ASIC shells out $1.5m on leadership gurus

ASIC shells out $1.5m on leadership gurus

Michael Roddan and Edmund Tadros – The Australian Financial Review – Thursday 12 November 2020

The corporate watchdog shelled out $1.5 million over the past two years to consultants to provide coaching and organisational psychologists for senior regulators, assessments by co-workers of top executives, and advice on how to implement the agency’s “governance framework”.

That figure includes $150,000 that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission earlier this year sank into a series of contracts for organisational psychologist Kellie Rigg, who provided coaching services for the regulator’s leadership team and individual managers, along with “debriefs” for 27 senior executive leaders.

Sydney-based leadership consultancy Bendelta, a group of “strategists, psychologists and learning pioneers”, also won $53,000 in contracts to run and administer “360-degree assessments” of senior ASIC leaders. A 360 review is an evaluation tool that seeks feedback about an individual from co-workers.

The regulator also awarded $1 million over two contracts to global management consultancy Oliver Wyman to provide advice to ASIC on how to implement its own governance framework and to review the watchdog’s “risk management framework”.

ASIC’s governance framework, introduced in December 2019 as part of the regulator’s revised leadership structure, seeks to make sure decisions made at the regulator are effective and impartial, and to ensure there are “clear accountabilities” throughout the organisation.

Another Sydney-based leadership development consultancy, Maximus International, which aims to “move minds, transform businesses and leave a legacy of proven value”, took in $58,000 across two contracts this year for coaching sessions for “people leaders” across ASIC.

Human resources advisory The Leadership Framework, which spruiks a “unique and fully integrated framework for leadership” as a “best practice model for people management”, also won a $30,000 contract for consulting services to ASIC in late August.

Meanwhile, an organisational consultancy, People Rocket LLC, scored a $50,000 tender in June for “Innovationish training”. The company’s website notes that “Innovationish” training is “a framework designed using a critical theory lens to create radical access to innovation for everyone”.

The appointment of Ms Rigg, whose LinkedIn profile notes that she provides “a powerful experience that produces meaningful results that will transform careers, workplaces and organisations”, followed a program by ASIC to plant Kiel Advisory Group, led by Elizabeth Arzadon, into the boardrooms of major Australian financial institutions, which cost $360,000.

ASIC chairman James Shipton, who has stood aside from his post amid a review into his claimed $120,000 tax advice bill and former deputy chairman Daniel Crennan’s claim of $70,000 in rental payments, told a parliamentary hearing last year that the psychological assessments and 360 reviews of top executives were “part of a program that does exist in the APS more broadly”.

Liberal Senator James Paterson, chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, this week wrote to ASIC seeking a copy of the report provided by behavioural experts to the regulator’s leadership team.

Graeme Samuel, a former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, labelled Oliver Wyman’s contribution to his prudential review of Commonwealth Bank of Australia “a waste of money”, and told a parliamentary committee the consultant’s input was “neither necessary nor useful”.

In June, Mercer Consulting won a $16,500 limited tender contract for “executive remuneration policy development”. Before leaving ASIC after the focus on claimed expenses, which he has since repaid, Mr Crennan was the highes-paid legal representative in the Australian government, and his package, worth $674,628 last year, put him above High Court chief justice Susan Kiefel. Mr Shipton took home $855,364.

An ASIC spokesman said the regulator employed more than 2000 people overseeing a range of roles and responsibilities.

“Like any organisation with a similar remit, we regularly invest in the progressive development of our leadership and staff structures and processes,” he said.

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