CVCheck’s treasured asset: Meet Jack Penkin, Finance Manager

Describe your role at CVCheck.

I’m the Finance Manager of CVCheck, and I’m responsible for all internal and external financial information provided to other parties by the company.

I’m also a fire warden and unofficial chief dishwasher stacker.

Tell us about your life before CVCheck.

I was born in South Africa back in 1960, I grew up and went to school there. I did a year student exchange in Atlanta, Georgia when I was 17.

Soon after returning from the US, my circumstances changed and I had to become financially independent. I put myself through university by applying for all the scholarships that were available to me at the time. I could have been a doctor, engineer or lawyer, but I was awarded a full scholarship to complete a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in accounting.

I graduated as an accountant from the University of Cape Town and was later headhunted by the international auditing company KMPG in the UK. As my visa took time to come through, I was initially sent to Bermuda for four months. I then spent the next 18 years of my life in the UK, working mainly for KPMG, a defence company, Siemens Plessey, and a London listed mining company, Watts Blake Bearn Plc.

I met my wife in London, and we have two kids who were born in the UK. My son was seven and my daughter was two years old when we immigrated to Australia.

Before CVCheck, I worked for a company in Australia as an accountant for nearly four and a half years that had operations in Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Pakistan, and also sent me to Europe, Canada and the US sometimes. I have also worked for a well-known wine company in Western Australia, Sandalford Wines, and a construction company, Pindan, as a CFO.

How did the idea come to move to Australia?

My brother and I were always very close, there’s only one year age gap between us. When I moved from South Africa to the UK, my brother came to Perth. Over the years we lost that close contact.

When my son was four years old and my daughter was on her way, we decided to pay them a visit in Australia. We very much liked it here and realised that there are much better living conditions for young families in Perth than back in the UK. Also, my wife has multiple sclerosis and for her, the local weather is a strong positive for sufferers of MS.

We took a leap of faith, sold everything in the UK and came to Perth. We stayed with my brother and his family, and I was lucky enough to find a job in just four weeks after arriving in the country.

Describe the culture at CVCheck.

People at CVCheck are interested in you on both a work and personal level. People here talk to each other, help each other out and are looking at better ways of doing things.

I really like that the company allows one to have a voice. When you have an idea, when you want to say something, you can, without thinking it’s going to be redirected back to you in a negative way.

Feedback here is always being taken as a positive thing.

How has CVCheck changed since you started at the company?

I was brought in because I had a treasury background, I knew how important cash was.

In the first quarter I joined CVCheck we had our first ever cash flow positive quarter in the company’s history which we then repeated twice since, so it has been great to see that we can now call ourselves a sustainable business with strong corporate client base.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

It’s certainly the combination of new systems I helped implement and the ways we changed our working within the finance team.

This is the first time in my career where I have worked for a technology driven company, with a group of people who all have very different complimentary skills to myself.

It’s a daily learning experience that I really enjoy. There’s a lot of pleasure in seeing the finance team developing and thinking for themselves.

When did you realise that you were good at your job and passionate about it?

I’ve always been passionate about my work, but the first time I realised I was good at my job was in the UK during my tenure at Watts Blake Bearn.

The company’s banking arrangements and operations were spread across over nearly a dozen countries, which was costly and time inefficient. I decided to simplify the company’s processes and consolidate the many loans and banking facilities in place at that time, merging the banking operations to just three major banks. I organised investor roadshows in the US to engage potential investors to pay off the company’s debt and raise new funds at a lower cost to the business.

We raised over US$55 million in private placements that helped to restructure the finances and provided an additional working capital facility of US$10 million.

This was a significant achievement for the company that made me proud.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be disappointed if something doesn’t happen the way you planned. Life will reward you for the things you think you’ve missed out on – so keep going and be positive at all times.

What does innovation mean to you?

On a personal level, it means trying something different, looking at new ideas, keeping things open. Much simpler, doing things more efficiently and better.

On a company level, technology and innovation is paramount for a business like CVCheck. We produce things in a manner that makes our clients’ lives easier, better, and makes them come back to us. Probably that’s why we have such a high retention of clients. Our annual recurring revenue more than doubled over the past four years.

How do you relax?

I like to spend time with my family and support them where I can. I have two exceptionally talented children who I’m very proud of. My son is a composer and conducts full orchestral pieces in London and around the world. He has won international anime and games awards including a BAFTA this year with a Melbourne-based games company. My daughter is a singer, song writer and composer, appearing at gigs in the UK and present on YouTube.

My wife ran nine marathons and recently decided to run a tenth marathon, but due to her MS, she can only walk 1 kilometre a day on a treadmill or with her work aide. I managed to set up an opportunity for her with the Activ Foundation in Perth to complete the City to Surf marathon. She ran 1 kilometre on the treadmill for 41 days, then she was taken to the 42nd kilometre mark on the day of the race, walked the last kilometre and got a medal for doing the full distance.

With all these activities going on, what do you do for yourself?

I used to do long-distance running when I was younger. Back in the UK I took part in a team running event, doing 1600 miles across the country. I play golf and indoor volleyball every week, combined with food and wine.

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