Living Culture at Fortis | An Interview with our Executive Chairman Adrian Gurgone

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Adrian Gurgone is an experienced MBA Chartered Accountant with significant experience in delivering value to boards and large organisations. In senior roles with Deloitte Consulting and other top-tier consulting firms, he has advised multinational and mid-cap organisations across a variety of industries globally.

His expertise encompasses financial, economic and business analysis, risk management and corporate governance. Adrian also assists on boards, both in Australia and overseas, in improving organisational performance and in capital allocation decision-making.

 

 Fortis has reached ten years old, take us back to where it all began… What was the catalyst to creating Fortis Consulting?

I was sitting on the top deck of a double decker bus in the middle of London in 2006. I was working for a UK consultancy, having previously worked for a large consultancy in Australia. My wife and I were thinking about coming back home to Australia and I had a revelation that the existing model of consulting – particularly in Australia – could be changed. Some of the consulting industry norms in the UK were more advanced compared to those in Australia. The idea of bringing aspects of the UK model into Australia adapted to our cultural context is where it all started.

 

When you began Fortis, what were your 3 primary objectives for the organisation? 10 years later, have these objectives changed

The starting point was working on worthwhile, interesting projects with clients and people with a similar ethos of contributing great work which gave back to the community.
The second objective was to make a real positive impact; to have a legacy that leaves not just our clients, but the community in a better position. So that when I look back on my career and my life, I have something to be proud of.
The third driver was providing an alternative model for people to work with. I wanted something different that provides an opportunity that works for our team and network and that works well for our clients in project delivery.
Those objectives probably haven’t changed in any real sense. What has changed is the type of work that we have done and the type of impact we have had, but those three core objectives have remained a constant.

 

What do you think makes the Fortis model different? What did you want to bring back from the UK?

I’ll start with how things looked in Australia. In Australia, the model was one of using graduates when their experienced consultants, consultants were unable deliver on all the projects. Use of graduates was the most economical way of delivering but it wasn’t necessarily the best outcome for the client. They weren’t getting the people with experience on the job. The junior consultants were very intelligent, very capable people, but they were learning on the job so it was quite challenging for them to deliver.
The model I brought back from the UK, firstly, didn’t consider people with little experience for a consulting position. That was the starting point. Management consultants in the organisation I worked for had to have a minimum of 5 years’ experience, if not 10 years, in the relevant industry or in consulting. The second part was, rather than having a bench of consultants you continually had to sell, which meant being constantly driven by a sales objective, we have developed a leaner team of internal staff balanced with a wider network of external consultants. External consultants who have deep expertise in their subject areas and industry.
To some extent the UK model probably wasn’t as evolved as the model we have subsequently put in place but it was a model that I saw worked. I saw how the external consultants that they brought in added value. I also saw the model being an opportunity for experienced practitioners who wanted flexibility and choice. Our model offers them that. We draw on their expertise and experience specific to our clients’ needs which engages and excites them about being involved in the work.

 

Maximising Return on Investment is the primary mission for Fortis. When building the capability of your client’s organisations how have you found addressing the social and cultural elements to ROI with your extensive financial background?

I think a lot of financial people struggle with this one. From my perspective, it was probably easier because my ethos has never been driven solely by the financial bottom line. I think a lot of where we’ve come from has been trying to drive other positive change, be it social or otherwise. When we talk about return on investment, the return, very commonly, is whatever the client is trying to achieve. Often that return on investment, and there might be a financial element to it, has other elements that are involved in what we are delivering for our client. We need to think much more broadly than just a financial metric. We need to be thinking in terms of the impact that the client is looking at achieving.
Particularly, given that a lot of our clients are government or not-for-profit organisations, their goal is not profit but rather some other outcome, be it social or otherwise. Finance plays a part in that realisation to make ends meet. We need to be aware that in what they are looking to achieve. The important thing with any metric is you need to be able to measure it. So, therefore, you need to determine what the client is trying to achieve, and then how to measure that success. Defining that allows you to set goals that will help you determine whether you have achieved that return on investment for your client, whatever the objective.

Stay tuned for part two with Adrian Gurgone.