Feeling stressed?

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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.

#WeAreMazars: Hemehra

This week in our #WeareMazars series we’re speaking to Hemehra, 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.

#WomenAtMazars: Sophie Mellor

 

Celebrating #WomenatMazars – Sophie Mellor

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Next up in our Celebrating #WomenatMazars series we’re speaking to Sophie Mellor, a Tax trainee who is part of the Tax Advisory team based in Milton Keynes.

Sophie tells us about her career path to date, from gaining work experience whilst she studied at university to her current role at Mazars. She shares what keeps her motivated and the advice she would give to her younger self, as well as how she believes we can all #PressforProgress

Don’t forget to catch up with the previous interviews in this series.

Can you tell us about how you started at Mazars?

I studied Accounting and Financial Management at university and worked part time at small local accounting firm which enabled me to apply my studies to practical situations, as well as gain exposure into the variety of areas of accountancy. I also completed a placement year in audit and accounting which broaden my awareness of the vast opportunities accountancy offered. It was only when I came to Mazars that I became involved in tax compliance and advisory.

What has helped you get to where you are today?

Being able to build upon my studies though real life scenarios was an advantageous learning experience which I believe has helped me to progress to where I am today. The combination of having a part time job whilst at university also encouraged time management skills, which is important when studying alongside working.

What motivates you?

I believe I have a strong work ethic and always try to complete a task to the best of my ability. Seeing a job completed to a high quality motivates me, as well as being involved in a wide variety of work to widen my technical knowledge and experience. In my opinion, being recognised for a piece of work you have completed or been involved in is extremely motivating.

Who have been the people that have mentored or sponsored you?

Whilst I am not currently involved in the mentoring scheme, there are definitely people within the firm who I look up to as a role model. Having a mentor or sponsor not only enables you to learn from them, but also to develop skills and attributes to assist your career progression.

What has been the most defining point in your career to date?

A personal defining point for me was becoming ACA qualified, however, from a work perspective, being involved in a variety of advisory work including a large transfer pricing project has been extremely memorable.

How would others at work describe you?

I would like to think others describe me as hard working and approachable, as well as being a team player.

What advice would you give to other women for growing and progressing at Mazars or starting their careers?

Everyone has different aspirations for their career path and therefore you shouldn’t directly compare yourself to others. Having a mentor is beneficial if you want to develop and move up in the firm, however, this is not everyone’s goal and it is equally important to be in a position you are comfortable with.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self? 

The most important advice I could give is to never be afraid to ask questions. In my opinion, the best way to develop and to be able to broaden your knowledge within your job role is to ask and learn from those above you.

Finally, as we’ve recently celebrated International Women’s Day and 100 years of women’s suffrage, do you have any thoughts as to how everyone (society more broadly) can do to #PressforProgress to achieve gender parity?

I believe mentoring schemes and skills workshops contribute towards building gender parity. Furthermore, it is important to provide support for women returning to work after a period of leave such as maternity leave to ensure they feel comfortable with their position and career path for the future. Ensuring attainable gender split for not only senior roles, but roles at all levels within firms will raise awareness for gender parity.

Thanks to Sophie for sharing her career journey with us.

Make sure that you come back to the Mazars UK blog each week to hear from more inspirational #WomenatMazars.

 

 

 

#WomenatMazars: Jennifer Allison

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Find out what keeps her motivated, what has been the most defining point in her career to date and the advice she would give her younger self.

Don’t forget to take a look at the previous interviews in this series with Helen Parker and Charlotte Ward.

Hi Jennifer, can you tell us a bit about how you got started at Mazars and what your current role entails?

I started my career in 2009 and moved to Mazars just over four years ago, moving over with a group of managers and partners from another firm. I’ve always worked in tax and now concentrate on tax advisory for owner managed businesses.

I’ve been involved in a variety of projects both locally and nationally and enjoy visiting other offices and meeting new colleagues.

 How would you describe your journey to where you are now?

My journey so far has been fast paced, exciting and challenging.

