#WeAreMazars: Tracy Charles

This week, we’re joined by Tracy Charles, a National Senior Tax Manager in London. Tracy tells us about how she incorporates her values into her work and how to action some tangible strategies for success. Tracy contributes to our discussion around inclusion and gives us her opinion on how organisations can create a more inclusive culture. 

Catch up on our previous interviews with Scott Weaver, Monika Salawa, Lisa Brennan, Hemehra Sajid, Natasha Ryan, Tejal Bhogaita and Lindsay Pentelow.

Tell us about your career – what do you do?

I’m one of the Birmingham Hub Leaders for the personal tax compliance services for clients and also have a part time role in National Tax dealing with the National Technical Training programme.

Why did you choose your career?

I had no intention of having a career in tax when I left college – I got an offer from HM Revenue & Customs as a Junior and started learning different aspects of tax, and became more and more interested in tax. It took off from there.


What’s contributed most to your success?

Being myself and bringing the values that I was taught by my parents when I was growing up into my role at Mazars. Respect people, treat people the way you would like to be treated, and work hard.  Keep on smiling

I enjoy the work I do which in turn brings passion and commitment to my role. I think I’ve demonstrated this by being at Mazars for just under 29 years. I would like to thank Liz Ritchie, Paul Barham and Rosey Blundell for recognising my ability and strength to be able to take on new challenges and roles within the business.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Having a sense of purpose – everyone in the Hub knows what they are doing and how to do it, but as a Hub leader I have to make a big difference by sharing a strong sense of why they are doing it and where it is heading.  I have to assist my team and colleagues with how to develop an understanding of our purpose and how each of their individual roles contribute to the success of the Hub in line with the firm’s vision for compliance going forward.

What’s one of the biggest advances you’ve seen at Mazars over the past 5 years?

Trying to take action against barriers of diversity by setting up groups, having open discussions and listening to all people respective of their gender, faith or sexual orientation to make a difference. Tackling the progression of women in Mazars has also been one major advancement.

What are some of the tangible strategies for success?

Enthusiasm – you have to be enthusiastic about the business and role or you will not feel motivated and you will not encourage your colleagues to be motivated.

Desire to learn – you can never know everything about your role, Mazars and the industry in general.  But if you are willing to always read, watch videos, learn from your peers and take up opportunities for training, this can lead to continuing success.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Always communicate but be prepared to listen and work as a team.  Always challenge yourself and be confident in what you do, never be afraid to ask questions and enjoy what you do. Find a good mentor and learn from them!

What can organisations do more generally do to create a culture of inclusion? 

Challenge your biases and take new approaches to add value to the business, for example to encourage staff to share their cultural heritage with others and make room for different cultural and religious celebrations. Organisations can embrace the differences of their staff – an organisation is only as valuable as the talent it retains and attracts! Finally, organisations should commit with a purpose – leaders of organisations need to show that they are committed to inclusion and ensure this is communicated externally – not just within the organisation.

 

 

Thank you to Tracy for taking the time to speak to us. We will be publishing more #WeAreMazars interviews over the coming months so stay tuned!

Feeling stressed?

Quote

To mark World Mental Health Day, Mazars Partner Tom Brichieri-Colombi shares his personal experience of stress in the workplace.

In June of this year, AccountancyAge published an article entitled: What we have learned about mental health at work, highlighting the results from its 2018 survey on this topic. The top two findings from the report were:

  1. Mental health is no longer a taboo in most workplaces, but there is still more to be done
  2. 74% of survey respondents said that if leaders shared their own mental health experiences, this would make them feel so much more comfortable in talking about it themselves

To mark World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2018, I’d therefore like to share with you some personal reflections on this topic. You won’t find another post on this topic in a Mazars blog, but to help change attitudes, someone has to go first…

Since 1992 World Mental Health Day has been marked on 10 October. Rather surprisingly, given that my mum had for many years worked for the mental health charity, MIND, the first time I became aware of this fact was on 10th October 2017. I was sitting on the sofa on that Tuesday watching breakfast TV when Harry Judd popped up to talk about his mental health issues (and to sell his book, “Get Fit, Get Happy“), part of the BBC’s feature on WMHD.

I’m not usually a fan of daytime TV, but this was not a usual day. I had just returned from seeing my doctor who had signed me off work for stress: this was the start of five weeks away from the office.

