LEADERS SURVEY: Deloitte Australia CEO Adam Powick on the ‘busy’ trap and his 35 years of AI experience

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Adam Powick is the Australian CEO of Deloitte.
Adam Powick is the Australian CEO of Deloitte. Credit: Deloitte

Deloitte’s boss down under says a mentor telling him to take time to think was the best advice he’s ever received.

“It’s easy to just fall into the trap of being really busy, without necessarily making a real impact,” Adam Powick told The Nightly for its exclusive Leaders Survey.

“What I’ve learned is you have to consciously set aside time for reflective thinking — for example, I don’t allow anybody to schedule a meeting before midday on Monday so I can properly plan and prepare for the week ahead.

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“I’ve learnt you have to be ruthless in terms of where you spend your time, and the decisions that have to be made.”

Mr Powick said the professional services sector at large has had to take some time to reflect over the past year.

“In terms of a challenge for our industry, the main one would be the public scrutiny on our profession … It’s been a difficult and challenging 12 months since that PwC tax issue became public, and it’s forced us to sit back and reflect on root causes and what’s important,” he said.

“My main takeaway is the realisation that we are a systemically important, public interest profession.

“And as a result, we always need to carry ourselves to the highest standards of governance, service delivery quality, and cultural values.”

He believes business in Australia more broadly is facing a threat, the likes of which he’s never seen.

“Anti-business sentiment, particularly big business sentiment, is the worst I’ve ever seen in my career, by some margin,” he said.

“And that’s a real issue because the Australian economy needs world-class profitable and scaled businesses that attract investment, create jobs and drive innovation.”

Like a plethora of the nation’s corporate leaders, Mr Powick sees artificial intelligence (AI) as a huge opportunity for commerce in the country, but unlike many of his contemporaries, he has deep experience in the AI realm.

Mr Powick was an ex-AI programmer in the 1980s and says it’s been an area of passion that has been recently reignited.

“Over the past four decades there has been substantive technology advancement, but it has all been in the background,” he said.

“AI has been the domain of technical experts — what fundamentally changed was the release of Chat GPT, heralding the democratisation of artificial intelligence so that all of us can now access an AI tool through an English language interface.”

“For the first time in 35 years, I’ve got excited about AI again … AI was arcane, it was technical, it was still interesting. But now it’s real,” he said.

Mr Powick said he was personally leading the AI initiative across Deloitte, with an aim to provide secure world-class AI tools to everybody at Deloitte and improve the way its clients across Australia use generative AI to “drive real business and productivity benefits”.

“AI was arcane, it was technical, it was still interesting. But now it’s real,” he said.

As he spearheads the AI charge the Melbourne native says he wants to lead by being authentic, and more.

“My leadership lesson is to be yourself, but stay curious,” Mr Powick said.

“Authentic leadership is the key to building followership and cutting through the noise, but authenticity alone is not enough.

To be an impactful leader I’d say it also you have to be curious, continually seek to learn, gain feedback, and challenge yourself.”

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