Burbank Group of Companies: Building success

Formed of a host of subsidiary companies that cover the full spectrum of building industry services, including the award winning Burbank Homes, the Burbank Group of Companies is reimagining the format of a home and property group.

The group’s Managing Director, Jarrod Sanfilippo, talks about the diversification that interlinks the companies and the continuing expansion that has seen the group continue to go from strength to strength.

All in the Family

“It was a business started by my father,” Mr Sanfilippo says. “Everything we do is linked through to property or built form assets, in one way or another.”

The group consists of companies that deal with the land needed for building, trade firms that help build properties, storage firms helping people store items when work is underway and a finance business that helps customers pay for their homes.

“My father was an accountant, and his step-brother was an electrician. Obviously, the major two sides of building are the sales, marketing, accounting side of the business, and then there’s the trade, supplier base. So, together they formed Burbank Homes, to start with.”

This first company, a firm that has since grown to become one of Australia’s leading builders, began as a modest weekend project. Years of hard work helped it develop in size and stature, and from there the Burbank Group of Companies grew with it.

“They ended up deciding to make it a business,” Mr Sanfilippo explains. “It started from just one display home in the nearby suburbs to their home, and it’s now grown to spread right across Victoria.” Mr Sanfilippo’s uncle left the business nearly a decade ago.

Burbank Homes started a slow but steady migration across the country, and has since moved into New South Wales and South Australia over the last five years.

Mr Sanfilippo and his father spent some time running the company together, with the former concentrating on developing the group into other states in Australia, while the latter focused on the group’s land development company.

“That allowed us to both grow together,” Mr Sanfilippo says, “having a separate focus but also interlinked, because obviously working as father-son, but also the two crucial parts of the group.”

burbank_head_office_RGB (300dpi)
The Burbank Group of Companies is reimagining the format of a home and property group


With the intention of not only helping grow Burbank Homes, but also of creating a business that could develop in its own right, the company started selling land off to other builders and customers. This developed into offering a full service in property development.

“The two trades required for certificates in the building process are plumbing and electrical. So, to control that process and to understand it, it was decided to start plumbing and electrical businesses which now carry out all of our work, plus have their own clientele outside of Burbank Homes.”

As well as undertaking all work for the group, these companies are mandated to work outside of the company structure. It is important that all businesses within the group stand alone, and not rely solely on another part of the group for trade.

A key part of the group is National Pacific Finance, a privately-owned company that acts as a brokering service for the group’s customers to buy Burbank homes, as well as anything else they might want to finance.

“We created National Pacific Finance to not only help customers obtain loans,” Mr Sanfilippo continues, “but also provide us with the avenue to be able to understand more about our customers.  And, the group just continued to grow organically.”

The size and diversity of the group has meant it has been able to acquire many smaller companies over the years, and is now made up of a long list of firms working across several different industries.

“The Burbank Group is our parent brand, which has all the other companies underneath. So it includes Storage Box, National Pacific Properties, Dynamic Technology Solutions, Vault Plumbing, National Pacific Finance, Beacon Building Services, Digital Minds Software Solutions, Urbanedge Homes and Eight Homes—all those companies which are in the group, but we also have Burbank Homes.”

The group itself is made up of eleven companies, one of which is Burbank, which is further split into several smaller companies that work across the different territories and the three different areas of the building process.

National Footprint

Following the passing of his father last year, Mr Sanfilippo has now taken over the reins of the business. In the past half-decade, the transformation from Victoria-based company to one of national renown has been quite astounding.

“It was really off the back of a very strong business in Victoria,” he explains. “Expanding into Queensland first, we’ve always done it slowly but carefully. We grew naturally, not just going out and expanding at a big rate. It was just one step at a time really.”

Burbank Group of Companies
A key part of the group is National Pacific Finance, a privately-owned company that acts as a brokering service for the group’s customers


The solid base of Burbank Homes and National Pacific Properties, the two major Victoria-based firms, helped the group significantly. It was able to lean on these resources from a corporate perspective, while simultaneously expanding with General Managers in each state.

“Each state start-up was all going very differently. Queensland started by myself going up and searching for office space and display locations, and then starting the construction off that and recruiting someone to be on the ground for me.”

The start-up in South Australia came out of the purchase of Japanese home builder Sekisui House, owners of residential developers AVJennings. As a result, Sekisui House decided to pull out of contract housing in NSW, which likewise left an opening for Burbank to move into.

“There was an instant team, an instant book of work and a process in place already. So NSW and SA were closely linked in terms of us taking over another business that was already operating.”

The size of the operation moving into South Australia worked as a perfect small-size test case, allowing the group to work out its management methods and carry them over on a larger scale into the business in New South Wales.

But although this kind of acquisition was beneficial for effecting a quick and smooth start-up in these regions, it did not come without challenges of its own, most specifically the lack of brand awareness in new territories.

“At first,” Mr Sanfilippo says, “nobody knew us, and a lot of the challenge was, when they opened the doors in Queensland, or NSW, or SA, the reaction often was ‘who’s Burbank’? The name was not known or trusted, so there was a lot of work to educate the customers.”

This meant the group had to invest a lot of time in ensuring potential customers in new territories understood the history and values of the brand, to send the message that it wasn’t just an inexperienced start-up.

“Off the back of us expanding interstate, a lot of the way we market is how we have been building for thirty years. The fact that we have that stability of history and growth and also have the group structure behind us which we can all lean on, helps us grow.”

Other USPs for the group include the offer of an extended warranty on its homes, which other places do not provide. Burbank homes are guaranteed for fifteen months rather than the industry standard of three months.

“That’s our point of difference,” Mr Sanfilippo says, “is fixed costs, so there’s no surprises. We’ll lock that total price in with no more variation. We also offer a thirty year structural guarantee and a fifteen month maintenance pledge and we’ve been building for nearly thirty-five years.”

In addition, the company is one of very few able to offer experience and knowledge in the three key areas of residential construction, these being detached homes, townhouse developments and apartment buildings.

Mr Sanfilippo can’t name another organisation in the country that offers all three of these areas of expertise, and therefore cites this as being the group’s biggest selling point. But the group’s diversification also has a big effect on how it gains custom.

“When you become a player in a certain industry, you understand that industry well enough, and there are a lot of trends and information that you learn, so you can put those together and paint a more solid picture on how to strategize each company moving forward.”

Owning a finance business, for example, allows the group to see what is happening with banks and at the financial level, and to use this information to influence things happening at the level of the build. The same can be said for other parts of the group.

“We can see what’s happening in land, when land’s coming up, what the strategies are with government proposals or regulations, how fast things are selling, pricing intel, and how that links in with building a residential dwelling.”

“For example, if sales start to slow down in land, it follows about 6-12 months later in the building arm, because they need the land first and then they need to start building on it. Things like that we need to monitor and be more aware of.”

Burbank Homes started a slow but steady migration across the country, and has since moved into New South Wales and South Australia over the last five years

This gives the group a significant advantage over its competitors, as it can often put Burbank significantly further ahead in a building process than those who don’t have such close ties to other areas of the industry.

Key Milestones

“To grow across the Eastern Seaboard over five years has taken a lot of focus and time and strategy from the management group, so that’s definitely a key milestone. Queensland was five years ago, SA was two and a half and NSW was one year ago.”

Within this time, the group is proud to have become a shareholder in Urbanedge Homes, a high-end architectural firm in Victoria with over a decade of experience building premium service and luxury new homes.

“All of our expansion meant we are one of Australia’s top ten home-dwelling construction businesses,” Mr Sanfilippo explains, “which was [another] big milestone for us.”

Another of the group’s key achievements comes in the form of software development company Digital Minds Solutions, a company started and operated in India, and created for a very specific role in the day-to-day running of the group.