My experience of stress at work

As a partner in an accounting firm, one is expected to work hard, and I am not one to hold back from putting in the hours. The run up to last October had been particularly tough, as I had been in the midst of an international team merger. It was an exciting time, but one filled with new challenges across people, technology, processes, clients and projects; with team members based in the UK, India, Australia and the US: someone, somewhere was always working, and wanting to be in touch. I had found my stress levels rising, sleeping hours decreasing, and weight increasing. I ignored pleas from my family to take my foot off the gas, until I met the straw that broke the camel’s back: my youngest son’s 8th birthday (those who are parents will know that these can be stressful occasions!).

Like many professionals, “admitting defeat” (AKA taking a break from work) is not an easy thing to do, as we are aware of the pressure that this will pile on to colleagues as well as the potential impact on clients. But on this occasion, I just felt totally mentally and physical exhausted, and unable to cope with the small things in life, let alone decisions at work. I also felt like I’d failed at my job.

 

What helped me

Having concluded that there was no way I could go into work the next day, I found I was fortunate to immediately get the full support of both my business unit leader, and senior colleagues in the business. In fact, it turned out that others had experienced the same issues in their careers, and were open in sharing this with me. As a consequence, I received strict instructions to turn off my phone and for my laptop to stay closed. It was extremely helpful to have someone in a senior position who could empathise with what I was going through, and also to allow me to see that it was possible to come through the other side and continue to build a successful career.

It was a tough time, learning to stop. During my absence I initially did a bit of sorting myself out: dry cleaning, dentist, medical, etc, but over the weeks also took some more meaningful steps, including signing up with a personal trainer. I caught up with some ex, and current colleagues and had some good conversations. Importantly, my time at home also helped me reconnect with my family – including taking on the school run, cooking dinner, and being generally more awake and ‘present’.

I received a number of kind messages from team members, and these we gratefully received.

After a few weeks I met up with both my managing partner and our national senior partner to discuss role changes and also explore what sort of professional help would be available to me. I was fortunate that the firm agreed to provide a series of counselling sessions focussed on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which incorporates mindfulness.  These sessions are continuing, and have allowed be to rethink how I structure my working and professional life.

After five weeks at home, which seemed like an age, I undertook a phased return to work. It was full time, but with different responsibilities, and a set day each week to work from home. If I’m honest, we could have done this return in a better way, but a lack of experience (all round) meant that we were learning as we went. I decided to be open with the wider team about my so sent an email to let them know why I had been away and how I would be coming back.

 

What I learned

Reflecting on my ‘time out’, there are a number of lessons that I have learned. First, if you ignore your mental (and physical) health, things will not go well for you. Neither your clients, or your team are served well by you if you run yourself into the ground. This might seem obvious, but when you’re caught up in an ever-increasing whirlwind of deadlines and problems, then things are a little less clear!

Second, you are not alone. More people that you might think are facing a tough mental battle. A recent study by Business in the Community found that 61% of employees have experiences mental health issues due to work, or where work was a related factor. Knowing this can make it easier to ask for help, either from work, or from outside (see below for some useful resources). My advice is to have a conversation at an early stage, rather than letting issues build up, and then potentially blow up.

I have also noted that my absence had had a significant impact on a number of people at work. I am very firmly ‘Generation X’, and many who are younger than me took quite a long hard look at my experience and asked the question: ‘if this is what happens to partners, do I want to work hard to become one?’. Therefore I’m now conscious that, as a partner in the business I not only need to ensure that I look after the mental and physical health of our team members, but also must show by example that you can also remain mentally and physically healthy whilst being a partner.

As I said in my ‘return to work’ email:

“Although it has been far from pleasant to go through this process, it has been quite a learning experience for me, and hopefully I’ll be better for it. It has certainly taught me to know my limits and think more about balance in my life. I would therefore encourage anyone who feels that they may be in a similar position to the one I was in to discuss this early, either with their line manager, HR rep, or with me.”

 

It’s not been easy to share this personal account, but I’ve done it as I firmly believe that it can help others who may be finding things tough.

Guidance for partners who may be experiencing ‘burn out’ can be found on the AccountancyAge website here

Other resources include Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA) and the Samaritans.

Tom Brichieri-Colombi is a partner in our Global Infrastructure Finance Team, based in London.

A spider and a sky god and what this means for Diversity and Inclusion at Mazars

Gallery

This gallery contains 4 photos.