What enablers have helped you get to where you are today?

Hard work and determination, as well as help and guidance from colleagues along the way.

What motivates you?

Usually it’s a sense of accomplishment when you have finished a large project or where clients are delighted with a piece of work. Often it’s clients where you have given advice which saves tax or offering solutions before they end up with a large liability. Also, I enjoy being challenged with ever-changing tax legislation.

How has having a mentor made a difference to you?

I’ve had a mentor for a lot of my career which is great. Having someone you can bounce ideas off or questioning and guiding you along the way has definitely helped. It’s great to have someone providing impartial advice and someone you can really have an honest conversation with.

What has been the most defining point in your career to date?

Being promoted to Director last year and attending the Women at Mazars conference in Milan last year. I met a fantastic group of female colleagues from around the world – it was a real motivator.

How would your colleagues describe you?

Friendly, approachable, driven, energetic and reliable…and probably a bit impatient too (an inherited family trait!)

What advice would you give to other women for growing and progressing at Mazars?

Set yourself goals, share ideas, don’t be scared to ask for help, and most importantly, be yourself.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?

Stay calm – if something doesn’t go to plan or doesn’t work out remember it’s not the end of the world. I used to get myself really worked up and worry about the small things – e.g. if a tax return didn’t go in on time and I would think this was a crisis, even though I’d sent multiple chasers to a client. Luckily my partner would bring me back down to reality.

Finally, as it was International Women’s Day this month and 100 years of women’s suffrage, do you have any thoughts as to how everyone can #PressforProgress to achieve gender parity?

Challenge any stereotypes, speak up, influence and be a role model to others.

 

Thanks to Jennifer for sharing her career journey with us.

Make sure that you come back to the Mazars UK blog each week to hear from more inspirational #WomenatMazars.

#WomenAtMazars: Charlotte Ward

36055 International Women's Day twitter cards_CWOver the coming weeks, we’re going to be continuing our celebration of the achievements of women from across Mazars as part of our commitment to #PressforProgress.

In the first interview in our Celebrating #WomenatMazars series, we spoke to Helen Parker, a Director in the Entrepreneurial Business team.

This week, we’re hearing from Charlotte Ward, an Assistant Manager in the Forensic and Investigation Services (FIS) team in Birmingham.

Hi Charlotte, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us about how you got started at Mazars and how this led to your current role?

I joined Mazars as an Audit graduate in September 2013 in the Birmingham office. Upon joining, I was offered a secondment to the FIS team for three months before returning to Audit in February 2014.

Whilst in Audit, I decided that I was better suited to FIS due to a wider variety of work, and I subsequently transferred back to FIS in July 2015. I was promoted to Assistant Manager last September.

Alongside my professional role, I am also the MYC Champion for the Birmingham office and the Vice Chair for a Birmingham young professionals networking organisation aimed at individuals just starting out in their career in the city.

What have been the enablers that have helped you get to where you are today?

Personally, the key enabler for me has been being part of a team where you are able to speak your mind and have your thoughts heard. When I was first looking at where I wanted to work, I always said that I wanted to go somewhere where I was valued as a person rather than just a number. Mazars has given me that voice and allowed me to not only develop my career internally at the firm but also to pursue opportunities externally such as with my involvement with the young professionals organisation.

What keeps you motivated?

For me, the key motivation is the pride of doing a good job and being able to deliver something which you are proud to put your name on. I absolutely hate the feeling associated with letting someone down or not delivering my best.

Over the course of your career, who have been the people that have mentored or sponsored you?

I have been really fortunate in my career to have had two amazing appraisal managers who have ensured that I have been able to develop by allowing me the opportunity to try new work, challenge me and push the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of doing.

Alongside the partner in my team, these individuals have always listened to me and allowed me to have a voice, so that most decisions are made collectively as a team and inclusive of everyone’s viewpoints.

What has been the most defining point in your career to date?

I think the most defining point for me would be my promotion to Assistant Manager last September. Before this point in my career when I was a graduate, each promotion was as a result of either exam passes or the time spent at the firm.

