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Volume 3 Number 1
From missiles to motorways
'It was a crucible of activity -- particularly in
Victoria where there was a pipeline of deals being
done. I learned a lot in a short time about deal-
making and what constitutes a good deal.'
When he joined Leighton Holdings as Executive
General Manager of Finance, the company was
turning over around $5 billion a year and looking for
ways to go forward. By the time he left, just over six
years later, he had been Chief Financial Of cer for
two years and turnover had jumped to $19 billion.
'At Leighton I learned a lot about strategy and
discipline,' he says. 'Developing a sound strategy and
having the discipline to follow it through produced
some great results over the years that I was there.'
Then came the opportunity at Lend Lease, where
Charlton was appointed Director of Operations in
2010. He led the company through cultural change,
restructuring and resetting the agenda.
'I had a lot to do with the people side of the
equation there, and that really taught me a lot about
people and passion.'
The result is a management style that he describes
as collaborative -- he enjoys working in teams and is
always interested in what his team has to say -- to a
'I'm also very decisive,' he says. 'I believe what
they say about a good decision being the best
outcome, a bad decision being the second best
outcome because it can always be changed. The
worst outcome has to be no decision at all.'
While the contrasts gave Charlton breadth of
experience, there was also a useful common thread.
'One way or another, my whole career has been
around toll roads,' he says. 'I have roads experience
overseas -- and I think I've worked on all but one of
the toll roads in Australia.'
A company in great shape
Charlton's predecessor at Transurban, Chris
Lynch, has been credited with doing the job he was
asked to do by restoring the balance sheet and putting
the company on a sustainable path.
'I have to give Chris and his team credit for what
they've achieved,' says Charlton. 'It's very rare for an
outside CEO to come into a company that's in great
shape and really well positioned to go forward --
usually you're brought in because there's a problem
or the company wants a huge change of direction.'
Charlton has no plans to shift from Lynch's
strategic focus on core assets, value-based growth
and cost setting; however, he does see signi cant
opportunities over the next decade for Transurban
to work more closely with governments and
communities to help them nd solutions.
'In the past, the process was a bit combative --
here's a tender, bid it, build it -- and the result was
often a piece of infrastructure that sat out there by
itself,' he says. 'I think the days are coming when the
private sector will be working more collaboratively
with the government to nd broader-range solutions.
In Sydney and Melbourne in particular, we need to
take the whole network of road, rail, bus and ferry
into consideration. We should be thinking about
how we can use the infrastructure we have more
ef ciently, and how best to build out the missing
parts of the puzzles to provide a better outcome for
our customers who, at the end of the day, are the
That closer engagement with governments has
already seen Transurban announce in July that it
has made an unsolicited proposal to the New South
Wales Government for a possible F3-M2 Motorway
Tunnel link underneath Pennant Hills Road.
Charlton says that Transurban needs to adopt a
much longer-term focus moving forward.
'Transurban is in a very privileged position; we
can't lose sight of our responsibility and the licence
to operate given to us by the public. You can always
In the past, the process was a
bit combative -- here's a tender,
bid it, build it -- and the result was
often a piece of infrastructure that
sat out there by itself
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