June Sarpong came to speak in the London office on 12th September about how organisations can create an inclusive culture where people can be themselves. June Sarpong then joined a few members of the team for a panel discussion. I was asked to sit on this panel to speak from the perspective of disability and mental health. I was delighted to also be on the panel with Ian Wrightson, Lee Cartwright and Tracy Charles who each have individual perspectives on diversity and inclusion from their experiences and understanding. The conversations were candid and highlighted that all of us have unconscious biases that we need to acknowledge and disallow to cloud our judgement. So, what does a spider and a sky god have to do with diversity and inclusion in Mazars? June Sarpong spoke of Anansi the spider and the story of becoming the keeper of wisdom against all odds. The story of Anansi showed the success of a combination of self-belief and opportunity. June Sarpong was able to mix Ghanaian storytelling, provocative concepts, and important takeaways for the wider discussions around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. What pleasantly surprised me was how engaged the audience were. All of the questions which were asked were difficult and key to the diversity and inclusion debates. This showed me that many people in Mazars want to get involved, have their voice heard and see real positive change within Mazars. None of us know what the answers are to make our workforce inclusive and diverse. What I think we need to do is ask questions. June Sarpong raised an interesting point in her ‘6 degrees of integration’. She asked us all to check our circle. Do all our friends look like we do? If this is the case it is important that we speak to other people who may not fit into the same category. This will help us to fully embrace one another and break down barriers and unconscious biases. We need to challenge ourselves to speak to different people and if you do not know what to say then ask questions. If we ask all of the awkward questions we will find out more about different people, be put at ease, and know how to make their work life as easy and full of opportunity as possible. Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’ – John F. Kennedy Ask yourself what you can do to add to the inclusive culture at Mazars for which we are all responsible and how you can actively have an impact on equal opportunities and making our workforce diverse.   By Olivia Perry Olivia Perry runs the Speakeasy Network at Mazars which aims to champion all kinds of disabilities in the workplace – from the more identifiable physical disabilities, to “hidden” disabilities.

#WeAreMazars: Scott Weaver

​​​For this week’s edition of #WeAreMazars, we’re joined by Scott Weaver. Scott works as a Client Relationship Administrator for Mazars’ National Creditor Services in Gloucester. We speak to Scott about his career thus far, who inspires him, and how taking parental leave at Mazars has benefited him and his family.

Catch up on our previous interviews with Monika Salawa, Lisa Brennan, Hemehra Sajid, Natasha Ryan, Tejal Bhogaita and Lindsay Pentelow.

Scott Weaver #WeAreMazars

Tell us about your career – what do you do?

I work in the National Creditor Services as a client relationship administrator based in the Gloucester office. My role revolves around providing support to the work winning team to identify new business opportunities and administering the processing of our clients’ insolvency claims.

Why did you choose your career?

After leaving university, I started working at PWC as a temp in Gloucester and continued there after being made permanent. Mazars then acquired the personal insolvency business from PWC and I have continued to work in personal insolvency since then.

What’s one of the biggest advances you’ve seen over the past 5 years?

The use of IT in my role has increased significantly. We previously has a high amount of manual imputing, however our IT systems have developed and this data can now be uploaded, which has increased efficiency in my team.

Who inspires you?

I would say my dad inspires me. Before his retirement he had a successful career, including working abroad, which gave me new experiences growing up. He has always had time for his family, taught me well and encouraged me to always try new experiences.

When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?

I’ve learnt to focus on the positive things I’ve done that day rather than the things I haven’t done. Setting small goals and learning to recognise what I’ve done right.

What can organisations do more generally to create a culture of inclusion?

I recently took shared parental leave with Mazars taking 3 months off. This was a great benefit to my family as it allowed me to spend time with my two young children and allowed my wife to continue with her career. I also work compressed hours which helps manage my family life and shows how Mazars creates a culture of inclusion and diversity in a way of working.

 

Thank you to Scott for taking the time to speak to us. We will be publishing more #WeAreMazars interviews on this blog over the coming months so stay tuned!

#WeAreMazars: Monika Salawa

In this week’s edition of the #WeAreMazars series, we’re joined by Monika Salawa, an Assistant Manager in the Indirect Tax (VAT) team in the Bristol office. Monika shares with us some of the lessons she’s learned throughout the course of her career, her advice for the next generation of leaders and her thoughts on what businesses can do you create a culture of inclusion.

Monika Salawa Mazars #WeAreMazars

Catch up on our previous interviews with Lisa BrennanHemehra Sajid, Natasha Ryan, Tejal Bhogaita and Lindsay Pentelow.