“Digital Minds was created because for all group subsidiaries to efficiently linked in with each other, our IT-based requirements are high. Digital Minds is responsible for all of our software development within the group, helping us streamline our digital environment and improve efficiencies.”

Because of the high volume of digital expertise available in India, the group came up with the idea of developing and building a company capable of handling all the group’s IT requirements, rather than outsourcing to a firm in the same area.

“Whether that’s support, whether that’s website creation, whether that’s computer-generated imagery. For example, if we’re to build an apartment building or townhouses, they create the renders of lifelike computerised images for our marketing material.”

All of these extras help the group get ahead in an industry that, like all others, experiences several issues that need to be overcome by those working within it. Mr Sanfilippo believes most of these issues are arising from the problem of housing affordability.

“The prices are rising massively across the industry, from the price of land through to the homes. So, overall a house and land package, or land and dwelling that they’re buying separately, are costing more and more.”

Much of this rising cost is fuelled by the strength of the economy, although in the last two years there has been a significant increase in the number of active building sites across the industry, putting huge pressure on the trades needed to keep the industry moving.

“Whether that be drafting, estimating, or whether that be bricklayers or carpenters, there is really a need for greater training in that space, because all builders are short on trades that can meet the demand. Supply and demand is becoming very critical.”

Another issue in Victoria is related to the costs of building and the amount of time it takes for a project to get started. When a home is sold now, on many occasions the land cannot be titled for another 12-18 months.

“If we sell a home today, it doesn’t get to site on average for 10-12 months. So you’re selling at today’s price, but the price rises that happen with trades and regulation changes—it really squeezes your margin by the time you go to build it.”

Mr Sanfilippo admits this is a huge challenge for the industry in general, with single firms unable to control the timings from sale to the start of building, meaning many of them are looking for regulations to change for protection.

In the long term, the group intends to bring land and development projects into the other states, moving across the other companies in the group to replicate the model that has been so successful in Victoria.

“Our goal is really to replicate the Group businesses we have in Victoria into the other states,” Mr Sanfilippo concludes, discussing the group’s future plans.

“We do have our Dynamic Technology Solutions, Vault Plumbing and Beacon Building Services in some states other than Victoria,” he continues. “But over time, we want to expand to have a whole Burbank Group presence in other states.”

To find out more about Burbank Group please visit their website, www.burbankgroup.com.au.

LBT Innovations (ASX:LBT): Expansion and development in artificial intelligence platforms

Brent Barnes LBT Innovations

Brent Barnes is the CEO of LBT innovations (ASX: LBT), an artificial intelligence company which has made its mark as a designer of ground breaking advanced automated technologies for microbiology laboratories.

Brent Barnes’ career in technology began at the Sydney-based global headquarters of Cochlear, tasked with moving the company’s paper-based configuration and document management processes to an electronic-based system over a period of two and a half years. His time in Sydney led to an opportunity to relocate to the North American head office of Cochlear in Denver, Colorado. His list of diverse responsibilities moved to include running technical service operations and logistic functions, start a manufacturing subsidiary and also run sales.

“A company like Cochlear exposed me to an extensive range of skills and opportunities, not only from an internal product development perspective, but also from a field and operations-based perspective, in being responsible for revenue and having access to live in certain countries,” Mr Barnes says.

After four years in the US, Mr Barnes moved back to Australia in 2011, remaining with Cochlear, he took on a role as the Director Asia Growth Markets and Operations in Asia-Pacific. His main role was to expand into new markets and grow sales and revenue growth in a diverse range of countries predominately in South East Asia as well as Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“It’s really interesting looking at the different markets that exist in Asia, I had a really varied range of responsibilities which included going to countries such as Myanmar, which required establishing medical disciplines such as Audiology that didn’t exist, yet was required to market and sell cochlear implants into the country.”

As his skills strengthened and diversified, Mr Barnes was headhunted to become the CEO of LBT Innovations. The company was moving into a transitional phase toward commercialisation on a global scale. Knowing Mr Barnes would have the necessary skills and experience to not only help market their newest product, APAS, to global markets, however also establish a company strategy for future growth.

“It’s important to have someone with some background who understands the regulatory environment and the quality processes required for product development. More importantly, I had the experience with global markets and ability to navigate the sales process and commercialisation of distributors and direct sales teams. It also helped being successful in revenue generation.” Mr Barnes says.


LBT Innovations has collaborated closely with the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Visual Technologies (ACVT)

LBT Innovations

LBT Innovations are an artificial intelligence company distinct in their field for having technology which is patent protected and FDA cleared. They made their first impression in 2009 with an invention which would later become MicroStreak, a technology for automated culture-plate streaking and inoculation which obtained the largest share in its market within just five years of global sales.

“During the past 11 years, we have brought two products to the market. The first is automating the inoculation in the streaking of the specimen on agar plates. Rather than a human needing to put the specimen onto an agar plate, we developed an instrument that did it automatically, and provided some automation with respect to that first step. That product was launched in 2009 and resolved between 2009 and 2015.” Mr Barnes says.

In parallel with their first product, LBT began work on the Automated Plate Assessment System, known by its acronym, APAS. APAS is an artificial intelligence technology that reads and interprets colony growth on an agar plate following incubation. “After incubation, the agar plate comes out. Rather than a scientist or a microbiologist needing to handle it, we’ve developed the technology that is able to automate that process.”

“The technology itself is quite unique, we have developed a portfolio of patents where we have global coverage on our core technology. We have some patents around the imaging apparatus that are unique to our own technology, and we have used artificial intelligence specifically to train our algorithms to interpret the colony growth on the agar plate. We have entered into a 50/50 joint venture and created the company Clever Culture Systems (CCS) who are the legal manufacturer of APAS products and responsible for bringing the product to market globally.”

The superiority of their technology was demonstrated in a recent FDA clearance announcement on October 10th of 2016 following a clinical trial consisting of 10,000 patients. 7,500 patients from the US and 2,500 patients from Australia took part in the global multi-centre study. The clinical trial and data were submitted to the FDA in December 2015 and the clearance was obtained to approve a “de novo” submission. “The ‘de novo’ necessarily indicated that there is no predicate device or no other similar technology that has received clearance for its intended application and use within the United States. Receiving that clearance in October last year was a really significant milestone.”

“The market, both from a capitalisation share price perspective and also from a microbiology perspective really saw this as a validation to the clients that it absolutely works. We worked collaboratively across a ten month period, and having gone through that process satisfied the FDA that the achievement of the output of the technology was successful.”

LBT Innovations Brent Barnes
Brent Barnes is only the second CEO of LBT Innovations

The FDA clearance was a great milestone for LBT Innovations, but the company was still twelve months away from having a product available for sales. The span between the FDA announcement and their marketable product caused major fluctuations in their stock value, and Mr Barnes described their stock market fluctuations as a “double-edged sword,” as their share price spiked significantly over a short period, signalling day trading, and created uncertainty in the investor’s minds as to what the company was doing.

“The positive part around all of this is that we ended up more than doubling the value of the company.” Mr Barnes says, noting that, since the FDA clearance, the company’s market cap peaked at ~$100 million, although has stabilised over the subsequent 12 months into “normal levels” of around $40 million.

The first APAS to go into a laboratory was in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, “This is the first APAS Independence instrument in a laboratory for clinical evaluation. Over the last 12 months we’ve been running an accelerated engineering schedule where we’ve had an instrument at trade shows which has been working, but it’s been a demonstration instrument at trade shows in an exhibition centre. St Vincent’s is the first time that the instrument has been installed into a laboratory, and they have successfully completed an independent evaluation of their APAS Independence instrument. The evaluation being the first in situ installation of the instrument globally.”

