From financial services to public servant, Andrew Methven’s search for answers has driven his career in risk
“I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” says the head of Risk and Compliance for Hearing Australia, Andrew Methven. “Overall, I am curious, inquisitive. I like to know how things work.”
Such an intrigued nature has meant that Methven has traversed several industries in his career path so far, from overseeing the installation of giant neon-coloured snails for an art installation in Sydney, to protecting some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.
The need to ask questions and listen to the answers is what Methven says defines his approach, a trait which goes back to his university days.
Methven’s educational background proved as varied as his career. “I started with a science degree and then moved onto an arts degree. I majored in psychology at first and found it really interesting as it is about the way people talk, interact and think. I ended up having enough credit points to add a second major in religious studies.”
He states that not having a vocational degree was beneficial. Few young people decide to become a risk manager, so Methven said he was encouraged instead to follow what interested him.
“I have always been fascinated by how people think,” he said. “I left university and for people with a psychology degree, around 30% become psychologists, 30% work in HR, and the rest do something different.”
A friend in recruitment then found Methven a job working at a call centre in financial services, before he was approached by the compliance team.
“They had seen that I was good at problem solving and working with clients with high expectations, so I found myself in the financial advice space,” he said. “They had an established team, but wanted to bring people in who did not necessarily have the technical skills around risk and compliance, but were interested. I thought ‘why not give it a crack?’.”
Methven spent several years in financial services compliance. As the space is so highly regulated, it gave him a good grounding on legislative matters. After six years at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, he moved to MLC Wealth – at the time owned by NAB.
“From there I had the opportunity to perform risk management, starting in a Line One role. This gave me the chance to be a traditional risk person still in the wealth management space,” he said.
“I picked up the risk management discipline there and then moved onto another financial services organisation, AMP, which was group risk role. There I really got into an understanding of the risk mechanics, policies, systems, processes, and frameworks.”
After 13 years in the financial services space, he felt a change was required for his career.
Proud public servant
“I considered my own values, and decided that I was personally uncomfortable working in risk and compliance for the finance industry. Working in risk for that space at that time was very much a case of being a ‘handbrake to happiness’ and was not necessarily valued,” said Methven.
He decided to switch industries rather than roles, leading him to the City of Sydney as manager of Risk and Assurance in 2012.
“Working at a council is basically running a city. It is hugely diverse, from planning applications and major developments through to putting on the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks and art installations, including giant snails. It also involves running childcare centres, libraries and community centres and repairing roads. It was a steep learning curve.
“However, that is where I found the desire to work for an organisation where you can see a tangible benefit to the community you are serving. So for me, I am a proud public servant. I am happy to call myself a public servant,” he said.
After seven years at the City of Sydney, Methven spent time as general manager for Enterprise Risk and Assurance at charity Mission Australia, a role which appealed an opportunity to “help some of the most vulnerable people in Australia”, he said.
Then, in 2019, Methven moved to his current role as head of Risk and Compliance at Hearing Australia.
“I wanted to work for an organisation that has a great purpose and supports great outcomes in the community”. As a provider of audiology services, providing hearing services and research, Hearing Australia appealed as a home which met Methven’s community based focus.
“We have 270,000 clients, we support the hearing outcomes of kids, adults, and vulnerable people. We also do research into preventable and avoidable hearing loss,” he said.
“We provide hearing services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. I have the privilege to help support that by running the team which works across risk, compliance, insurance, assurance, business continuity, emergency management, security, workers’ compensation, and health and wellbeing. Plus, whatever else comes up on a given day.”
One primary characteristic of Methven’s education and career has been it variety, with finance to non-profit stretching the horizon of his risk opportunities. Does such variety have it advantages?
“It has absolutely been an advantage to me,” he said. “My advice [to others in risk] is if you have the opportunity, try and work across different sectors.
“Risk is a mindset. You might be in a highly regulated environment, like financial services, which is very prescriptive, or you could be in an organisation where there is less direction and you can ‘choose your own adventure’. But regardless, risk is about adding value to a business.”
Methven said that by working across sectors, you are exposed to a wider range of perspectives and these can be incorporated into new sectors as a risk professional moves about.
The grey areas
The risk space appeals to Methven’s curious nature and allows for a range of views to be heard.
“For me, some ambiguity is fun. I am the sort of risk person who does not like too much black and white. Compliance is black and white – you are either breaking the law or not. Risk is your decisions around the gray. It is about the types of decisions you choose to make.”
This is where being curious and inquisitive becomes so important. Methven is often asked ‘How do you know about that? How do you know what is occurring?’ The key is not just working at an executive level, but talking to a broad range of people on various topics.
“I get on the phone and ask people, ‘What are you working on?’ ‘Tell me about that’. You learn a lot and are then able to bring that into risk reporting and into discussions with the executive team or the audit committee.”
Methven states that he considers himself a “people-focused CRO”, so what does that mean?
“You need to take a very humanistic approach to risk. Some risk pundits think it is all about quantification. This certainly works in organisations which have large degrees of data, but the businesses I work in are running a service for a community,” he said.
“With Hearing Australia, we are an allied health business, which is about a client who has some form of hearing need and the professional who helps them. You need to remind yourself that there is always a human in that interaction. Perhaps that stems from my psychology background, but people should always be the main focus.”
In terms of ‘what next?’ for a career which has already has its share of evolutions, Methven said he lives by a term – taken from an Institute of Risk Management UK paper – which states ‘from bolt on to built in’.
“That is something essentially still written on my whiteboard at my desk. Risk managers should not be something an organisation has because the regulator requires it. We need to be valued for helping make the business run better,” he said.
“Moving forward, risk needs to increasingly be inherent in strategy and business decisions. We are seeing it already, that risk managers are being further valued for their advice and input.
“As for me, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” added Methven. “In the end, my gravestone is not going to say I was a great risk manager, but hopefully it talks to who I was for my family and our community.”