 

How did you get started in your career?

During my time in high school I knew I was quite good at two subjects – creative writing and maths. It was hard to imagine a career path where both of those could go hand in hand, so out of the two I chose to study Accounting and Finance at university. It’s fair to say that my literature teacher was a little disappointed!

What do you think has contributed to your success?

I set up and ran my own coffee shop business while I was at university and this was by far the toughest, most rewarding and most life-changing process I have gone through. The skills I developed during that period – be it customer service, time management, tenacity or team management – helped me to become who I am now in both personal and professional life.

How has running a coffee shop impacted your approach towards work today?

Thanks to this experience, I can also look at my client’s businesses from their point of view and focus on the bigger picture, coming up with solutions which are not only effective from a tax perspective, but workable and which will benefit the business in a general commercial sense.

Do you have any tangible strategies for success that you can share?

Stepping away from the daily hustle of work and evaluating the bigger picture: where am I going, what are my targets and plans, is what I am doing aligned to the long-terms strategy and does it benefit me? I try to do this regularly to keep myself in check, and adjust as I go.

Who would you say has contributed to your growth?

I would have to say my husband – since the time we met while we were studying, he kept on encouraging me to push myself through difficult times to reap reward for hard work in future. He taught me that there are truly no limits to what we can achieve if we have a clear goal and strive hard enough.

Can you share a leadership lesson that you’ve learned in your career?

I’ve learnt that it’s fine to delegate and allow others to work at their pace and according to their ideas. It has always been a difficult thing for me to do; as a perfectionist I often wanted things to go exactly as per my plan, but I’ve learnt that by allowing others to contribute and giving them full control over specific tasks without micromanaging, we can encourage them to thrive in their own ways. And we come across ideas and solutions which we would not have found ourselves.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Know where you are going and how want to get there. Do not compromise your values in the process and be patient. All of the people I admire in the workplace or wider world worked hard and fought through hardship to become great leaders. Remember that often what inspires others is not necessarily achieving the goal but the journey you took to get there.

When times get tough, how do you keep yourself going?

As a Muslim I believe that everything that comes our way is a test from God – whether it’s a period of hardship or a period of happiness, it is placed in our life to help us strengthen and develop our character.

It helps to have a healthy distance from events in our lives and not to get overly excited during good times but also not to feel down when things do not go your way – remember that all is temporary, and just do your best in every situation. From a more tangible perspective, I find that listening to podcasts or lectures every morning on my way to work keeps me motivated and helps me start the day with enthusiasm.

Do you think that progress is being made when it comes to diversity in the workplace?

I love seeing Mazars and other businesses embracing diversity – and not only ‘accepting’ that people are different and do not all think or work in the same manner, but actively promoting diversity in the workplace. I think it is incredibly enriching to be able to draw from the experiences of people from all walks of life.

Finally, what do you think organisations can do more generally to create a culture of inclusion?

Organisations are on the right track with increasingly adopting flexible working models, openly encouraging the employment of people from diverse backgrounds and speaking about prejudice and unconscious bias.

More needs to be done to promote strong role models from diverse backgrounds; to inspire junior colleagues or new joiners to be brave to pursue careers they want. However, it is not enough to only speak about unconscious bias, we all must make sure we evaluate our actions on an ongoing basis and remain open-minded. ‘Different’ is not wrong, or strange – it’s just simply not the same.

 

 

Thank you to Monika for taking the time to speak to us. We will be publishing more #WeareMazars interviews over the coming months so stay tuned!

#WeAreMazars: Lisa Brennan

In our #WeAreMazars series this week, we’re getting to know Lisa Brennan. Lisa is a Payroll Supervisor in the National Payroll Services team. In her interview, she shares some of her tips for successes, the changes she’s seen during her five years at Mazars and what she believes it takes to create a culture of inclusion in the workplace.

Catch up on our previous interviews with Hemehra Sajid, Natasha Ryan, Tejal Bhogaita and Lindsay Pentelow.

Lisa Brennan Mazars

Can you tell us about your career journey and how it began?

My career began after I left school and started my first job as an Office Junior in a payroll department at a small firm of accountants in Romford, Essex. I stayed there for four years and in late 2013, I joined Mazars as a Payroll Assistant.