“Placement in St Vincent’s Hospital, a highly regarded centre of excellence, enabled the evaluation of the instrument’s performance within a diagnostic pathology laboratory in an end user style setting with pathology scientists using the APAS Independence instrument over a six- week period.” Mr Barnes says, “The evaluation included over 3000 urine samples which were automatically read and interpreted, and the instrument was successful in triaging the negative plates, allowing microbiologists to focus on positive plates only. The APAS Independence will deliver efficiency savings in the reading and interpretation of urine cultures because all of the negative plates are removed from the workflow, allowing skilled scientific staff to focus on positive samples. In addition, the APAS Independence facilitated significant upstream efficiencies in specimen processing, which we did not expect.

“The evaluation provides further validation that the foundational technology works, and the instrument does deliver efficiencies in a laboratory.”

Expanding their technologies

LBT Innovations have established their technologies in microbiology, but Mr Barnes and the company do not intend to limit themselves to a singular field. Looking out toward humans and human blood samples as well as applications in agriculture, the company is working to extend the training of their algorithms into other specimen types. “We’ve done the work with respect to the algorithms for urine, but there are other specimen types that we will still need to train to further expand its clinical use. So, blood, MRSA, sputum, wounds, swabs are all examples of specimens that we will need to further develop as part of our portfolio of what we call analysis modules, which we can provide to the market.”

“When joint venture company CCS release this instrument next year for sales, we expect to cover the majority of specimens and the majority of volumes. We want to make sure that we’re covering around 60 – 70% of all specimens that go through this culture plate workflow. We’ll then look to further expand the other specimen types.”

CommSec’s Tom Piotrowski speaks with LBT Innovations CEO & MD Brent Barnes about the company’s Automated Plate Assessment System which automates culture plate screening

Another upcoming groundbreaking technology in its prototype stage is in woundview. The technology implements LBT’s FDA cleared artificial intelligence platform to look at chronic wounds and automatically calculate the surface area of the wound using a 3D camera alongside algorithms which identify tissue constituents and tissue types on the wound. “The focus is within the clinical microbiology segment, however woundview demonstrates that our platform technology can be applied more broadly.” Mr Barnes Says.

Commercialising APAS

“A microbiologist will typically do between 40 to 60 reads per hour. The APAS Independence will be able to process 200 plates per hour. That’s at least three times faster than a human. This efficiency gain for the lab allows the scientists or microbiologists to focus on all the value-added activities that you really need them to be working on.”

“Globally there are around 27,000 pathology labs, however, based on market segmentation the addressable market size for labs to purchase an instrument is around 13,000 labs.” Says Mr Barnes, “Our return on investment calculations indicate the payback on a lab processing 400 plates per day is a little over three years. So we are focusing on those labs who process more than 400 plates per day. When labs get up to 800 plates per day, the return on investment is between one and a half and two years based on primarily headcount savings alone.”

As these technologies make their way to the market, LBT have stated that the product would be available worldwide through international distributors. “Our joint venture company CCS plan on selling the instrument through distributors in the global market. LBT has been appointed the distributor for the Australian market, and the Australian market is very representative of other global markets. Going direct here makes a lot of sense.”

LBT Innovations’ products will be available globally through a network of distributors

Clever Culture Systems have made plans to develop comprehensive training tools which will train distributors based on customer feedback.

“We expect Europe to be in the first half of next year, and the US to be in the second half of the next calendar year, 2018. We expect to commence our first European centre of excellence evaluation, similar to what was done at St Vincent’s in the first quarter of 2018 calendar year.”

APAS Independence will be available in Australian markets by January 2018, following the St. Vincent’s evaluation. LBT Innovations is actively talking to other labs in the region in order to line up the next location to receive the instrument from the beginning of next year. Their product will be sold at a one-off cost of USD$300,000 and an annual software licence (SAAS) fee of around USD$30,000.

Mr Barnes intends to expand the capabilities and applications of LBT’s platform technology through opportunities to partner, merge and acquire other companies. Amongst these opportunities is their partnership with Chinese company Autobio, “We’ve been working with this company in China called Autobio, they have a market cap of around $4 billion and are listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. They are the largest culture plate manufacturer in China and they operate within the microbiology space.” Mr Barnes said, “We have transferred the patents of our founding technology, MicroStreak, over to them, and they will look to redevelop the instrument and bring it to market in China. They have taken a $2 million strategic placement in LBT to own around 4% of the company. Having a technology partner sitting on our share registry as a top shareholder is really positive and there is absolutely opportunity where we can cooperate and co-develop products.”

Mr Barnes’ effect and vision as CEO of LBT Innovations is to handle both the expansion of their company into world markets and development of their products in tandem. In his time as CEO he has focused on how he can bring the broad skills and understandings he has developed throughout his career into the new field of artificial intelligence. His role as the CEO is now to create an inflection point which builds on their past success and looks to build new opportunities for their groundbreaking APAS technology across global markets.

“What we are doing to scale up the company is really focused around building core capability and expanding the application of our platform AI technology, which builds on what we’ve achieved over the last 11 years. We’re also looking to really develop this platform technology, and that is through the employment of new resources to transition to insource capability rather than outsource to expensive engineering companies. I’ve built some real bench-strength in our organisation over the past 15 months and we are bringing science and technology together.”

LBT Innovations (ASX:LBT) CEO & MD Brent Barnes podcast


Brent Barnes is the CEO & MD of ASX listed company LBT Innovations.

Headhunted to become only their second CEO, Brent has a range of experience including a decade of experience with Cochlear prior to joining LBT Innovations.

In this podcast he breaks down the company’s unique platform technology based on artificial intelligence and how they’ve built a team of AI specialists allowing them to commercialise.

Brent details their bright future as they expand to become a multi-product, multi-revenue company distributing across the globe.

Find out more about LBT Innovations by visiting www.LBTinnovations.com.

Oxmar Properties Director Phil Murphy podcast

Oxmar Properties Phil Murphy podcast

Phil Murphy is the Founder and Director of Oxmar Properties.

Oxmar Properties was formed when Phil and good friend Peter Bettson met at an auction, creating the business name from the combination of streets they lived on: Oxlade Drive and Marlene Streets.

Oxmar Properties is committed to developing land into attractive and well-planned residential estates, with allotments for family living available at reasonable prices. The company boasts nearly three decades of experience as a property developer, and understands the purchase of home and land is one of the most significant commitments anybody will make in their life.

In this podcast Phil talks about his passion for helping others through his own success, including
assisting families to achieve their dream of home ownership.

Find out more about Oxmar Properties by visiting www.OxmarProperties.com.au.

Burbank Group of Companies MD Jarrod Sanfilippo podcast


Jarrod Sanfilippo is the MD of the Burbank Group of Companies.

Beginning his career as an automotive engineer, Jarrod spent a decade with Holden before joining the family business. He leads a senior management team responsible for the growth of the 11 companies in the Group.

The organisation has nearly 35 years in the industry, multiple awards to its name and a presence down the eastern seaboard of Australia. Burbank Homes was also recently crowned the Housing Industry Association’s ninth largest homebuilder in Australia.

In this podcast Jarrod discusses their growth, the diversification of their brands, their company USPs and forward vision.

Find out more about the Burbank Group of Companies by visiting www.burbankgroup.com.au.

Australia must have no place in law for incompetent Judges

MD Charles Figallo

Basetec Services MD Charles Figallo previously told The Australian Business Executive (The ABE) how some companies are legally able to conduct business in a manner which can create great difficulties for sub-contractors, who can struggle to receive payments due.

Chevalier Charles Figallo, MD, who last year received an Order of Australia Medal for promoting Australian businesses, recently received a lot of positive feedback and support for speaking to The ABE about a corrupt legal system which is totally against SMEs.

