Metals & Mining News

Fortescue Metals Group’s ‘Hicksy, Hutch and Twiggy’ show opens in February


Hick and Everingham answered for the industry through a 100-minute media conference where they were bombarded with hard questions about the sex assault scandal.

In a rare show of solidarity among resources rivals, Hick, the BHP and Rio and iron ore bosses and other top executives then stood side-by-side to apologise to victims and back a parliamentary inquiry that along with company-led initiatives should result in much-safer workplaces.

Hick joined the CME as Woodside Energy’s representative about four years ago, became a vice-president while then-BHP iron ore boss Edgar Basto was president and rose to the top job soon after he took up a global role as BHP’s chief operating officer.

Some in the WA resources industry were surprised this week when the Woodside rising star opted to make the leap to planet Fortescue.

Everingham said he always thought Hick would one day run one of Australia’s biggest resources companies. “On ability and talent it didn’t surprise me at all,” he said of her appointment as chief executive of Fortescue’s core mining business.

“I think she was very well on her way to being the next in line at Woodside. I worked with her for nearly four years, and I’ve got to say she is by far one of the most impressive professionals I’ve ever dealt with.

“Never flustered, completely calm, whip smart. When the pressure is one she brings the mental acuity you need. She was never flustered during COVID, very collaborative, a fantastic sense of community, down to earth, really humble, and genuinely humble.

“We have 150-odd mining and oil and gas companies as members and everybody spoke highly of her, everybody thought highly of her.”

Hick was the complete package and Fortescue was lucky to have her on board, said friend and former Woodside colleague Sherry Duhe. The two women sat beside one another at Woodside’s Perth headquarters for much of the four-and-half years Duhe spent there as chief financial officer.

“We could hear each other’s conversations, which really helps with collaboration,” Duhe joked.

“She never swears. If you know Fiona, she is just the picture of grace … but don’t get confused by that, she’s a tough cookie when she needs to be in a very constructive and inspirational way.

“She is a very talented, capable and modern leader. She’s a kind person, but she’s also quite assertive and tenacious when she needs to be. She’s strategic and visionary, she is really the total package.”

Duhe left Woodside earlier this year to become CFO at gold producer Newcrest. blazing a similar trail to the one now being taken by Hick in moving from oil and gas to mining.

Friend and former Woodside colleague Sherry Duhe says Ms Hick is the complete package.. Dominic Lorrimer

“They (oil and gas and mining) are quite similar from a strategic perspective,” Duhe said. “I think that what oil and gas people bring to mining, and I know this is what she’s bringing to Fortescue, is just this real urgency around sustainability and about being leaders in energy transition.”

It is not the first time Dr Forrest and Fortescue have tried to poach an oil and gas executive to fill their top job.

The Fortescue board was convinced it had then Perth-based Shell executive Zoe Yujnovich over the line to replace Nev Power when he quit in 2017 after seven years as chief executive.

When Yujnovich, who has since become Shell’s director of upstream and a member of the energy giant’s eight-member executive committee, turned them down, Fortescue turned to Elizabeth Gaines.

Gaines led the company admirably for four years, with its share price tripling and shareholders – including Forrest with about 37 per cent of the stock – pocketing record dividends, before standing down and taking a non-executive director position.

When Power departed in 2017, The Australian Financial Review wrote that one of his biggest legacies was managing Forrest.

And the Gaines era was not without its tears, including the departure of chief operating officer Greg Lilleyman and two other executives in February 2021 over cost blows with the Iron Bridge magnetite project. Gaines appeared red-eyed and upset alongside Lilleyman in making an internal announcement shared via video that rattled Fortescue staff.

The Fortescue board, led by Forrest, then opted to move the goalposts on executive incentives for financial 2021 as the company’s share price soared. The move effectively saw those affected denied shares worth tens of millions of dollars and is seen as a factor in some subsequent departures at Fortescue.

While there’s been a focus on those and other unrelated departures from the executive team, including that of former Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Guy Debelle last week, Hick will become just the fourth chief executive of the incredibly successful iron ore business built by Forrest and now entering its 20th year when she takes up the role in late February.

She will lead iron ore and other mining ventures while Mark Hutchinson stays as CEO of the company’s green-hydrogen focused Fortescue Future Industries division.

Forrest, who recently turned 61, is hailing it as the “Hicksy and Hutch … and Twiggy” show.

He said on Tuesday that Hick had a massive task on her hands and might be given licence to hire two or three senior executives to help, while Hutchinson could hire as many as six in building the pre-revenue green energy diversion into a global force.

“I’ve branded this dream team Hicksy and Hutch already … Hicksy, Hutch and Twiggy,” he said.

“Fiona has on her plate the largest project we have ever taken on, which is to step the entire company beyond fossil fuel, with all of the technology and know how being supplied by Hutch.

“Hicksy has a huge suite of challenges, almost comparable to the massive suite of challenges of Hutch, and I’m here to support them excel in both those areas.”

Forrest said the company had spent the 12 months since Gaines announced her intention to stand down looking for the right fit for Fortescue.

“The last 12 months we’ve cast a global net very wide looking for character and personality and that sense of humility which means you can lead through values as opposed to command and control.

“That’s very hard to find in any highly accomplished executive, they revert to command and control. The reason why we have been able to do everything we (Fortescue) have done so quickly, and so efficiently and well, so thoroughly, is because of those values.

“Leadership through values is no picnic but realises the tremendous results you have always seen at Fortescue. When you trust and empower people to the extent that Hicksy and Hutch must, then like in my own career they will be let down one out of 20 times. Someone will abuse that trust, that empowerment, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Hick will be charged with delivering on Fortescue’s plans to spend $US6.2 billion ($9.1 billion) as part of a switch to renewable energy at the company’s iron ore mines, delivering the Iron Bridge magnetite project and spearheading its ambitions to become a force in rare earths and other critical minerals. On top of that, Forrest is bullish about Fortescue mining iron ore in the African nation of Gabon.

The mother of three spent five years in iron ore at Rio Tinto, living in Dampier in the Pilbara and learning the ropes in mining, rail and port operations, before spending the past 22 years at Woodside.

She was hired by Rio as a graduate with an honours degree in engineering from the University of WA and earlier attended St Mary’s Girls School in Perth on an academic scholarship. She praised Woodside last year for providing the flexible working arrangements that allowed time for her children and family life.

Hick said there were two key factors in the decision to join Fortescue.

“One was the Fortescue values. They are really strong, and they seem really evident in the company and all the people that I’ve met,” she said.

“The second is the pretty inspiring plans for the future. It is a really exciting time to come on board the business and with the plans for the business decarbonising it’s a really inspiring vision.”

Everingham said Hick would have agreed to join Fortescue her eyes wide open to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“Fiona will have done her own due diligence and if for whatever reason and in the unlikely event it doesn’t work out, it won’t reflect badly on her because everybody knows she is first class,” he said.



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