After I joined Mazars, I decided to enrol onto the Payroll Alliance Professional Diploma in Payroll Management Course. This gave me a greater insight and understanding of management roles which was my goal to work towards in the future. A year later in September 2014, I was promoted to a Payroll Administrator which involved taking on a larger portfolio of complex clients, and I started assisting with training new members of the team.

Then in September 2016, I moved up to Senior Payroll Administrator. This role required me to be more heavily involved with training the team and also assist the management team with payroll implementations. A year after that, I achieved a promotion to Payroll Supervisor which meant I had a smaller portfolio of clients to process. However, I also took on the responsibility of managing members of the team, conducting appraisals, reviewing work, taking part in meetings and working closely with the Payroll Manager and Directors.

What does your role look like now?

I currently oversee a team of five and thoroughly enjoy the day to day challenges that this brings.

Why did you decide to work in payroll?

I don’t think anyone chooses to work in payroll, everyone I’ve spoken to has said that they have fallen into the role one way or another. I’d always wanted to work in an office environment and thought that this job would be a perfect starting point to gain office experience. After three years, I was introduced to processing basic payrolls and gradually started to increase my portfolio and also assist with accounts and book keeping (which I didn’t particularly enjoy).

I left this firm in 2013 to join Mazars, as I knew that there would be more opportunities for career progression and I’d also always wanted to work in London. Safe to say this was one of the best decisions I’ve made, as I’ve been supported fully by the management team at Mazars when it comes to progressing and developing my career.

Can you share three things that you feel have contributed to your success?

The first thing would be leaving my previous job and applying for Mazars, as I believe I would still be in the same position now that I was five years ago with no career progression.

The second thing would be studying and passing the Payroll Alliance Diploma in Payroll Management, as this played a massive part in enhancing my Payroll knowledge and helped to develop my management skills.

Lastly, it would be my fellow colleagues and the management team who have given me so many opportunities to move up the ladder, inspired me to continue to work hard and succeed in my role.

Do you have any tangible strategies for success?

Build strong relationships and trust – both internally and externally. Pay close attention to detail and take pride in your work. Always aim high!

You now manage a team of five, what’s something that you’ve learnt from this experience?

Developing people management skills has been one of the biggest lessons. Understanding that different people need to be managed differently has helped me to work within a diverse team.

Do you have any advice for the next generation of leaders?

I would advise the next generation that if they put in the time and effort, work hard and take pride in their work, then they too can be successful and progress in their careers. Always aim high and have faith in yourself that you’ll achieve your goals.

What’s one of the biggest advances you’ve seen during your time at Mazars?

I believe that the biggest advance would be moving towards a paperless system. When I started here five years ago, we were entirely reliant on paper and now we have two online payslip portals, a paperless drive to save our files and a new processing structure to facilitate this.

Are there any other changes that you’ve seen?

There have been other developments such as Elev8 People, our industry leading cloud-based solution, provides payroll clients with an HR solution to enable them to streamline their processes. This represents a new dynamic to the Mazars payroll offering, and provides even greater value to our clients.

How do you keep yourself going when times get difficult?

I’m lucky to have a close relationship with some of my colleagues who always support and provide solutions to any problem. If there is ever a tough situation and things are difficult, I will always take a break and return with a clearer head.

Finally, what do you think organisations can do to create a culture of inclusion?

Diversity is an important issue for any modern business but it’s not enough to hire people of different nationalities, races, genders and sexual orientations – everyone needs to feel like they are truly welcome, safe and free to be themselves in the workplace.

I think that the We Can Women’s Network at Mazars has excellent potential, as it provides a support network for women within the business. Likewise, the LGBT, BAME and Muslim networks provide similar support for staff and partners within the business.

By bringing people together and encouraging discussion and conversation with each other, there is always a benefit of gaining a greater understanding and empathy towards all people.

 

Thank you to Lisa for taking the time to speak to us. We will be publishing more #WeareMazars interviews over the coming months so stay tuned!

#WeAreMazars: Hemehra Sajid

This week in our #WeareMazars series we’re speaking to Hemehra Sajid, a Senior Internal Auditor based in Birmingham. Hemehra shares with us what made her want to become an internal auditor, what has contributed most to her success and how she faces challenges when times get tough.

 

Hi Hemehra, can you tell us about your role at Mazars?

I’m a Senior Internal Auditor primarily within the RAS public sector, where we deal with social housing, education, and police.

 

What made you want to become an Internal Auditor?

