The Road Ahead : February March 2015
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 19 FEB/MAR 2015 THE ROAD AHEAD IMAGE: RACQ'S NEW PRESIDENT AND CHAIRMAN, NIGEL ALEXANDER. "I learnt to drive a car when I was seven, we always had motorbikes, and I was driving tractors for my father during the school holidays. I would shudder to let my own children do some of the same things, but life was different then," Mr Alexander said. "After high school, I went to the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba where I did a business degree with an accountancy major, then worked with a firm of chartered accountants at the Gold Coast." From there, Mr Alexander changed tack to a career in corporate banking, working for Barclays, the WA-based Challenge Bank and Citibank in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney, and dealing with high-net-worth Australian and international individual and corporate investors. Then in 1996, the opportunity arose to apply for the role of Chief Executive of NAPCO, which runs a herd of about 200,000 cattle across 14 stations in the Northern Territory and Queensland's Gulf and Channel country, along with a feedlot on the Darling Downs. Mr Alexander's great, great grandfather, Queensland Premier Sir Thomas McIlwraith, was a founding partner of NAPCO in 1877, and since then there had always been a member of the family on the NAPCO board. Mr Alexander said it was probably his banking background that secured him the job. "I brought a corporate perspective to the business, rather than any particular skills with regards to cattle, genetics or farming," Mr Alexander said. "Agri-business was going through some fundamental changes at that time -- and it still is. It's been a process of rationalisation, integration and consolidation in response to changing terms of trade, the opening up of new markets, and foreign investment in Australian agriculture. "I didn't think much about the family connection initially but once I started working in the business, I really appreciated the significance. "It's a company with a long history and conservative values, and while our forefathers wouldn't have used terms like 'sustainability', that's what the business is all about. "That's such a buzz word today, but NAPCO has always been careful in the way it uses pastures by not overgrazing, the setting aside of nature refuges, and in its attitude to animal welfare. So sustainability has always been part of our DNA and it's what we continue to do now. "It has made me quite proud to be part of the business." Mr Alexander draws links between NAPCO and the RACQ, seeing them both as Queensland icons focussed on ensuring they are around for the long term. "RACQ celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, and is a mutual, so we continually strive to provide benefits and value to our members through reduced premiums, improved services, and advocating on their behalf as motorists," he said. "Often the only touch point we have with our members is when something goes wrong -- when their car breaks down, when they accidentally lock their child in the car, or when they need to make an insurance claim. "It's wonderful that we're there to help in those situations, but we need to identify new services and opportunities to maintain our relevance to our members." Mr Alexander and his wife Marina have three children: daughter Dani, 27, who manages research engagement at the Sydney University of Technology; son David, 19, in his second year of a business degree at the University of Queensland; and son Toby, 17, who will begin university later this month. The family leads busy lives. Up until the end of 2014, Mr Alexander was the only member not studying (Marina is working towards a masters in governance and public relations, while Dani was completing hers in biotechnology). His work involves extensive travel to NAPCO properties and when they can, the Alexanders like to head out to their own property near Dalby, to go bushwalking in the nearby Bunya Mountains or bird watching at Lake Broadwater. As he begins a three-year term as RACQ President, and Chairman of both the Club and Insurance boards, Mr Alexander will step back from his role at NAPCO. "My board has kindly agreed for me to do that so that I can spend more time in the roles of RACQ Chairman and President," Mr Alexander said. "RACQ is facing a number of challenges and opportunities, and I'm looking forward to being even more a part of finding the right responses. Our digital strategy, which involves making our website and services available to our members wherever they are, via their choice of mobile device, is one of those. "Our new IT platform, the group's largest capital investment to date, was another, and we can do a lot more to leverage that to ensure the ultimate benefits for our members and customers. "One of the strengths of RACQ is its links to the community -- our zonal system ensures strong representation from the regions -- including our RACQ Foundation and our support of the helicopter rescue services. "And then there's the advocacy work we do on behalf of members as motorists, which benefits all Queenslanders. "I am acutely aware of RACQ's proud history, strong reputation and commitment to serving members, and everything that goes with it. I want to make sure I uphold that tradition." RACQ is facing a number of challenges and opportunities, and I'm looking forward to being even more a part of finding the right responses.
April 1st 2015