CEO of Australian Securities Exchange On When The Asian Financial Crisis Hit
Elmer Funke Kupper, CEO of ASX, is a former McKinsey consultant and has an MBA from Nyenrode Universiteit
The Australian School of Business recently welcomed Elmer Funke Kupper, CEO of the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) to share some leadership lessons from his careeer at its flagship event Meet the CEO.
The Meet the CEO series is a unique opportunity to hear from some of the leading figures in business and government. It has run over the past seven years and has featured guest speakers such as Sir Richard Branson, Nicholas Moore of Macquarie Bank, Geoff Dixon of Qantas, Gail Kelly now with Westpac and many others.
As part of the series, Narelle Hooper, Editor of Australian Finance Review’s Boss Magazine interviews the guest speaker in an informal setting, enabling a more intimate and in-depth conversation.
Hailing from The Netherlands, Funke Kupper’s career in Australia began with several senior positions at ANZ Banking Group, including a role on the bank’s management board which he secured at the age of 31. He did an MBA at Nyenrode Business Universiteit then worked as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co. for five years prior to moving to Sydney.
The 47-year-old moved into the Chief Executive’s chair vacated by predecessor Robert Elstone last October. That same month, the business lost its monopoly over share market trading in Australia when the alternative market Chi-X set up shop.
From then on tt’s been a time of market upheaval and strategic tensions as Australia’s securities exchange confronts rapid shifts in the competitive environment wrought by technology and tougher trading conditions.
However, arriving at companies during difficult times is nothing new to Mr. Kupper who said that his appointment as Head of Risk Management at ANZ just one month before the Asian financial crisis hit was a defining moment in his career. “It didn’t look like that at the time, but when I reflected on it, it was my ‘big break’.
"When you’re the head of risk management and everything is going fine, you don’t know if you’re doing a good job. When things go wrong, you have the opportunity to show that you can manage,” he said.
As CEO for the Australian Securities Exchange, he believes his task is to raise the profile of the ASX in the media and influence policy makers to ensure the company can leverage the opportunities presented by the increasingly globalised economy. He said the company runs very well on its own and his role as CEO is about, “Creating the conditions for success- where large numbers of people can be successful.”
“Leadership isn’t about what you do – it’s about how people experience what you do. It’s about knowing what each person needs and giving them what they need to succeed. Leadership is about choosing your style to the situation or the people you’re dealing with."
Mr. Kupper has changed the pattern of work at the ASX. He regularly walks the floors, has shortened communication lines and is proud of the non-hierarchical structure; a deliberate shift from the way the organisation worked under his predecessor. One example, he has set up an executive committee which once a month is extended to include the four key product bosses, “Not to report to us but to make sure that if there are any bottlenecks they come up much faster and we can make decisions much, much faster”.
In the rapidly shifting global economy, he said keeping on top of new technology and anticipating change are imperative – as is being a socially aware organisation. “Dealing with complexity and thinking ahead is incredibly important. As is becoming a more human organisation. The trick is to be hard-nosed in business and be human about it - all the while thinking through complex problems.”
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