In recent years I have observed the cult of celebrity being reflected in lobby groups. It probably started with Heather Ridout (then at the lobby group AIG) who started to think she was a player and important.
The secretariat (or staff) at lobby groups previously operated behind the scenes and generally in the interests of their members. But from Ridout’s time we have seen emerge ‘CEOs’ of lobby groups behaving in their own interests rather than their long-suffering members. They seem to revel in the limelight and use the organisations to feed their own egos and have puff pieces in newspapers. That is the lobby group is a tool for self-aggrandisement.
So we also have Jennifer Westacott at the BCA running her own agenda and pushing vanity projects of the social issue du jour. I recall when the BCA was at the forefront of economic reform in Australia in the 1980s and early 1990s. It is sad to see its decline and lack of interest in good policy. The BCA of 20 years ago would not have sat idly by while the Gillard Government reregulated the labour market. But the BCA of Gillard’s era played soft – the CEO of the BCA wanted to remain on the Labor team and didn’t want to discomfort the Government.
Compare that to a truly successful lobby group – the Pharmacy Guild of Australia – where David Quilty (a good guy by the way) is basically unknown. The same can be said of the Minerals Council of Australia, where the head of the secretariat is Brendan Pearson (another good guy).
So my theory – the more obscure or behind the scenes is the secretariat, the more likely the lobby group is acting in the members’ interests. Members of lobby groups should stand up and put the secretariat and its boss back in their box.
But the organisation which seems most to have strayed far from its mission is CPA – the society of accountants – a lobby group representing accountants and auditors (and competing with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand which were once planning to merge).
CPA has become a vanity project for its secretariat head – Alex Malley. It has defied attempts for disclosure on executive remuneration and it turns out that Malley and two others together got paid about $3.5 million a year. For an organisation that supposedly advocates for good practices in financial reporting to bemoan disclosure laws and attempt to resist full disclosure is beyond a farce. It is disgraceful.
Then Malley – whose experience is effectively limited to running a secretariat of a lobby group – has written a book – an autobiography – The Naked CEO. It’s not like he has actually run an organisation making anything. CPA is merely a lobby group that has managed to get official imprimatur for its members who are effectively forced to be members and pay fairly hefty membership fees ($720 per year). But it is certainly not modelling best practice.
At the airport the other week I stopped by a bookstore and thumbed through Malley’s book. Suffice it to say that it is banal and thin with large writing. It is full of platitudes and I wouldn’t recommend its purchase (I didn’t bother buying it).
Yet CPA is promoting his book. And it also pays for a television program In Conversation with Alex Malley. And you get professional development points for listening to Malley – obviously some guru (not!).
If you want to see how far he has strayed from modest servant of his lobby group’s membership to self promotion and narcissism just read Malley’s official biography. He certainly seems to have used the CPA organisation to enrich himself.
Alex Malley is the chief executive of CPA Australia, one of the world’s largest accounting bodies with 19 offices globally and more than 160,000 members worldwide. He also heads its financial services subsidiary business, CPA Australia Advice.
In addition, Alex is the host of the Nine Network Australia series In Conversation with Alex Malley, author of the best-selling book The Naked CEO and provides career mentoring to young people via thenakedceo.com.
A LinkedIn influencer and contributor to The Huffington Post, he is also a regular commentator on the Nine Network Australia’s Weekend Today Show and 2GB.
Alex has been included on The Accountant magazine’s Global Accounting Power 50 List, has addressed the National Press Club Australia, and his policy thought-leadership has informed key national economic and political debates. He also serves on The Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability project.
From suspended schoolboy to disruptive CEO, Alex Malley does what he believes in.