“Legal representation is disproportionately expensive, and the Courts decide issues which can be baffling even to those within the legal profession. Trials can end up being a deliberately drawn-out legal conundrum designed to totally bankrupt you.”

“It is in the interests of some companies to bankrupt SME’s and the Courts have this totally wrong to such a degree, showing bias in favour of companies with deep pockets.”

“In my opinion the 2014 legal reforms designed to extend protection to small businesses against unfair contract terms do not go far enough, and how some judges interpret the law leads to results which can undoubtedly be biased.”

“We need a legal system which is objective and treats businesses equally, rather than one which is easily manipulated by parties with the most resources, such as when a small company is made to put up financial security in the way of cash. The defendant who counter-claims should also have to put up security to the Courts for the work done, or at best to the value of the signed contract.”

“Judges are taking far too long to hand down their decisions, and this is a major problem. Strong indications are coming to me, supported by a recent letter from the court, that the judges junior associate may be actually writing the decisions. There is undoubtedly something going wrong here. And as a year or two goes by, prior to judgement, has the judge lost all reasoning or knowledge of what took place in the courtroom? As an example, our QC tore a strip off the judge clearly stating ‘where has the $800,000 gone that you yourself awarded?’ Further to this, 23 grounds of appeal were submitted. This alone is evidence that something has gone wrong. Another important issue is that the trial judge pulled the defendants’ witness up for committing perjury. When I queried this, the Federal Court has refused to answer. I would call this biased and contempt of Court.”

“I am receiving very favourable comments on the need for a fair court system from the business community and including the judiciary. I am told time and time again to keep up the fight for our country.”

“Judicial decisions depend largely on the individual biases and social situation of the judge. Law is not neutral or objective. The logic and structure attributed to the law grow out of the power relationships within the business community, and can be dominated by certain companies who regard themselves as beyond the scope of the law of any one country. ”

“What’s happening is that smaller contractors aren’t getting paid. People are depressed, even committing suicide due to a lack of honesty and transparency in business dealings, and a legal system which protects the rights of certain companies who are able to manipulate the system.”

“SM businesses need an avenue to make official complaints and for these to be investigated independently of the legal and court systems, as I strongly believe that some judges are not carrying out their duties correctly.”

“Another thing I have noticed in our courts, and this is extremely important, that SMEs should not have to disclose their financials or their personal assets. This goes totally against SMEs, and is extremely biased.”

“There are great business opportunities in Australia and for Australian businesses overseas. What Australian business needs is a fairer, unbiased legal system which delivers speedy and affordable justice. This is becoming apparent in the courts overseas.”

Mr Figallo campaigns tirelessly to extend Australian business opportunities overseas whilst raising money for charities supporting the disadvantaged, such as children with cancer.

The Canberra Quarterly presented by Inside Canberra’s Michael Keating

Inside Canberra Michael Keating

Inside Canberra’s Editor-in-Chief Michael Keating provides a summation of Canberra’s political landscape for the last quarter of 2017.


Labor has been promising that it would challenge the legitimacy of Barnaby Joyce remaining on the front bench. The argument became a trifle confused when they also challenged the legitimacy of the Coalition to form government because of the doubts over the Deputy Prime Minister’s eligibility to sit in Parliament. The matter was put to the test when the Leader of Opposition Business in the House, Tony Burke, moved for a suspension of standing orders so that Barnaby Joyce’s right to be a minister could be debated. The motion lost by one vote, presumably Mr Joyce’s, because the crossbenchers voted for the motion. The crossbenchers’ position was that he should stand down.

However the crossbenchers’ patience wore thin later in the week and by Wednesday they were voting against Tony Burke’s third motion to suspend standing orders. They were clearly concerned that the Parliament should get back to its core business and were happy to leave Mr Joyce’s future to the High Court.

Anthony Albanese developed a new approach for Labor on Wednesday when he asked a number of questions of Infrastructure Minister, Darren Chester, about projects that had recently been started in Mr Joyce’s electorate of New England. He asked whether the Deputy Prime Minister had already started campaigning for the inevitable by-election that would follow an adverse High Court decision. Mr Chester unashamedly delivered a campaign speech for his National Party leader.

A Senate committee released a Labor majority report that recommended an import ban on flammable building materials. Government representatives opposed the ban, a view that was supported by the fire authorities who appeared before the committee. The view of the experts was that cladding had considerable advantages and the risk could be managed. Labor Senators, led by Senator Kim Carr, said that the flammable materials were the equivalent of asbestos.


This week the political circus visited the precincts of the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, for the dual citizenship applications related to six Senators and Barnaby Joyce. The hapless politicians were represented by a gaggle of lawyers who were said to be costing the Commonwealth a cool $2 million for the three days of hearings.

When the Solicitor General, Dr Stephen Donaghue QC, opened proceedings the Chief Justice Susan Kiefel asked the obvious question: why did the Court have to deal with this problem when Parliament had been aware of it for 25 years? Dr Donaghue said that there were matters of ambiguity in section 44(1) of the constitution that the Court needed to resolve. The Solicitor General said that the applicants had to be divided into two groups: those who were born overseas and acquired foreign nationality at birth and those who were born in Australia and acquired citizenship by descent. He argued that the latter group should not have to take measures to revoke their foreign nationality because it was not incumbent on them to be aware that they held dual citizenship.

Former Solicitor General Justin Gleeson SC, representing Tony Windsor, argued that this would lead to instability within Parliament because there would be no certainty as to who was eligible to be members and who wasn’t and that the state of parties on the floor of the House of Representatives would be unclear. He argued that it was incumbent on members to undertake the appropriate due diligence.

The lawyers for Malcolm Roberts argued that it was unAustralian for there to be a distinction between people born in Australia and those who were not because Australia was a multicultural country. The Court seemed to lose patience with this argument and his lawyers were repeatedly told to hurry up with their submissions. At the present time there is no indication as to how the court will rule.

Jennifer Westacott at the Press Club

During her address to the National Press Club, Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), announced a major reform to tertiary education that her organisation wants implemented. She framed the need for the reform in the context of the requirement for Australia to improve productivity if it was to remain competitive within the global economy. This enabled her also to call for energy and tax reform as productivity enablers.

Ms Westacott acknowledged the reform that had taken place in the schools sector as a result of the Gonski initiatives. She said that, while the schools system had received a lot of funding recently, the reform of that sector was still a work in progress. The key was getting students to enjoy school while at the same time acquiring the necessary learning. Mathematics is a key component of that learning and we need to change the way that maths is taught. Ms Westacott added that we need to support and empower teachers in particular through developing an approach that allows good teachers to be paid more without swapping teaching for administration. However she said that before we do more to reform schools we need to settle on the objectives for education. One key objective should be that no child should leave school without a knowledge of reading, writing and mathematics.

When it comes to tertiary education there’s a need to value university and vocational education (VET) equally. At the moment there is a cultural bias in favour of university education. Funding is distorted. University students get substantial subsidies whereas VET students get much less assistance which means that students are more inclined to go to university than to undertake skills based learning. Universities are responding by credentialing more and more courses that are of limited value when it comes to national productivity.

The government spends $20 billion a year on higher education but it has no idea whether it is getting value for money. The BCA has produced a report which recommends measures that would lead to better economic returns from the expenditure. The report suggests that funding should belong to the learner. It proposes that every individual should have a lifelong learning account that would be funded by the government on an assisted loan basis and which could be applied at the owner’s discretion for courses that are deemed to contribute to economic productivity by an independent statutory authority established by the Commonwealth and the states.

The report also proposes the establishment of an independent platform that would list eligible courses, their prospects in the job market and the likely income that would they lead to in comparison with the cost of the course. Ms Westacott argues that this would lead to both a better allocation of educational resources and better economic outcomes.

