Regional Commercial and Risk Manager - James
Name:James Funge B.Sc (Hons) FRICS, AIAMA
Job Title: Regional Commercial and Risk Manager (New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory)
Company name: Lend Lease Group
Brief description of current role
I am responsible for overseeing all commercial, contractual and administrative aspects of the Lend Lease Engineering business in New South Wales; focusing primarily on creating and developing a commercial and administration function to support and add value to the business; ensuring the Group’s opportunities and entitlements are maximised and risks mitigated across all projects from the identification of an opportunity to final account; and leading the region in the development of commercial competency frameworks as well as training and development programmes to provide a clear and logical career path for all members of the functional commercial and risk team.
Brief description of previous experience
Following graduation I worked initially for Amec Civil Engineering in Tamworth. After two years, I decided that I wanted to travel and so moved to Singapore. During the nine years that I lived in Singapore, I worked on various building and heavy civil engineering projects for numerous international contractors and joint ventures. During this time my career path took a significant acceleration from Assistant Quantity Surveyor to Joint Venture Commercial Manager on a $150m design and build project at the age of 29.
In 2005 I was offered the position of Consortium Commercial Manager by Obayashi Corporation on the Dubai Metro, a US$7 Billion Project in the United Arab Emirates which provided me with a significant challenge, but at the same time an excellent opportunity to manage a mega-project. From there I moved into my first corporate position with Laing O’Rourke, as a Managing Surveyor on the Al Raha Mixed-use Development in Abu Dhabi. It was during my two years in Abu Dhabi that I attained Fellowship of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors at the age of 37, eventually moving into a Group Commercial Manager role for Laing O’Rourke in Brisbane, Australia, responsible for their commercial function across all Infrastructure Projects.
Following a restructure in 2011, I was transferred to Perth, Western Australia and again held a Regional Commercial Manager role looking after Laing O’Rourke’s regional business in Western Australia and South Australia, which included building, engineering and rail projects.
I then made a lifestyle decision to move to Sydney, in New South Wales and resigned from my position at Laing O’Rourke. After taking a short time away from the construction industry I was offered a Regional Commercial role at Lend Lease who were looking to develop and build a commercial function. This is my passion and as a result, I accepted the offer and have been tremendously impressed with their culture, work ethic and innovative style of doing business that is focused around a fully integrated delivery model.
How did you start your career and transition to where you are now?
The most significant factors in my career path to date have been three-fold, 1) taking the gamble to move to Singapore at a young age with very little working experience, 2) Being willing and in a position to move when good opportunities have arisen and 3) Having great managers, leaders and mentors to work with.
How did Maxim Recruitment help you?
Maxim Recruitment supported the development of commercial strength on the Al Raha Beach Project in Abu Dhabi when we started the project with four Commercial Managers and grew to over 200 commercial staff within 18 months. Steve Thomas was able to understand the brief, identify suitable candidates and prepare them for interview in a logical, systematic and considered manner, which made the interview and selection process very efficient for us as a Senior Leadership Team.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
Developing and mentoring young, energetic and passionate commercial employees; I have been fortunate to have been involved in the creation and development of four commercial functions over my career in three different companies and it provides me with enormous satisfaction to see younger people excel when provided with clear roles and responsibilities, a common objective and a sense of teamwork.
What led you to pursue a career in your industry?
I initially wanted to be an architect as I enjoyed design during Advanced Level studies, but after the realisation that an architectural degree was a seven-year commitment, I turned the page and low and behold, quantity surveying was the next degree in the university prospectus.
What advice do you have for others entering your industry?
Be very clear that there is no shortcut in any industry and that basic skills are needed before you can build your career. It isn’t necessarily the role or task that you are doing that will teach you, it’s the surroundings, the conversations, the culture, and the interactions that you’ll experience either consciously or subconsciously that matters most. Never underestimate what you don’t know and trust your manager to provide you with the guidance to learn.
What are the main challenges for you and the industry?
Currently, my main challenge is to improve the strength of the commercial function in Lend Lease Engineering. The Australian model to commercial management is very different to that in other Commonwealth jurisdictions and so there are different cultural values and drivers at play that need to be considered. As an industry, lack of specialist skills is a key concern, especially for a company of our size and geographical spread. People are the key to any business and when considering risks associated with a large-scale development, or engineering project, people are a key issue that requires careful consideration and planning.
What are your professional aspirations, for example what do you think you’ll be doing in five years time?
Personally, I want to continue to drive the commercial function within my company and to promote the Chartered Surveyor status within our industry. I am an Assessor and Chair for the RICS and we are definitely experiencing a greater awareness within the industry for a greater level of commercial competence within the industry generally as clients become more astute.
Where are you based (place and country) and what is it like living and working there?
I am based in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney and travel frequently around New South Wales to visit projects in delivery. Sydney is an amazing city and there is a great energy around the place, including a push to become a World City. My daughter, Victoria, was born in Dubai and has attended six different schools in her eight years, so after making many personal sacrifices for the good of my career, the time was right to settle in one place to raise her, my new baby son, Oliver and my two step children, Joshua and Jessica. I fell in love with Sydney and intend to stay here until my children have left home.
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