibility is to achieve successful commercial outcomes, drive commercial input into negotiation strategies, and manage due diligence processes.
Stepping Out Of The Pack
Interestingly, when asked what his biggest achievement was in terms of career development, Ben cited an example that didn’t have the biggest financial impact on the company, nor did it have an immediate effect on his role within the business.
“Early in my career, I was very involved in a global cost reduction project at Qantas,” he remembers as experience that offer substantial exposure beyond his normal role. “It involved stepping out of traditional, day-to-day finance work and I learned so much from it personally and professionally. It was definitely highly influential in helping me secure my next couple of roles.”
Ben is currently leading a finance team that’s focused on continuously providing actionable business insights through analytics, performance management and strong business knowledge. “Our purpose is to improve decision making (not always different decision but maybe just faster and more effective decisions) and ultimately performance,” he says.
Words of Wisdom
Ben has some advice for emerging accounting and finance talent when it comes to creating a great career:
- Don’t confuse effort with value. Make sure the basics are done well, but also efficiently, so the real value-add (be it real or perceived) can be focused on.
- Get broad functional experience in areas such as decision support, M&A, business improvement, management accounting, business partnering, planning and so on).
- Don’t be scared to take on unsexy (on paper) roles that are outside your comfort zone. They could provide exposure and opportunities that you weren’t expecting. This is especially true of roles that you can mould into what you want them to be.
- Work in an industry you are passionate about.
Key Points to Remember
- Try to get exposure to broad and complex projects early in your career.
- Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself if life forces you to change your dreams.
- Venturing out of your comfort zone can open great new doors in your career.