Barbara Austell, the treasurer at Aramark, could be a career counselor for Peter W. Currie, the newly appointed chief financial officer at Royal Bank of Canada. And vice versa.
Mr. Currie is about to cross the line between industry and banking as he moves from his current post as chief financial officer at Northern Telecom to Royal. Ms. Austell made that same journey in the opposite direction last summer, when she left after 21 years at J.P. Morgan & Co., where she was a managing director.
For Ms. Austell, who called on Mr. Currie at Northern Telecom, her role reversal has made for some interesting moments.
"There are times when I'm chuckling to myself, realizing that I sat in the same position as the banker, where I was fishing for a piece of information and I knew that the person on the other side of the desk had it and wasn't going to give it up," she said. "That's part of what it's all about."
Indeed, Mr. Currie and Ms. Austell join the slowly growing ranks of professionals who have amassed a general set of skills that is in demand both inside and outside the banking world.
"Historically, it hasn't been common to move either way," said Karen Osar, treasurer at Tenneco Corp. and a former J.P. Morgan & Co. banker. "You'll see more and more recognition that the skills translate extremely well either way."
Ms. Osar said that in the three years since she left Morgan she has found her capital markets, structured finance, and currency experience applicable to her new responsibilities.
To be sure, some said that altering jobs, and industries, is more challenging than just changing addresses on business cards.
"It's not as easy a transition as you think," said Caroline Valentine, a headhunter in the Chicago office of Heidrick & Struggles, "but it's do- able, and some people are very successful at it."
Ms. Valentine said obtaining the confidence and endorsement of senior management is "critical" for bankers moving to the corporate side.
Indeed, Ms. Austell, Aramark's treasurer, said extensive knowledge of the Philadelphia company's senior management had made the decision to leave Morgan for the diversified service management company that much easier.
"I knew enough about the company to know that I would hit it off with the people," she said, "and that this would be a very fun and interesting challenge."
Joseph T. Koch, chief financial officer at Fellowes Manufacturing Co., Itasca, Ill., and a 20-year veteran of Continental Bank and BankAmerica Corp., said a strong relationship with the Fellowes family made his move possible. "It was a unique situation, where I had developed a personal and business relationship with the family," he said.
Mr. Koch said broad-based experience that extended beyond capital raising to include such areas as sales, human resources, production, and purchasing had also eased his move.
Ms. Osar, Tenneco's treasurer, said she enjoys the challenges of working on the other side of the table. "The deadlines are tighter, and the demands on people in some ways are greater here," she said.
Ms. Austell said that, aside from the sort of cultural differences that differentiate companies in general, the work isn't that different.
"It is not such a strange transition," she said, "if you consider that what a treasurer or corporate strategy person does is the kind of thing a banker does but on the other side of the desk."