On February 16 Nev Power officially stood down from the helm of one of the world’s biggest iron ore producers. 

Championing Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) to great heights, the illustrious Mr Power was nothing short of devoted during his time at the helm of the company, channelling a work ethic that has seen him work full time since the age of 15, with three weeks his longest stint between jobs.

Leading FMG’s delegation up the industry ladder, he saw the business grow from humble operations to the powerhouse it is today, playing an influential role in FMG’s exponential growth and empowering the workforce around him.

Today, the iron ore producer is truly ahead of its game.

The latest figures from the 2017 financial year saw the company achieve 17 per cent cost reduction, 33 per cent improved safety and a one per cent increase in consistent production.

With FMG regarded as the world’s fourth largest iron ore producer, holding the largest tenement portfolio in the Pilbara and on the verge of its next chapter of growth, some might see it as an odd time for Mr Power to step down.

“There was a whole variety of things that went into my decision,” he told National Mining Chronicle.

“I felt it was one of those rare times in the business world where everything was going really well and the business was ready to enter the next stage.

“In my opinion, it was a good time for a new CEO to come in and lead the organisation through this exciting growth phase.”

The future offers an exciting foray into the unknown for the company, which is hoping to undertake a growth

period off the back of the industry’s recent hardships.

“The iron ore industry has gone through a massive expansion stage and has now settled into a competitive, sustainable business and, while commodity prices will always be cyclical, FMG is incredibly well positioned,” Mr Power said.

“We are a low-cost producer, we have low debt, we have long-life ore bodies and we are perfectly set up to be a key part of that industry for decades to come.”

Yet the company won’t rest its future laurels on iron ore alone, with hopes to branch out into other commodities.

“I think over the next three or five years, FMG has the opportunity to develop projects in everything from lithium to copper/gold, industrial metals and expansions in iron ore,” Mr Power said.

“We are doing a lot of exploration in the Pilbara, but also in New South Wales, South Australia and in South America to generate strategic options for growth in business.”

Reflecting on his time at the helm of one of Australia’s bigname miners, Mr Power was particularly fond of the way the company had progressed up the industry ladder.

“I think the biggest highlight for me has been the transformation of the business from a start-up company that was scrambling to get into existence and survive,” he said.

“Since I’ve been with the company it has quadrupled in size and transformed into what it is today.”

A shining accomplishment, Mr Power said the results were ultimately owed to the company culture.

“This was achieved through empowering the people in FMG to be innovative and passionate about what they are doing, which is where I take my growth and satisfaction from,” he said.

“We are committed to ensuring our people feel like they own their part of the business and are empowered and passionate about driving it forward.

“I think my greatest contribution to FMG was helping the business grow, while maintaining and strengthening its culture.”

Mr Power said one of the most challenging tasks in strengthening the company culture was balancing the individual focus it required with the loss of personal oversight that comes with an expanding business.

“One of the biggest challenges was ensuring we had the right kinds of incentives and disciplines in the business to ensure a strong safety performance and strong guidelines and processes for looking after our people,” he said.

“As the business gets bigger, you are never quite sure that there is consistency in the way people are being treated and the safety across the business. The safety, health and wellbeing of our people is paramount.”

Embracing diversity was another key focus Mr Power brought to the table during his time at the helm.

“One of the things I’m particularly proud of is the degree to which we have been able to engage with our local Aboriginal communities and embrace diversity in the business,” he said.

“We have worked very hard to provide opportunities, not only through jobs and training, but business opportunities, and we are celebrating that with the milestones of having achieved $2 billion worth of contracts to Aboriginal companies.

“A very significant part of my time at FMG was embracing diversity across every part of the business and accelerating the development of female and Aboriginal employment.”

FMG made history and headlines in November with the announcement that Elizabeth Gaines was to take over as CEO.

It’s a step towards change given there are just 11 female CEOs on the ASX 200 list and more men named John, Peter or David than women running Australia’s top companies.

“Elizabeth Gaines is a highly intelligent, motivated and experienced lady who engages very strongly with people, and I believe she will bring an absolute new dimension to the role and be able to take FMG through that next stage,” Mr Power said.

“She has a core leadership team, with Chief Operating Officer Greg Lilleyman, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Julie Shuttleworth and Chief Financial Officer Ian Wells to help on that journey.

“I believe they will do a wonderful job. They have all the skills, passion, knowledge and intellect to really transform the company into its next stage.”