“I was a footballer who left home at fifteen and had some opportunities to trial with some UK clubs like Arsenal and Ipswich before signing and playing professionally for a club called Swindon Town, halfway between London and Bristol, for two-and-a-half years,” Twigger says.
“It was a really formative time for me – I lived in a council flat and was looked after by a couple. A lot of people who I met had nothing behind them if they didn’t make it [in football]. Back in Australia, I was broke – and I didn’t want to be caught out without an education. So, I went to technical college and then eventually [got the marks] to go to the University of Western Australia to study economics and my plan was to join the army. I was offered a position at Duntroon [military college] but I changed my mind when I finished my degree.”
Twigger took a job with Robert Holmes à Court, the entrepreneurial icon who’s often referred to as Australia’s first billionaire. “But I realised that I had no corporate qualifications and that there was a big gap in my knowledge base,” Twigger says. He decided to go to night school to work towards his ACA, which eventually became a CPA. For Twigger, he found a focus and passion that was missing during his time at university.
“I worked so hard and paid close attention – I did audit, I did financial and management accounting and it all came together,” he says. “[At the time] I understood economics, but I didn’t know how to read a balance sheet. Doing the CPA program was fabulous, it enabled me to gain confidence.”
Twigger’s newfound commercial nous – coupled with a robust understanding of accounting principles – steered him towards the next milestone of his career, setting up the freshly minted Perth division of Macquarie Bank.
“It was about finding opportunities in the mining sector and taking on project financing and derivatives but it was a learning curve,” says Twigger, who established the Macquarie Bank’s Bullion and Commodities division in 1997.
“It was such a great moment, to be on the ground floor of the bank and work with the mining team. We never lost a dollar and that comes down to the grounding in corporate finance – the ability to read balance sheets and my accounting and finance credentials helped me navigate Macquarie Bank’s path.”
In the late ’90s, Twigger made another leap in his professional journey. He’d recently weathered the dissolution of Bankers’ Trust, the iconic American investment bank where he’d worked as senior VP, providing debt, equity and mezzanine finance to the Perth market. Twigger joined forces with a colleague to form PCF Capital, an organisation that would become a national leader in mining sales and strategic advisory.
“We had no brand and next to no money – but we had developed a good skill set in project finance and brokering mine sales and I knew that I could sell,” he says. “The CPA designation gave me a lot of confidence and now we are the number one player in Australia.”
Twigger, who also established PCF’s online subsidiary Mines Online, cites Golden Gateway, a joint venture with partially state owned Zhaojin Mining ($5.5B Market capitalisation) that helps identify mining investment opportunities for Chinese companies and investors among the company’s proudest recent achievements.
“The symbol for the venture is two hands holding up a bridge – one represents China, the other represents Australia and the bridge is the conduit between them,” he says.
Twigger has travelled a long way from the football field. But his corporate trajectory has also garnered wisdom and experience and sparked his motivations for giving back. From 2013 to April this year, he served as the chairman of Football West Limited, where he’s worked tirelessly to raise the sport’s profile.
“I’ve always loved the game so it was about giving back to the community,” says Twigger. “We’ve gone from having board meetings in the shed and turnover of two million pa to having corporate offices, turnover of nine million and a first class board and management team. We’ve got a sixteen million dollar commitment from the federal government and are seeking a similar commitment from the WA state government and believe that we are the next sport in line for funding in WA.”
The worlds of accounting and finance have evolved dramatically since Twigger took his first steps in the industry. But although shifts such as automation are rewriting what the financial industries look like, he believes that the newfound emphasis on inclusivity and values will determine how the field will evolve.
“It is about having the best accounting practices, but it still comes down to humans,” says Twigger, who recently joined the board of copper and gold mining company SolGold. “A lot of it is about the social licence to operate, about diversity and inclusivity. The old corporate ethos focusing on shareholder returns and profit is giving way to a broader set of goals that are more aligned with the impact on the environment, fairness and equity.
“This is especially the case with millennials – who see their careers in three-year time slots and are very transient. They want to know where their employer stands on matters close to their hearts and on core values and social media is a very powerful instrument for calling out businesses that fall short on employee and community expectations. This is a massive change and has potential to rewrite conventional economic theory.”
Start your own inspiring story by becoming a CPA. The CPA Program teaches not only accounting, but also the skills to help you reach the next level – leadership, strategy and business. Start your CPA journey today.
The Future Thinkers series can be found across Qantas Domestic wi-fi enabled flights and across My QView in Qantas Club and Business Lounges nationally.