Getting the scoop on the CA heading up an Australian icon

Ice cream scoop
Chris Sheedy By Chris Sheedy, CA Today

6 September 2016

After more than two decades travelling the world for Diageo, Longniddry local Allan Hood CA found his calling at the helm of an Aussie icon.

Allan Hood CATravel was nothing new to Allan when an offer came through to take over as CFO with Australian dairy food business, Bulla Dairy Foods. Now CEO of the company, it wasn’t the glamour of an overseas move that attracted him to the role, but rather the sense of finally being able to settle.

Earlier in his career, having worked for several years in Edinburgh in the finance department of drinks giant Diageo, Allan began travelling to help manage Diageo brands in other territories. He qualified as a CA under the Training Outside Public Practice Scheme (TOPPS), then spent time in the London office before travelling further afield; living and working for several years at a time in Dubai, Jamaica, and Tanzania.

Allan’s last role with Diageo, after 21 years, was as Global Audit Risk Director back in Edinburgh. But in 2013 a job offer came through from Australian head-hunters. It was one he simply could not turn down.

What was so attractive about the job offer?

It was time for a change professionally and it represented a perfect scenario for me, personally, and for my family. 

It worked out timing-wise because my children had done a couple of international assignments with us and it's always hard going away somewhere for two or three years. We wanted to be somewhere for the long term and get the kids into a school without having to move them every couple of years.

I was also really taken by the culture, values, and vision at Bulla. Add Australia into the mix and what's not to like?

What encouraged you to travel so much in the first place?

I always liked the finance discipline, but I really loved working in markets and with brands and with people.

The markets I worked in were all emerging markets, so there was a little bit of risk and a little bit of diversity and challenge. These markets didn't get a heap of resources thrown at them in terms of systems and people but were a fantastic experience.

Having grown up in Longniddry, how have you found Melbourne?

I must admit, I didn't quite expect it to be this cold. I quite like the fact that you have four seasons, but sometimes it's a challenge having them all in one day.

I think the people in Melbourne are exceptional. They've great passion and are very open.

Melbourne offers a nice lifestyle; you have architecture and culture in a modern city with a great history. They are mad about sport and it's also very safe and culturally very diverse, so it's great for the kids.

Bulla is a family business. Does that introduce new challenges?

The interesting thing about Bulla is that it's owned by the same three Aussie families, now into its sixth generation. 

The perception is that decisions are made around a kitchen table, but that's not the case. They're very good people and they've got very strong values, culture and a huge, rich history. That’s truly unfakeable.

What are the industry challenges?

It's very competitive and we are still 100% owned as an Australian family business. Our competitors in the categories that we play in are big global organisations with very deep pockets.

On the ice cream side, it’s businesses like Unilever and Nestle. In cream, sour cream and fresh cheese we're competing against big dairy processors like Murray Goulburn and Fonterra.

We're much smaller and we've got less resources. That's our biggest challenge.

Just because something works in Australia doesn't mean it will work in Asia. We've got to make sure our message is right, and the authenticity of our brand and the sustainability of our company, which is critical in Asia, is there for everyone to see.

Is that also an advantage?

It's an advantage as long as you tell your story. One of the things we've done in the last 12 months, and what we've done differently under my leadership, is get absolute clarity and alignment around where we’re going strategically as a business. 

We take great pride in what we do and it goes back to the 105-year history of care, craftsmanship and passion that goes into our products.

Where do you look for growth?

95% of our business is focused in Australia so we're looking to grow our international business. This year, we put our first overseas employees in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, so that’s a step in the right direction, albeit a very small and careful step.

Just because something works in Australia doesn't mean it will work in Asia. We've got to make sure our message is right, and the authenticity of our brand and the sustainability of our company, which is critical in Asia, is there for everyone to see.

What opportunities are there for CAs in Australia?

What I’ve discovered, first and foremost, is that the qualification is recognised all over the world. And international commercial and leadership experience, for me, is what makes people stand out. 

It gives you a grounding in the real world. If you've only ever worked in an office in St. Andrew's Square in Edinburgh, then it could be a challenge. Australia has such a diverse culture with diverse opportunities.

It provides experience in an honest and hard-working environment.

About the author

Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine, GQ, In The Black, Cadillac, Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.


  • CA life
  • Business
  • Australia

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