Frances Summerhayes wanted to gain high-level analytical skills, as well as financial and commercial insights into industry, when she signed up to a Master of Financial Analysis in 2009. Eight years later and she’s Head of Finance for one of the world’s largest iron ore producers. She shares her story.
When Frances Summerhayes joined BHP as a Financial Analyst in 2007, she knew almost immediately that she wanted to broaden her finance knowledge by gaining business-related insights into industry.
“I initially started my career with PwC as a trainee and developed a very technical accounting background,” she says. “After I joined BHP, I wanted to gain high-level analytical skills, and apply these by providing commercial insight and strategic thinking.”
With her eyes firmly on a future role as a financial leader, Frances also realised she needed to have more than technical accounting and finance knowledge.
“As a finance leader, you need to provide your company with insights to maximise shareholder value and support the organisation’s executives with information and analysis about performance,” she says. “A master's degree provides you with that stable foundation.”
My degree had a payback period of one year, when I was promoted to Financial Controller – a role I had the confidence to fulfil. It gave me the stable foundation to be the finance leader I am today.
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Frances was strategic in selecting courses that would match her career goals.
“I liked having the ability to choose from a very wide range of courses in accounting and finance,” she says. “I spent time going through the courses and specifically chose subjects that would compliment my career development plan.”
With a desire to become involved in mergers, acquisitions and divestments, Frances chose a subject that explored takeovers, restructures and corporate governance. It came in use down the track.
“I was later offered a role as Senior Finance Manager at BHP for the demerger of South32,” she says. “So it’s definitely worth aligning your degree to your career and development plan to get the most out of it.”
Frances says the commercial and analytical skills she learnt have played a big role in her career progression and success to date.
“By developing these skills, I was able to translate the numbers, key costs and value drivers into a business story,” she says.
“I also now look ahead for opportunities to add value and improve the business’s performance.”
“My masters certainly advanced my career,” says Frances. “I’ve moved into broader financial roles, and it’s opened many doors into a diverse range of finance and accounting roles.”
In the six years since completing her postgraduate qualification, Frances has had multiple promotions.
“I’ve been the Financial Controller for Energy Coal, the Senior Finance Manager of Acquisitions and Divestments, the Head of Reporting and I’m currently the Head of Finance,” she says.
Frances says she wouldn’t be in the career position she is in now if it weren’t for her postgraduate qualification. While the coursework in the Master of Financial Analysis is rigorous, Frances says the pursuit has undoubtedly paid off.
“I have had the return on investment,” she says.
"My degree had a payback period of one year, when I was promoted to Financial Controller – a role I had the confidence to fulfil. It gave me the stable foundation to be the finance leader I am today."