In the meantime the BCA argues that no more money should be removed from the VET sector and TAFE should be reformed so that it can compete in the education market on the same terms as the private sector. At the same time there should a cost benefit analysis of the tertiary sector to ensure that the government is getting value for money.

Inside Canberra asked Ms Westacott whether a lifelong learning approach should include a reinstitution of the technical colleges first introduced by the Howard government so that secondary students could acquire high level technical skills prior to making career choices. She replied that the priority should be accorded to mature workers who needed to retrain.

Ms Westacott concluded with the observation that big reform was not beyond Australia but that it required leadership from both sides of the political divide and a focus on what was needed for the economy. It is not a case of trade-offs: tax cuts for big business will drive business investment which will lead to higher wages and stronger productivity. Higher tax revenues could support income tax cuts for those coming under pressure from bracket creep. It is not a case of one or the other.


Malcolm Turnbull had problems coming at him from all directions: the Libs and the Nats were fighting over the Senate presidency; more Coalition members were under threat of exposure as dual citizens; there were stories appearing that backbenchers are discussing leadership change; and Tony Abbott was talking of a resurgent conservative movement. With Labor threatening to create chaos on the floor of the House of Representatives when Parliament resumes for the last two sitting weeks before the summer break, there were questions about whether the government can hold it together until the end of the year.

The first issue was whether the government can keep control of the parliamentary process until Barnaby Joyce returns after his by-election. In normal circumstances this shouldn’t be a problem: in order to get a bill, say to establish a bank royal commission, voted on, the opposition would have suspend standing orders which requires an absolute majority of 76 votes. With all the Labor members and the crossbenchers it can muster 74 votes at the most so they need two government backbenchers to cross the floor. There are rumours that George Christensen and Warren Entsch are prepared to do that on banks but that remained to be seen. The position is less clear on the other bill that Labor wants to get up, the reversal of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates. George Christensen had indicated that he was unhappy with the FWC decision and earlier this year he crossed the floor to vote with Labor on a motion to have the issue debated. Labor will target him and Warren Entsch, both of whose electorates have suffered because of the cuts in penalty rates.

The dual citizenship issue is a festering sore for the government. Then over the last few days Josh Frydenberg and Alex Hawke have been outed as potential dual citizens and Labor has called for a process of universal disclosure whereby all Members and Senators will produce any material they have that’s relevant to their citizenship, presumably to the clerks of the House and the Senate who will open them for public inspection. Greens leader Richard Di Natale had a proposal that went further. He wanted to establish a parliamentary committee that would review the citizenship status of all Senators and Members and to refer all those that can’t be completely vindicated to the High Court. Presumably they would be asked to stand aside while their cases were pending. This proposal has hallmarks of Robespierre, St Just and the Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution. It would be surprising if the parliamentary committee was not dominated by Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers while the Liberals would be the party in the frame.

The rumours about leadership threats were raised with Tony Abbott’s offsider Kevin Andrews when he was interviewed on Sky News at that time. Mr Andrew’s insisted that he had confidence in the Prime Minister despite being at odds with him over citizenship. He said that he was unaware of any moves against Mr Turnbull at the moment. There are reports circulating that a group within the Liberal Party is trying to destabilise the leadership. This group is said to be behind the allegations over Josh Frydenberg’s citizenship and possibly the story about Alex Hawke. However this doesn’t mean that there is a plot to replace the Prime Minister before the election. At that moment it seemed as if he will lead the Coalition to a calamitous loss.


We are approaching the killing season, the time when weak leaders are put to the sword. Malcolm Turnbull is now a leader without authority, unable or unwilling to honour his promises. On same sex marriage he promised religious protections but would not support amendments that were supported by the majority of his party, a majority of his cabinet, and a majority of Liberal voters. The public has stopped listening to him and he can’t get the polls to move in any direction except down.

‘The Australian’s’ Dennis Shanahan says that in the circumstances a party has three options: change the leader; change the ministry; or change the conversation. At the moment the government’s leadership group appears not to want to take any of these options and seems to prefer to lose government. The problem is that, in these circumstances, a substantial number of Liberals will lose their seats. This prospect is making the backbench extremely nervous and causing the Nationals to adopt a separate political identity which is leading to support for a commission of inquiry into the financial sector.

At the end of this week the government will know how many by-elections it is likely to face next year. At the moment it’s reckoned to be at least six which is enough to bring about a change of government. Seen through this prism the Prime Minister will be matched with Bill Shorten in what is a proxy for a general election. If he loses government then he’s finished in politics so jeopardy is closer than ever. At the moment the Liberal Party is not ready for a major political stoush. It’s possible that John Alexander will win the Bennelong by-election because of issues that are peculiar to the electorate but it’s unlikely that these factors will come into play with other by-elections next year which Labor will represent as a referendum on the government and its leader.

And now we see the Prime Minister engaging in major reversal of his long-standing position opposing a royal commission to examine the several wrongdoings of the big four banks, apparently at the direct request of those big four banks although, at least around the water cooler, there seems to be a measure of scepticism about just who prompted who to ask for what.

Oh and another thing: Malcolm Turnbull announced that he’d vote in the Reps in favour of Attorney General George Brandis’ proposed amendment to the same sex marriage bill to protect the position of religious charities.

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Smartgroup on providing employee benefits through salary packaging


Dave Adler, is the Chief Executive of Leasing and Fleet for Smartgroup. Smartgroup is amongst Australia’s leading providers of employee benefits and workplace optimisation services. Their services are available to government, health and corporate sectors, and draw strength from continual improvement in their people, customer-service, and technology.

Amongst the key services Smartgroup offer is salary packaging. Also known as salary sacrifice, the process of salary packaging allows employees to take a portion of their salary as non-cash benefits, the bulk of which can be paid for with their pre-tax income. Salary packaging was born in 1986 when Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) was introduced. In modern use, it is one of the most effective ways that not-for-profits and public sector organisations can offer earnings to their employees that are competitive with those available within the private sector. It also allows those in the private sector to increase their take home pay.

Since 2002, Mr Adler has taken on a variety of roles at Smartgroup including operations, client services, business development, marketing, and has been part of the company’s key executive team since 2006.

The Australian Business Executive (The ABE) spoke to Mr Adler about Smartgroup’s customer-centric viewpoint, innovation, and the services they provide.

The ABE: How would you describe how Smartgroup came about and what it has evolved into today?

Dave Adler: Smartgroup began as Smartsalary Pty Limited in 2001. We were fairly late entrants into the salary packaging market, the major players had been around since the mid-90s and were doing a good job capturing market share. The Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) legislation was relatively new and quite complex. Organisations didn’t really understand salary packaging and so immediately looked to outsource.

A couple of Melbourne-based providers took most of the market, but didn’t excel at providing good levels of service, thus encouraging a number of their clients to look for alternatives. This allowed Smartsalary to win a number of hospital clients and gain a solid presence in the market. Our journey and growth essentially commenced in 2002 when we won a large hospital contract in Victoria.

Since day dot, our focus has been on serving our current clients as best we can.

The ABE: In over 15 years with the business, what have you learned is important to its success?

Dave Adler: Number one is making sure our customers are looked after. We’ve managed to retain the vast majority of our clients by focusing on providing and maintaining great service. Customer loyalty is at the pinnacle of our capability triangle.

We’ve measured net promoter score since 2010. This gives us a very clear understanding of customer loyalty-who is promoting us and talking to their friends about us, and what we need to do about the few customers who may be on the detractor side. But that core principle of looking after our clients and our customers, the end users, has been in place throughout our entire history.

The ABE: The term salary sacrifice is bandied around but a lot of our readers may not fully understand how it works. Could you give us a grounded explanation of this and who uses the service you provide?