I wanted to pursue my career path to increase my confidence – I was a very shy, reserved and unconfident person. I recognised that I needed to come out of my comfort zone and interact more with people, although I’m still seen as an introvert.

 

What are three things and three people who have contributed most to your success?

My faith and patience: everyone has their time and I’m a firm believer of this – things will happen at the best time for you. I have to thank my best friend Kieran for referring me to Mazars, as well as Narinder and Rob for hiring me! I owe much to my family and friends for their support and encouragement for me to chase my career goals.

 

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

One lesson I’ve learned about leadership is to only look down if you are helping someone up. I have a great management support network and I strive to be one of them, so that I can help to develop others too.

 

What’s one of the biggest advances you’ve seen at Mazars over the past 5 years?

I think that the firm has made a lot of progress with its diversity agenda. I love that Mazars and Management actively seek colleagues to develop and support which makes me proud to be part of Mazars and especially my team!

When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?

Every day I make a point of taking a minimum of 10 minutes to be silent, breathe and have gratitude. I pray daily, which helps myself to remain calm and be strong. I am now also confident enough to approach the management team when I need support – otherwise I see every task as a challenge and try to turn any negative experiences to positive ones.

 

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Listen to those around you and especially junior members of your team. Help to develop junior team members to help them play to their strengths. Essentially, you can bridge the gap between junior and senior staff.

 

What can Mazars do to create a culture of inclusion?

Awareness is fundamental – many people are only “somewhat” aware of important dates and times in various faiths. To even take time to wish them in their celebration means a lot. I would like to see the firm celebrating all faiths’ occasions to ensure understanding, awareness and respect is at its highest amongst us.

 

Thank you to Hemehra for taking the time to speak to us.

A road map for protection against cybercrime security

International cybercrime is becoming a big business and a primary corporate risk, boards are grappling with understanding its complexities and ensuring robust defences are in place against hackers.

At a recent Centre for Audit Committee and Investor Dialogue (CACID) meeting – a joint initiative between Mazars and institutional investors – we discussed the policies and procedures that boards need to have in place to combat the risks facing corporations and why they need to go further than simply complying with the new regulation.

Nicolas Quairel cybersecurity

Discussions touched on:

Clear policy and procedure

Boards need to start from the critical IT assets and understand how they could be affected by various cyber-threats. This step is crucial in light of new data protection rules (General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR) which came into force in May. It is essential for boards to show the regulator that effective protection is in place and demonstrate that steps taken to achieve it.

Compliance

The tough new regulation is certainly sharpening minds with its aim to establish Europe-wide standards on cybersecurity. GDPR requires companies to make sure the personal data of EU citizens and residents is effectively protected and secure. Surveys have indicated that many companies are still unprepared for the tougher rules on the protection and storage of personal data that GDPR requires.

One of the mistakes boards often make, is to believe that a threat to cybersecurity ‘is only IT-related’ rather than a business risk.

Board expertise

Best practice approaches include boards appointing a member with specialist technology or cybersecurity experience who is able to understand the complexities and vulnerability of the company and explain to the rest of the board, audit and risk committees, the security and data protection measures needed.

Smaller companies, which might be more constrained by costs than their bigger counterparts should bring in external cyber-risk advisors. Waiting until ‘someone kicks the tyres’ before investing in training or specialists is no longer an option.

Disclosure controls and procedures

Boards also need to make sure they have a clear post-breach plan of action and that regulatory reporting of data breaches follows the right procedure to meet the new GDPR requirements. New guidance from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the disclosure of cyber-attacks will be helpful for companies scrambling to meet GDPR rules.

Dealing with investor concerns

The new regulations are encouraging investors to ask sharp questions and expect boards to give informed and detailed answers that provide assurance. One large institutional investor present at the meeting explained that if they do not have enough confidence in the level of cybersecurity resilience, they will not invest in the company.

Take action

The current challenging and complex environment of organised cybercrime, malicious software and dark-web activity means many boards will need to raise the bar to protect personal data and meet the requirements of all stakeholders in the near future.

 

This blog is an excerpt of an article, “A road map for protection against cybercrime security” which appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Board Agenda. The full article can be found here.

 

By Nicolas Quariel

#WeAreMazars: Natasha Ryan

In celebration of Brighton Pride this weekend, we’re speaking to Natasha Ryan, a Tax Advisory Director from Birmingham about what it means to be an LGBT ally. In this candid interview, Natasha describes what being an LGBT ally means to her, and explains how those who do not identify as LGBT can still support LGBT voices.

