16 March 2017

Why personalising a brand works – a visit from CPA Australia’s CEO Alex Malley 

When people see the incredible work Alex Malley has done to transform CPA Australia into what it is today, they generally have one reservation: "What will happen when he leaves?"

Speaking to the February gathering of The Faculty's National CPO Roundtable, however, Malley told members: “What happens if I get hit by a bus? Succession planning isn’t about who the next CEO is – it’s about telling everything you know to everyone you can, so there’s a whole suite of people ready to step up. We’re certainly in that position at CPA Australia.”

According to Malley, the world today is 90% risk-management, 10% vision. When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the opposite was true – 90% vision, 10% risk management. And that’s the sort of culture Malley is building at CPA Australia.

To do so, CPA Australia’s board and Malley have focused their strategy on broadening the audience of interest in the brand and pursuing a career in accounting through a range of unique initiatives that engage people at a human level.

“We’re becoming a brand society,” Malley said. “All the biggest brands are corporate brands, not human brands. If people believe in you, then they’ll come.”

As part of the CPA brand-building journey, Malley has landed three major initiatives. Firstly, he scored a historic interview with Neil Armstrong, which was turned into a four-part series that reached a worldwide audience. The interview’s aim was to inspire current and future generations of leaders through Armstrong’s incredible story. Building on this, Malley and his team put together two interview-based TV shows: The Bottom Line and In Conversation with Alex Malley, featuring Malley himself interviewing iconic leaders including Bruce Courtenay, Sir Michael Parkinson, Malcolm Turnbull, Dick Smith and, most recently, Rudy Giuliani.

His third initiative was to create the wildly successful mentoring website, on which he has personally answered over 1,200 questions career-related questions from young people.

How a teacher makes a great leader 

The Naked CEO was particularly appealing to Malley because it allowed him to teach again. Malley gained his Dip .Ed in 1986 before lecturing at the University of Western Sydney, UNSW and Macquarie University from 1993 to 2005. “I probably taught 30,000 kids over 18 years,” he said.

Listening to Malley speak, it’s clear that he has taken much of the wisdom gained as a lecturer and applied it to running CPA Australia. Some gems include:

  • “If we’re going to build our brand, we have to teach.”
  • “Deliver knowledge with imagery that your audience understands.”
  • “Presume everyone is a child with no concentration span.”
  • “When I write on LinkedIn, I’m writing to young people, not senior people. I talk about the stuff we had to deal with as young professionals; difficult bosses etc. I’m back to being a teacher online.”
  • “When I was called ‘disruptive’ at school, I didn’t realise it would be a buzzword in the 21st century.”
  • “I try to bring the teaching culture to our entire teams.”
  • “If you can teach university accounting to 600 kids who didn’t want to be there, you can teach anything.” 
Alex Malley appeared at the National CPO Roundtable Meeting in February 2017. To found out more about the Roundtable program, contact Sally Lansbury (Senior Manager, Networks) on +61 9654 4900.