Dave Adler: It’s basically an employee benefit based on Fringe Benefits Tax legislation in Australia. It’s a way for people, rather than taking their entire salary as cash, to take a combination of cash and specific benefits that can be primarily paid with pre-tax dollars.

While the users range from not-for-profits and government employees to corporates, the main group that it benefits are employees of not-for-profits, often called Public Benevolent Institutions (PBIs). The idea is that they get a portion of their salary tax-free, and they can allocate that tax-free cap to pay for a range of benefits. Knowing that the public sector or the not-for-profit sector cannot compete with the private sector in terms of actual salaries, these tax concessions are a way to even it out so employees in all sectors are earning similar amounts.


The ABE: How did you roll out these services across different industries?

Dave Adler: Two services are available to all sectors regardless of whether they are for-profit or not-for-profit, or whether they are a public benevolent institution. The first being additional superannuation contributions over and above the super guarantee that is paid by the employer.

The second is novated leasing. Novated leasing is the car leasing benefit. It has become one of the fastest forms of vehicle financing in Australia as a result of not only tax concessions, but some additional savings in the form of discounted vehicles, not paying GST on the purchase price of the vehicle, competitive finance rates and insurance rates that are lower than what the employee could source themselves. There is a combination of savings, plus the convenience of outsourcing car leasing management to us, that makes this benefit very attractive.

As a result of these two opportunities, employees in a number of sectors have started to salary package. Today, for example, the offering of salary packaging is in many of the enterprise bargaining agreements, so it’s something that organisations must offer their employees as part of the remuneration program.

The ABE: Why are salary packaging and novated leasing important benefits in the corporate sector? In the government sector?

Dave Adler: In many cases employers see salary packaging as an extension of their overall remuneration and benefits offering to staff. We typically see the highest levels of employee participation at organisations that view these benefits as a critical part of their remuneration and benefits program, so when the HR department truly believes salary packaging employees can improve their financial wellbeing and increase their take-home pay. These companies are supportive of us educating their staff about the benefits available to them. It’s important to make employees aware that besides their cash salary there are other legal ways that allow them to increase their take-home pay, often significantly.

There’s a misconception that novated leasing is for those earning six-figure salaries. Really, it works for employees on a middle income. 70% of users are employed in Health, Education, Charities, Government and Emergency Services and the annual salary range for most users of novated leasing is $80,000-$89,999. And lastly, the average purchase price of a novated lease vehicle is around the $37,000 mark.

The ABE: Smartgroup has won several awards for innovation, including being named on the Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies list for 2017, how does innovation feed into your company philosophy?

Dave Adler: We represent our key capabilities as a triangle. At the base of that triangle is employee engagement. We believe if staff are not engaged, it’s really hard to motivate them to do the right thing. At the pinnacle of our triangle is customer loyalty. Without loyal customers, you’re not able to grow over time.

In many ways the salary packaging industry is no different to other industries. The product we offer is highly legislated, and the product and the benefits that we offer are also offered by all of our competitors. In our case, differentiation of product is not really an option – it’s all about how we differentiate our service. We introduced innovation to the core of our triangle to encourage positive change that adds value to our customers’ experience. We were first recognised for innovation in 2012. At the time it was known as BRW’s most innovative companies list, but over the last couple of years it’s been know as the Australian Financial Review 50 most innovative companies list. We’ve been recognised in those rankings four times in the past 5 years. It’s all about innovation that delivers a better outcome for our customers and our suppliers.

The ABE: You recently received the highest audit score ever recorded by the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA), can you comment on the Smartgroup approach to customer service?

Dave Adler: The CSIA is the peak body for customer service in Australia. We’ve been accredited with them since 2008, and when we initially gained accreditation, we really saw it as a stamp of approval. The real meaning comes from the feedback we get as a result of the audit.

CSIA visit our office and they actually talk to people, not to the management team, but they talk to staff who are in customer facing roles to make sure that what we said in our submission is in fact what we’re doing – that we are living by our principles. It’s not only customer service staff they speak to (as in people who are answering the phone and having a direct conversation with the customer) CSIA also talk to people in marketing who are communicating with the customer, and the sales team who are educating and signing people up for services. In the past three years we’ve had the highest score issued in the history of the CSIA. In 2015, 2016 and again 2017.

The ABE: What is the benefit of outsourcing employee remuneration and benefits administration?

Dave Adler: If you’re offering a novated leasing program, it is really hard to do in-house because of the intricacies and number of providers that are necessary to put a novated leasing program in place. For example: in order to have an attractive cost-effective program, you need to have access to a network of car dealerships to source vehicles. You also need to have access to funding or financiers in order to finance those vehicles. You need a range of different insurance options, whether it’s comprehensive or CTP insurance, and other more specific insurances like redundancy insurance.

When an employee’s package is built, they go through the credit application process. Payments are bundled into a monthly lump sum. Pre-tax and after-tax deductions on that vehicle need to be managed and payments need to be made to the various suppliers for the term of the lease. Then at the end of the lease, employees often want to trade in or purchase their vehicle outright.

There’s a layer of technology that we offer in terms of online calculators and models to help people to understand how much money they can save. They have the ability to apply for credit online and claims for out-of-pocket expenses for that vehicle can be made through our app or mobile-friendly website. They can also change their deductions for some of their expenses online. We have fuel cards, which are a critical part of the program, and people can order or cancel these online. There’s a layer of technology that employers don’t have.

There’s also the management. The financial and the tax management should be outsourced so you’re not taking on any potential liability or financial risk. If you do it yourself and you have the wrong calculation, you might end up with liabilities.

Most organisations don’t really have the time or skills to carry out this whole function. They need an outsourced provider to do it for them because to offer novated leasing without a third party is practically impossible. We’ve found some hospitals and not-for-profits who do manage salary packaging in-house and outsource their novated leasing.

We’ve seen not-for-profits thinking “I want a lower cost program, I don’t want to do the admin, I want to partner with an organisation that can help me increase the participation rates for better service and better technology.” The benefits are significant.

Since establishment as Smartsalary Pty Limited in 2001, Smartgroup has achieved business success through their attention to customers, workforce and technology, putting their efforts into serving their loyal customer base. They are thoroughly engaged in the improvement of their systems and services, and welcome external scrutiny.

The team at Smartgroup has done an excellent job of demystifying the many services Smartgroup offer, and you can find out more including how their services can suit you or your business by visiting www.smartgroup.com.au

CQR on the importance of certification in an increasingly interconnected world

CQR online digital security

When they were first invented as business structures, companies tended to operate as stand-alone entities. Each would carry out all the activities required to create the goods or services provided to their customers.

During the 1980s, this situation started to change. The concept of ‘outsourcing’ became popular and companies began to offload elements of their operations to external parties. The rationale was that they could do it faster, better and more cost effectively while the company itself focused on its core competency.

As a result, organisations found they no longer operated in isolation but instead had a web of links to other companies. These links became vital for their ongoing operation and growth. Any disruption in one area could have rapid and significant flow-on effects in others.

The importance of trust

As this outsourcing trend grew, the importance of inter-company trust came to the fore. Companies realised they needed to be able to trust their chosen third parties to carry out functions professionally and securely.

This was particularly the case when it came to outsourcing the IT function. A company needed to be sure the selected third party had the qualifications and knowledge required to ensure systems were maintained and secure at all times.

Today, this subject of trust is particularly acute when a company opts to make use of a cloud service provider. The company must be confident the provider has in place the necessary systems and processes to ensure the service is reliable and resilient to cyber attacks.

Certification is key

One of the most effective ways of creating trust between companies is through the use of certifications. A potential provider must be able to demonstrate that they have been reviewed by an independent party and found to be operating in accordance with industry best practices.

Unfortunately, there is currently no legal requirement for such certification. Indeed, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a cyber security expert. There are companies offering security services without any qualifications or certifications at all, and this should be a very real concern for anyone making use of their services.

