Man With a Plan

Saturday, February 1, 2014 - 10:09

The new AIM group CEO Daniel Musson outlines his exciting vision for the future to Tom Skotnicki

The merger of all AIM divisions, other than Western Australia, is a milestone in the creation of Australia's first genuinely national management organisation.

The appointment of a well-credentialled young corporate executive, Daniel Musson, as AIM group CEO to head the merged entity, signifies the importance placed on the role by the newly structured AIM board.

Musson was born in Melbourne, the son of a navy electrician. He attended eight schools in 13 years before graduating from Marist College at Ashgrove in Brisbane. He went on to complete a business degree, majoring in marketing at Queensland University of Technology. His first job out of university was selling beds at David Jones in the early 1990s before joining Myer/Grace Bros as part of its management development program.

In 1996, he was named the Australian Retailers' Association's Retail Young Executive of the Year. He was then headhunted by Westpac to move into retail banking and while there completed an MBA at the University of Queensland.

As a young executive, Musson was an avid follower of the work of Steven Covey with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People taking prime position in his management library.

"I guess I was a real Coveyite in those days," he said. "I would listen to the tapes, attend the courses and watch the videos. More recently I have focused on high-performance businesses, really strong fast-growth businesses."

Musson said his management studies have moved onto the relationship between leadership and culture and how organisations can be transformed to deliver high-performance outcomes.

"In a simple sentence, it is about how can I create a culture where my people can do something that they never thought was possible," Musson said. "And that's what I think the role of the leader is, and that's what I will take into this new AIM world."

In 2000, Musson moved to Sydney with Westpac to work on its Olympic sponsorship and also ran one of its distribution channels, the in-store franchised banking operation, with 180 branches located within other businesses.

Musson has since made his principal home in Sydney but has also taken several assignments over the years in Brisbane, including as Queensland manager for the insurance group IAG (before returning with the company to Sydney), as group executive for the Bank of Queensland and then as chief operating officer with the Brisbane- based Careers Australia.

Musson, who is in his early 40s, has a son aged 23, an 18-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. His wife teaches etiquette with a large client base among corporations and sporting groups.

When asked about the speed of his career progress, Musson said: "When you are 19 or 20 and have a child at home you feel like you have to get cracking."

As part of a remarkably broad and varied career, Musson established an event marketing business along with former Australian rugby captain John Eales and Eales' brother Damien.The company they formed was the largest event-based ticket agency for the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The business was eventually sold to another sports management company. It was not long after that he accepted a position working with IAG on its acquisition of the New Zealand-based State Insurance before being asked to manage IAG's Brisbane operation. He commuted from Sydney to Brisbane for three years before returning to run the personal products and underwriting business for IAG.

Musson returned to banking in 2007 with his appointment as Group Executive for People and Corporate Services at Bank of Queensland by a former mentor, David Liddy, BOQ's CEO and one-time head of retail banking at Westpac. Musson later joined BT Financial Services as a senior executive working on non-core financial services uch as insurance. His period at Careers Australia as chief operating officer followed an approach by their CEO seeking assistance to position the organisation to become involved in the growing privatisation of vocational training.

Careers Australia was in the process of negotiating with the Queensland Government for the provision of block funding for vocational training on a competitive basis.

At the time he joined, Careers Australia was about a $30 million to $40 million turnover company based around the growth of its certificate and diploma courses and a growing number of campuses. Musson spent 2013 establishing robust business disciplines to ensure the business was in a position to expand with growth in demand for its services as a private provider of vocational training. He said it has since been confirmed as the recipient of $160 million in federal government vocational funding.

The new AIM group CEO, who will oversee the operations of the divisional CEOs, says the lesson learned from Careers Australia is that in education the consumer is becoming far more empowered. "The consumer has much more say about their education provider, the content and the brand. One of the appeals of the AIM role is that especially now that it has a national footprint it is well positioned to participate in that privatisation play."

Musson said he wanted to establish AIM as a preferred supplier for state and federal government so that funds can be accessed that can help corporates and private individuals to reduce the cost of training.

The strengths of AIM are obvious, according to Musson. "It has a wonderful membership base. When I introduce myself to people they frequently tell me that they are a member. That is a wonderful asset," he said.

"It has 70 years of history and a wonderful brand equity although [that is] perhaps not being leveraged properly. If I think of the weaknesses, one of them was the parochial state-based model from the point of a view of attracting and servicing national clients. It is an advantage to deal with one supplier and get a consistent level of service and get it delivered across boundaries. And of course that's a key aspect of my job to rectify that. I also don't see a strong online delivery presence and that is something we need to work on and they don't have access to all the government funding models for business and individuals so there are a number of things that I think we can improve quickly.

"I want to implement a cradle-to-grave strategy where we assist people from their first to last management job which might be from a first-line supervisor to their first chairmanship. We want to position the institute as a partner in their career path. To build a product range that assists in this process and provides appropriate interventions as they are required to assist members to progress their careers."