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Chief of Staff

Trent Smyth AM (OW1988) at Exeter College, University of Oxford in September

Considering the wealth of experience and connectivity behind Trent Smyth (OW1988) and his exciting career, meeting him is a disarming experience. Smooth to a fault and charming, Trent remains feet on the ground, proudly Australian and generous with his time and knowledge. At home in embassies and amid a myriad of protocols, one gets the impression he is just as at home with his family as he is sharing a laugh at a BBQ or with his head under the bonnet of a yet-to-be-restored rusting but rare automobile.

Recently Trent has taken on the remarkable role of CEO of the Chief of Staff Association (CSA). For those who appreciate this prestigious international organisation, this position is more a reward for years of service rather than a job opportunity. His passion for delivering seamless operation, breathtaking multi-channel communications and sage ambassadorial wisdom will inspire each graduating cohort from the CSA Executive Education program, offered in partnership with Saïd Business School at Oxford University.

The Chief of Staff Association (CSA) is the largest membership organisation for chiefs of staff in the world, with members occupying positions of influence in more than 48 countries; its purpose is to 'enhance the effectiveness and influence of chiefs of staff and build recognition for the profession.'

In real terms, it is so much more than that. It not only ticks the boxes of professionalism and best practice, but it is also a learning environment where members receive confidential advice from their peers and work together to enhance their capability, improving their effectiveness. The CSA, which began on the East Coast of the US, offers an education platform that leads to the industry-recognised credentials of Certified Chief of Staff™ and Master Chief of Staff™. The CSA, through Saïd Business School at Oxford, offers a world-first tailor-made program that contextualises the chief of staff role within the global community and business, enabling professionals to respond to the unique challenges they face.

‘An executive working as a chief of staff takes on complex organisational and leadership responsibilities while occupying an ambiguous position in the hierarchy,' says Trent. 'Previously associated primarily with the military and politics, the role is becoming increasingly common in professional firms, businesses of all sizes, and non-profits. However, it remains little understood. Now there is a sense that it is becoming a ‘destination role’ and a professional occupation in its own right. This raises questions about who the chief of staff is responsible to, the infrastructure around them, the type of experience needed to fulfil the role, and the skills and qualities that lead to success.’

So, what does it take to become the chief of such a remarkable global organisation linking world business, governments and countries? With the benefit of a Wesley education, a Bachelor of Commerce from Melbourne University and an MBA from Melbourne Business School, Trent has built an admirable reputation in Government, NGO and NFP circles, specialising in government relations, negotiation, administration, events strategy and community engagement. Between 2012 and 2021, Trent was the Consul for Malawi in Australia and Secretary of the Consular Corps Melbourne.

With its beginnings at Wesley in rowing and hockey, Trent's passion for sports has drawn him toward several non-executive board positions, including a six-year stint as a Director of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and his present role as Chairman of AFL Europe. For ten years, he was Chief Curator at Motorclassica, Chairman at the Sports Diplomacy Foundation, and President of the Ferrari Club of Australia (Victoria).

Despite now living almost 17,000kms away, the purple and gold network remains incredibly valuable to Trent, who proudly tells us that the video production for The Chief of Staff Association is produced by his dear Wesley friend, Robin Payne (OW1988).

In 2021, Trent was awarded the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to international relations, to motorsport and to business.

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