Before establishing links with any external party, a company should carefully review its certifications and ensure they are operating efficiently, effectively and securely. A failure to do this could result in business disruption and loss.

Inter-company trust has never been more important and it has now become the bedrock of the modern economy. That bedrock needs to be hardened with proper certifications.

CQR are a Cyber Security Service provider. Working with our clients to produce high quality outcomes throughout the globe from our offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Oxford (UK) and New York (USA).

CQR was founded with the mission of MAKING THE WORLD A SAFER PLACE. We exist only to ensure our clients’ businesses and people are protected so they can thrive.

To learn more of CQR and our services visit www.cqr.com or contact us directly on 1300 277 001.

FCM Travel on keeping your staff safe when they travel

corporate travel with FCM Travel Solutions

What you need to do to keep your staff safe when they travel

It’s quite surprising the number of organisations that don’t have a full travel risk management plan and a crisis response plan. Both are important components in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff when they are on the road.

Whilst catastrophic events, such as a terrorist incident, natural disaster or an outbreak of Ebola may grab the headlines, it’s the high-frequency and low-impact events, such as a traffic incident or stomach upset from contaminated food, that are most likely to affect staff when travelling. This is why both ends of the frequency-impact spectrum should be considered when employers look at duty of care for their travellers.

Of course, emergencies do happen and knowing where your team are at any one time is essential if there is a local or transnational incident where immediate follow-up is needed to establish if staff in the area are safe. Appropriate actions can then be taken swiftly to aid those affected. In the more likely event of a minor incident, further stress and delays can be reduced by employers ensuring their travellers know where to seek help, using expertise from their TMC, insurer or travel risk management provider.

Putting together an effective travel policy

The first step is to think about the risks impacting your particular business and industry sector, and what your organisation’s risk tolerance level is – for example, an aid organisation is likely to have a high travel risk tolerance because they are sending workers into warzones or places where there may be civil unrest, famine and disease. The risks these workers face are likely to be very different from a banking organisation sending staff to Singapore, New York, London and Sydney.

Encouraging your staff to book travel via your preferred TMC

Whilst the benefits of protecting staff safety and wellbeing are clear, employers need to be proactive and even repetitive in communicating what the travel risk policy is to staff so that they are aware of the protocols in place and why they are there. This should encourage traveller compliance and hopefully reduce off-channel bookings via travel websites that do not collate and report on flight times, location of hotels and itineraries, rendering employers ‘in the dark’ and less able to respond promptly if an incident occurs. Primarily, engagement should be sought by communicating with staff about travel risk management and what systems are in place to protect their safety and wellbeing when they are travelling for work. Employees feel supported by companies who invest in their health and wellbeing. Ensuring that the travel policy can be easily accessed, easily understood by staff and that bookings can be made easily through the preferred TMC will also help ensure compliance and avoid bookings via other platforms.

In cases where a traveller has booked their travel via other means, employers should enquire as to why and seek feedback – is it a perception of cost differential or are there delays getting through to the travel management company’s consultants which need to be addressed?

Ultimately, there has to be reasonable follow-up with non-compliant travellers, which should be tangible and some organisations use gamification as part of that. There’s nothing more incentivising than a leadership table of strong performers within your organisation showing loyalty to the travel policy, where percentages of bookings made off-channel or without pre-trip approvals, are made known. There is an element of competitive spirit about this approach which may appeal to your staff.

From travel risk policy to testing crisis response

Once a travel risk policy is in place, organisations should consider how they will respond to a variety of critical incidents and then test these response plans. A crisis response plan needs to be pro-actively and robustly tested on a regular basis to ensure that it is fit for purpose – companies need to answer questions such as ‘how do we work with our chosen travel management company when an incident occurs?’ and ‘how do we ensure there is 24 hour coverage in our organisation?’ If something happens in the middle of the night in your organisation’s time zone with a traveller who is in another part of the world – how are you going to respond to that?

Consideration also needs to be given to the pros and cons of using smartphones as our world becomes more mobile. A travel-risk platform and its technology should be linked up to staffs’ mobile phones for ease and accessibility on the go, enabling travellers to report their exact location, rather than leaving their employer to rely solely on itinerary data. However, there are also challenges with mobile safety reporting in that mobile networks can quickly go down if a major incident occurs, so this should not be seen as a catch-all solution on its own.

Something to think about

Ultimately, the legal duty of care for staff whilst they are working, whether they are on site or on the road, lies with their employer. Whilst implementing a robust and dynamic travel-risk policy may seem daunting, travel management companies like FCM Travel Solutions and risk providers like iJET International are on-hand to offer support and guidance to ensure successful implementation of this policy. Similarly, when the worst happens, a well-constructed crisis response plan with the buy-in of all necessary stakeholders, that has been rehearsed, tested and socialised will go a long way to ensure that an organisation is doing all it can to reasonably keep their travellers safe.

Capsifi on doing business in the digital economy

Capsifi digital cloud solutions

Across the globe, digital initiatives are enabling new forms of doing business at lightning speed, anytime and anywhere.

Digital business offers profound new opportunities for personalised, contextual customer interactions. This sort of transformation is not just a technology shift; it requires entirely new thinking about how you do business.

• 90% of large enterprises have digital business initiatives underway
• CEOs expect digital to contribute approximately 40% of their revenue by 2019
• 44% of CEO’s believe their current business models will be completely disrupted within the next 2 years
• 73% of business and IT executives surveyed said the biggest challenge to their digital transformation efforts is execution

It’s well acknowledged that executing a digital transformation can be complex, expensive, involve a significant exposure to risk and can often fail. A key reason for failure is that the blueprints for how the business runs, are generally fragmented, imprecise and ambiguous. Where it exists, business documentation from previous projects is mostly inconsistent, out-of- date and rarely reusable.


Where does your business model live today?

Most businesses do not have a tangible business model that explains how they operate. The only detailed explanation for how everything works, is typically buried inaccessibly in aging enterprise systems. All technology platforms inevitably succumb to the tyranny of legacy, becoming inhibitors rather than enablers of business agility.

Capsifi business models – precisely explain the semantics of what you do from strategy through to execution

Capsifi provides an intelligent, cloud-based platform that generates semantic models explaining precisely what a business does from your business strategies all the way through to execution. This integrated knowledge-base aligns information, people, processes and business logic to provide a single, consistent, expression of the business operation. Like the language we speak, a Capsifi model establishes the vocabulary and grammar of the business; defining business concepts and articulating business capabilities. The result is a dynamic and integrated view of your enterprise that not only accurately explains the “as- is” situation of today but also where you are planning “to-be”.

Capsifi has been described as “CAD/CAM for business”. Just as an engineer would develop detailed digital models that precisely explain the designs for a building before it is constructed, Capsifi helps business architects design precise models of a business before it is automated.

Capsifi business models a core strategic asset that insulates you from ongoing technology disruption

A Capsifi business model is a core strategic asset that encapsulates the business model and protects that knowledge to support ongoing adaptation to change.

Technology is not an enduring asset; your true strategic asset is the business model. An intelligent business model allows you to rapidly assimilate and embrace innovation, insulating your business from disruption and minimizing the impact of ongoing technology advances.

This allows you to focus on your core business; the things that you do, not the technologies you need to do them.

With the pace of technology innovation, it’s not about transforming the business, but building the capacity to continuously transform. The value of a Capsifi intelligent business model endures way beyond the life of a single program into a dynamically evolving explanation of how the business operates.

Capsifi future-proofs your business with an enduring, incrementally evolving knowledge-base that helps you adapt and keep pace with the constant pace of technology innovation.

Capsifi business models – accelerate business transformation

Capsifi completely inverts existing paradigms for developing technology solutions – placing business first.

