Wednesday, December 06, 2023

CPA Australia ‘descends into chaos’ as exec quits after 3 months

Elinor Kasapidis new Chief Learning Officer 
Elinor was the Senior Manager Tax Policy at CPA Australia. She was responsible for CPA Australia's tax policy and advocacy work, advocating on behalf of members ...

Mr Hunter appointed Elinor Kasapidis as the interim chief learning and innovation officer.

CPA Australia ‘descends into chaos’ as exec quits after 3 months 


Head of the key Learning and Innovation group walks on eve of next wave of job cuts.

By Philip King15 minute read

CPA Australia is descending into chaos with a high-profile executive recruit quitting this week after just four months, its revenue-critical Learning and Innovation group rudderless and the latest batch of redundancies due to be announced this week.

In an email to staff late yesterday, CEO Andrew Hunter announced the “unexpected” news that chief learning and innovation officer Claire Hopkins had resigned in favour of a role at Melbourne University after only being appointed to the job in August.


“For those in L&I, I know that this will be unexpected news given we are working through significant changes in the team,” the email said. “I, the ELT [executive leadership team], members of the EPIC [education, policy and innovation committee] and the board are all across the work that Claire has led and are in alignment that we are on the right track with the emerging strategy and operating model.

“With this in mind, changes to the Policy & Advocacy and Professional Standards departments will go ahead as planned, this week.”

The “changes” will be the latest round of rolling redundancies, underway since June, that aim to cull up to 12 per cent of the body’s 600+ staff to stem more than $40 million in losses over the past two years.

One source said Ms Hopkins, who replaced Karen Hellwig in August, was just the latest in a stream of nine executive departures over the past three years “that reflected poorly on the choices” of CEO Andrew Hunter and came at a significant cost to the organisation in payout packages.

With an expansion to the role, Ms Hopkins was thought to be on a more generous salary than Ms Hellwig, whose total remuneration in 2021 was almost $490,000 according to CPA Australia’s integrated report.

Six groups reported to Ms Hopkins in the expanded role and many have already cut staff as part of the redundancy program, with Policy and Advocacy and Professional Standards now expected to learn their fate as soon as tomorrow.

One source said the roughly 100 staff under Ms Hopkins “all seem unhappy, unmotivated, and somehow even less certain of their employment and the future of CPA Australia” in the wake of the news.

The two groups in line for job cuts deliver some of the key revenue and member services, including education and training, and opened the possibility for CPA Australia’s “financial hole to grow a hell of lot bigger”, one source said.

Multiple leadership departures mean the six groups under Learning and Innovation, which also include Media and External Engagement, Program Design and Transformation, Program Delivery and Assessment Support, Strategy and Product, Develop and Deliver, have been left rudderless, with three inexperienced new leaders and three without heads at all.

In yesterday’s email to staff, Mr Hunter appointed Elinor Kasapidis as the interim chief learning and innovation officer.

“Elinor will be known to all of you as our head of policy & advocacy, and as part of the L&I leadership team. Elinor’s priorities will be the health and welfare of our people and to ensure the CPA Program, Learning Management System RFP, and the Q1 activities run smoothly,” the email said.

One source confirmed that Ms Kasapidis had “zero education experience” but now leads a team responsible for about $60 million of the body’s $170 million in annual revenue.

More than one source who spoke to Accountants Daily said the body had descended into “disfunction” and “chaos” under the leadership of Mr Hunter, and rumours surround the cause of his departure due next March but announced months ago.

“The CEO was mostly useless in the meeting presenting her resignation today, avoiding any useful answers to every question. He's resigned and finishing soon too, so what does he care,” said one insider.

The email confirmed that a permanent replacement for Ms Hopkins would await the appointment of a new CEO in early 2024.

Mr Hunter’s email continued: “Claire, Elinor and I are working closely to ensure a smooth handover and clarity on Q1-2024 priorities, to ensure the L&I team has the time to reset and focus on core services.”

Other recent leadership departures include CFO Nicholas Diss in February. He was replaced by former GM Holden CFO George Kapitelli, who was a central figure in the closure of the Australian car-maker six years ago.

Another Hunter appointment, executive general manager of education Simon Eassom, departed in June 2021 after less than three years in the role.

A source said “executive churn” had become a feature of Mr Hunter’s leadership and an “indictment of his recruitment approach”.

Sources said members would start to feel the effect of cutbacks in the organisation although a satisfaction survey in November was unlikely to reflect the changes.

However, internal social media conversations on Member Connect showed the recent fee increases had been a catalyst for dissatisfaction and the restructuring of the body had been conducted with little external communication.

Meanwhile staff satisfaction levels have plummeted, according to a report in online news site Capital Brief, which said engagement had hit “at risk” level.

CPA Australia confirmed the departure of Ms Hopkins but declined to comment further.

Elinor in the ATO circle ⭕️  next to Louise Clarke (Source LinkedIn)

(I am informed that Peter did not bake the gst free cake)

Louise Clarke

Louise Clarke

Deputy Commissioner, Private Wealth


Louise Clarke commenced her role as Deputy Commissioner, Private Wealth, on 23 August 2021. Prior to that Louise was the ATO’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Analysis and Legislation. Louise has worked for the ATO for over 25 years and has held senior roles in Public Groups & International and Tax Counsel Network where she has had extensive experience leading work on new law design, strategic litigation, public and private advice and audits.

Peter Walmsley  started his career with the ATO in 1977 and is currently one of the four Deputy Chief  Tax Counsels. In Peter’s current role, he provides technical and strategic guidance on many of the ATO’s highest profile and most complex technical issues, legislative amendments and Federal and High Court litigation matters. Peter also chairs the ATO’s Sydney’ General Anti-Avoidance rules and has previously chaired the Public Rulings Panel.

An art-collecting couple have restored the charm of their Sydney apartment from floor to ceiling.

Louise Clarke and her husband Peter Walmsley, who are both civil servants, as well as their adult daughters, Emily and Isabella.

An Art Deco apartment in Manly’s charming update