 Natasha Ryan Mazars

What is your role?

I’m a Director in the Entrepreneurial Business and Private Client Tax Advisory team. It basically means I advise individuals, their businesses and their families.

How long have you been at Mazars?

I’ve been at Mazars for almost two years.

Why did you choose this career?

I never set out to be a tax adviser – it just sort of evolved. I studied a Maths and Accounting degree, joined a graduate scheme with an accountancy practice and never looked back!

Why did you join Mazars?

An ex-colleague persuaded me to join! He’s now retired but despite this I’m pleased I chose to join Mazars. My Mazars experience has been really positive and I think it’s genuinely a great firm with great people.

What do you think non-LGBT people can do to be allies to the LGBT community?

It’s important to remember that we all have many elements to our identities. For me, being an ally is about listening to and learning from someone else’s experiences. It’s about showing respect and acceptance despite our differences.

Why does Pride matter to you?

Because my family matters. As a 16 year old my nephew has a lot to think about, not only has he just completed his GCSEs but he’s just been diagnosed with social anxiety.

His anxiety is part of who he is, yet how he’s feeling is undoubtedly connected to exploring his identity. Being lesbian, gay, bi or trans can feel like extra pressure for young people particularly if they feel that those around them might react negatively to who they are. This worry can be very damaging and lead to a sense of isolation.

Although telling him I love and care about him goes a long way, I wanted to show my support. Taking part in this year’s Pride March with his mum and sister was a visible symbol of our unconditional love and support.  So that’s why #PrideMatters to me.

What do you think prevents people from bringing their whole selves to work?

The reality is, for many, the subject of workplace identity can be a tricky balancing act. On one hand, you want to approach your role and your ultimate career goals in a way that will best help you achieve your ambitions. On the other hand, you don’t want to create an artificial or disingenuous work persona that’s so far removed from who you really are that you make yourself miserable.

At work I think we all, sometimes, can be afraid of being ourselves. Especially when there’s concerns that this could have an effect on our career.

The main objective is likely to be a balance; using your workplace instincts and your true sense of self to become an effective and genuine colleague.

 

Thanks to Natasha for speaking to us. Remember to check back next week for another #WeAreMazars interview.

Sustainable Expectations: how the ESG investment agenda is shifting

Investors are placing environmental, social and governance issues at the top of their agendas, and they expect companies to do the same. They are increasingly looking for companies that have adjusted the balance between short and long-term value creation to develop strategies that lean toward sustainable outcomes and provide societal good.

US investment house BlackRock has been taking a lead in this area, their CEO, Larry Fink, has written to companies reminding them that he sees his firm’s responsibility to engage and vote with them as more important than ever. He wrote “companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate.”

Quarterly reporting, activist shareholders and the immediacy of investor demands can combine to force directors to take decisions that, while giving a quick response to an immediate issue, might have longer-lasting consequences.

Much of this comes down to good stewardship. In the UK, the Financial Reporting Council’s Stewardship Code, first published in 2012, sets out how stewardship aims to promote the long-term success of companies so that the ultimate providers of capital—the investors—also prosper. The primary responsibility for stewardship rests with the company board, but investors also play an important role in holding the board to account over the fulfilment of its responsibilities. However, the code is directed in the first instance at institutional investors. They are expected to do more than vote; those that sign up to the code commit to meaningful engagement with companies over matters such as strategy, performance, risk, capital structure and corporate governance.

Last year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an in-depth review of responsible business conduct for institutional investors, setting out key considerations for due diligence under the OECD’s guidelines for multinational enterprises. By carrying out due diligence in line with these guidelines, the OECD believes that investors will not only avoid the negative impacts of their investments on society and the environment, but will also avoid financial and reputational risks, respond to the expectations of their clients and beneficiaries, and contribute to global goals on climate and sustainable development. The OECD has commented that “Increasingly, failing to consider long-term investment value drivers, which include environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, in investment practice is seen to be a failure of fiduciary duty”. Institutional investors are changing their own internal procedures in light of the OECD’s guidelines; they are now approaching quoted companies and saying that they can’t invest in them until they are on top of their ESG agenda. ESG is no longer a sideshow…we see certain investors really trying to make a difference.

 

This blog is an excerpt of an article, “Sustainable expectations: how the ESG investment agenda is shifting” which appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Board Agenda. The full article can be found here.

 

By Richard Karmel & Anthony Carey