As an integrated explanation of the future state operating model in a dynamic consolidated platform, a Capsifi business model is the single source-of- truth guiding and de-risking the transformation journey with integrated knowledge that is entered in one place, once, consistently explaining all aspects of the program.

Returns on investment accrue exponentially with each subsequent piece of knowledge captured. Each new project reuses and builds incrementally on previous projects without ambiguity. All changes to the model are dynamic and instantly ripple throughout the platform.

Capsifi business models helps customers to:

• Dynamically explain how everything works – never analyze the same thing twice!
• Reduce waste, eliminate duplication, maximize reuse of business knowledge
• Gain insights into business bottlenecks and inefficiencies
• Eliminate layers of development effort.
• Rapidly transition legacy business transactions onto digital platforms
• Dramatically reduce the cost of technology deployments

With Capsifi everything is consistent, everything is connected, everything is aligned.

Find out more by visiting www.capsifi.com.

Maxxia on plugging the gaps in your employee value proposition

Successful businesses know the importance of investing in their employee value proposition (EVP). Many have comprehensive performance metrics and KPIs to measure and report on multiple aspects of their EVP including benchmarks for salary and incentives, training and development and employee engagement and satisfaction. According to Andrew Daly, Group Executive Customer Development for Maxxia, your benefits program could be the element that’s holding you back from creating that perfect package to attract and retain talent.

Why do employee benefits still matter when businesses have so many ways to make staff feel valued?  

It’s no secret that human capital is the most critical asset for any organisation. Brands compete on their customer service, innovation and R&D talent. At the same time recruiting staff is time consuming and expensive. So once you’ve found the right talent, retaining that talent is a good investment.

To stay competitive organisations are making a big commitment to getting the right staff on board and keeping them – from defining and developing workplace culture to career progression and training. Employee benefits are just one of many elements that can make or break that sense of value and engagement we want staff to experience through their work.

Some of these benefits – such as the superannuation guarantee – are mandatory, a box to be checked as part of the on-boarding process. Others, like health insurance, might be discretionary but are often treated in much the same way. Perhaps that’s why all benefits tend to be seen as standard perks an employer is expected to offer rather than something that can deliver substantial value to both employees and the business.

So while “employee benefits program” might be the words that make new staff glaze over during the induction process, they can actually be very effective in securing engagement from the outset. By providing access to salary packaging benefits that enable savings on a range of goods and services like owning a new car, or the cost of living in a remote area for work, staff can feel as if they’ve enjoyed an unexpected windfall. And if they’re thinking about leaving in the future, reliance on a range of salary packaging benefits for cost-effective, tax efficient extras and essentials can be an important reason for staying put.

What can a best-in-class benefits package contribute to the employee experience?

There are two main areas where employees can reap the rewards of a really strong benefits package. They give back to staff in terms of both time and money saved and that’s why they can make such a big difference to quality of life when you deliver these benefits to a much higher standard.

Maxxia salary packaging

With novated leasing of vehicles for example, the immediate dollar value comes from savings in tax which can be more or less substantial depending on the marginal tax rate of the employee. But there’s also a whole raft of further savings that come from competitive pricing on purchase and insurance and genuine value from a trusted network of service and maintenance providers. So the financial savings are there from the outset and for the life of the vehicle.

The less tangible, measurable value is in the convenience, both immediate and ongoing of having every aspect of managing your vehicle taken care of by a third party. When one company were making the call on whether to withdraw novated leasing from their benefits package, we surveyed employees on what they valued most about the offering. What we found was how much importance they placed on not having to be concerned with the hassle of securing a vehicle, organising service and maintenance and registration renewal. Most of all, they don’t need to have the headspace or discipline to budget for these large occasional expenses because they’re all included in a regular pre-tax payment.

Car ownership is likely to be in the top three household expenses for many employees. If they also own a home, paying off the mortgage takes perhaps the greatest chunk of anyone’s wages. For one of our clients with staff spread out across remote areas, we investigated the potential savings for salary packaging home loan payments. The average tax relief per staff member was expected to put $4,000 each year back in their pocket. When you present anyone with that kind of incentive, it gives them a sense that their employer is really looking after them by making something as fundamental as housing more affordable.

When it comes to measuring performance, why are employee benefits packages so often overlooked?

When talent is scarce, it’s very important to keep tabs on how likely your people are to stay in their jobs. Investing a substantial share of HR time and resources in monitoring the full gamut of employee engagement metrics has become the norm for businesses in the 21st century. Reporting on performance against KPIs and benchmarks for job satisfaction, career progression and alignment with organisational values is considered a vital early-warning system for potential problems with productivity and staff retention.

As a provider of employee benefits, we’re constantly finding that the same standards of scrutiny just don’t apply to this segment of the whole employee value proposition. The general measure of satisfaction with an existing employee benefits program is that no complaints are received and therefore it’s achieving a desirable level of performance!

Unfortunately, this lack of negative feedback usually signals a widespread lack of engagement with and take-up of employee benefits. Given their significant potential to provide value to employees and drive their engagement, the absence of employee benefits from the metrics dashboard is something that’s important to address.

Maxxia designs programs with measurable financial value

This is why we offer industry specific benchmarks an employee benefits program should expect to achieve. We find this to be a critical part of reaching an absolute verdict on how a program performs, both in terms of actual savings to each individual employee, but also as a measure of overall value to the business. When our benefits assessment process shines a light on the comparative value a company is realising from their own offering, it really changes the whole conversation about how satisfied they are with what they’re delivering.

What should a business be looking for in an employee benefits package?

Achieving or exceeding that benchmark can be a major challenge in a number of ways. Part of the formula that drives participation in benefits programs is offering a broad range of perks that suit the demographic composition and lifestyle of employees. Setting up multiple benefits has often been taken on by HR, who might engage a whole range of sub-contractors, from the gym around the corner to the fleet management company. When there are problems, with staff complaints about car service arrangements for example, or reconciling benefits and liabilities when a member of staff leaves, no one wants to accept the responsibility or financial fallout.

Outsourcing salary packaging transactions and their associated risks to a single expert provider is just one of the ways a business can counter the internal perception of program delivery as being more trouble than it’s worth. When payroll no longer see salary packaging as a task that stretches the capability of their current technology, then at least one of the barriers to scaling up delivery of your employee benefits program is taken care of.

Another significant advantage of getting the experts involved is securing the capacity and commitment it takes to get staff educated and motivated about what’s in it for them. By segmenting communication to different groups of staff according to their age and lifestyle needs, an internal campaign can use a whole range of channels – emails, posters, face-to-face and online – to increase awareness and participation. With this type of internal marketing approach, companies can soon reach the point where reaping the benefits of salary packaging is the rule rather than the exception, and the savings for staff are something worth broadcasting.

High standards and a consistent, professional level of interaction with employees builds the foundation for delivering intangible value that can be the difference between success and failure in the employee engagement stakes. Staff will feel both cashed up and cared for if they’re given multiple opportunities to interact positively with their benefit provider – from reports and updates on what they’ve saved to reassuring reminders that all ongoing responsibilities for their vehicle, home or chosen service are well in hand. It’s by providing peace of mind in an uncertain world that businesses can be seen as caring for employers in a way that has real meaning for them.

Let’s not forget that peace of mind for all company stakeholders relies on a stable financial position. A Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) shortfall, adding up to as much as $600k for large corporates, can become a big problem when not accounted for in financial forecasts. By monitoring FBT liability that can arise from employee benefits, a premium provider can ensure there are no unpleasant surprises for balance sheets and profit & loss outcomes.

To find out how your benefits program performance measures up contact Andrew Daly and his team on 03 9097 3361 today or visit business.maxxia.com.au/performance