At a glance
By Katie Langmore
Joe Bisco CPA is set to run a half marathon around the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Even for someone who clears his head with a run after a long day of meetings, tackling 21 km in the Cambodian heat is no mean feat.
Bisco’s drive to succeed on the track and in his career have taken him from public accountant to business analyst and management consultant to strategic leader, and from Australia to Hong Kong and now Singapore, with assignments in Mainland China and Japan.
Bisco says he did not exactly plan the pathway, but he has firmly been at the wheel, advocating for himself and each next step, as he identifies it.
“When I left school, I was not clear what path I wanted, but I knew that having a strong finance background is foundational to most roles within the business world,” he says.
Bisco did his undergraduate degree in accounting on the Sunshine Coast – where his British parents had moved when he was aged 15 – and took a postgraduate role in public accounting with Poole Group.
While there, he recognised that the accounting industry was due for an overhaul, with most clients and firms still using outdated technology and manually driven processes.
“Xero had recently launched, and I worked closely with the firm to become early adopters of the platform. I partnered very closely with our clients and the firm to integrate the platform, positioning myself as a specialist in the automated technology,” says Bisco.
“I didn’t know how to use the platform when we first launched the concept, but it was clear that this technology was the future of the industry, so I wanted to align myself to it.
"At the start, there was a lot of learning and upskilling involved, but this experience early in my career gave me strong foundations to build on.
“Learning from experience, advising clients and implementing technology, my role shifted away from public accounting to more of an advisory and tech consulting role. That’s what led me into management consulting.”
After two years with the firm, during which Bisco also undertook his CPA qualification, he moved to Deloitte and then on to EY, doing similar work in management consulting – helping large global finance organisations to optimise their systems and processes.
He worked as a management consultant for EY for three years, during which time the organisation moved him to Hong Kong.
From there, Bisco was offered a role with State Street, a global provider of financial services to institutional investors, where he is now managing director, head of strategy and business management for the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.
He describes his current role as split into two responsibilities – corporate strategy and business management.
“Essentially, I work directly for the APAC CEO, and my role is to support him in those two areas to grow the business in the region,” he explains.
“My team partners closely with our country and business heads to drive our strategy and execute on high-profile strategic initiatives.”
The other side of the job, says Bisco, is typically referred to as chief of staff, supporting the CEO to deliver on key global and regional business objectives and alignment across his direct reports.
The challenges and highlights of the role are mostly the same, he says.
“The challenge is dealing with multiple country managers and multiple senior leaders across basically every market in APAC. I need to have the depth of market knowledge in every jurisdiction we operate to be able to have meaningful conversations and advise on strategy. But at the same time, that’s what I love,” he exclaims.
“I love the diversity of what I do across different markets, with different areas of our business all in different stages of business development – every day is extremely different. Every hour is different!”
Bisco says he feels incredibly grateful for the opportunities he has had, and he firmly believes the CPA qualification has propelled his career.
“I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had without it. Even though I’m not purely in finance, it positions you differently to other candidates. Showing people that you have a strong financial background is fundamental and highly valued to most organisations,” he says.
“If you had asked me if it was worth it when my head was in a textbook and I hadn’t left the house in seven days, I might have said something different. But now, I genuinely think the two years of study gives you a lifetime of opportunity.”
Bisco also nods to hard work and putting time into internal relationships as fundamental to advancing his career.
“I think people really underestimate the importance in growing relationships with people: your manager, your manager’s manager, your team – it goes a long way.”
Bisco outlines these key learnings with a clarity of focus that has clearly served him well and makes one wonder where the path will take him next. Beyond Angkor Wat and a successfully completed half marathon, that is.
One piece of advice
You have to drive success yourself. I have been given opportunities, but I have had to push for a lot of this myself, too.
Network with people, advocate for yourself and do not be afraid to take on new challenges.