The promotion to Assistant Manager is the first point in my career where I’ve been promoted based on merit alone. When you’re promoted to this level, it’s based on the work you have done to date and, for me, it shows that the firm has recognised all the hard work I have put in.

How would others describe you at work?

I like to think I’m hardworking, determined and dedicated but despite all that I always try to remain positive and engaging. My team might also add loud and addicted to cake but who doesn’t like those emails?!

What advice would you give to other women for growing and progressing in the firm?

For me, personally, the key piece of advice I would give is you never know what you are capable of until you try. The pieces of work I have been most proud of in my time at Mazars are where I was thrown in the deep end to start with, not knowing whether I would be able to do it or not.

I had the belief of both the partner and manager in my team that I would, and was able to exceed my own expectations. The only barrier to developing your own career is by standing still; it’s only by going outside of your comfort zone that you can grow and progress which may seem daunting at first.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self? What would you do differently?

I’m a big believer in never regretting anything and looking back. However, the key thing I would say is never to take things too personally. I remember when I first started at the firm that I would take every criticism of my work as a criticism of me as a person, but in fact, it was simply a comment made to improve my work.

At the end of the day, decisions will be made and comments made in a work context which you may not agree with personally but are for the benefit of the business as a whole.

Finally, as it was International Women’s Day last week and 100 years of women’s suffrage, do you have any thoughts as to how everyone (society more broadly) can #PressforProgress to achieve gender parity?

Growing up, I was always taught that I could do anything I put my mind to. I think this is something everyone should aspire to in order to step out of the historic gender stereotypes. I really believe things are changing, but as with anything these things take time. Any role should be based on your experience and qualifications, regardless of your gender, age, race or any other category.

 

Make sure that you come back to the Mazars UK Blog each week to hear from more inspirational #WomenatMazars.

 

#WomenAtMazars: Helen Parker

Today is International Women’s Day, and to show our support for this year’s theme; #PressforProgress; we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women from across Mazars.

Over the coming weeks, we’re going to be hearing from women in the firm about their careers, how they’ve progressed and what they’ve learnt along the way.

In our first interview in this series, we’re speaking to Helen Parker, a Director in the Entrepreneurial services team in London. She shared with us her career path at Mazars – from joining the firm as an audit trainee to her current role as a director.

Keep reading to hear how her grandmother’s words influenced and guided her, the mentors who’ve supported and encouraged her and how moving to Dublin to work with the global team on the EB strategy and Optimize programme has been a defining point in her career.

 

Let’s start with your career journey, can you tell us how you got started at Mazars and how you’ve progressed in the firm?

I did a BSC in Geography at Kings College London so not really connected to accounting. I realised that geography didn’t have much practical application to the working world and so I did an MSc in International Business and Management at Manchester University.

I joined Mazars as an Audit trainee in 2006 which was my first job after leaving university. I worked in the Audit department for eight years, where I progressed to Senior Manager.In March 2015, I went on a secondment as Project Management Officer (PMO) for the Head of Owner Managed Business.

In March 2016, I made the move to Dublin to work on the development of the Optimize programme – the first global bespoke programme in Mazars’ history. The programme is designed to help our EB clients identify all of the actions that they need to take in order to improve their performance and enhance the long term value of their business. As part of my global role, I am the PMO for Optimize training and delivery and this has taken me to Berlin, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, New York (three times) and Dublin to give training workshops.

In March 2017 I was promoted to Director and it was also at this time that we launched the pilot phase of Optimize in the UK. A few months later in June I moved back to UK, still as PMO, but to the now Entrepreneurial Businesses strategic market segment and with Gareth Jones now as the UK Head. I came back to UK to work more closely with Gareth on rolling out and embedding Optimize across our 13 EB offices. This involved lots of training – in total I have given training to over 300 people across Mazars globally.

Due to the success of the pilot, we are now rolling out Optimize in another eight countries and further developing the product offering. So at the start of February 2018, I moved back to Dublin so that Joe and I could work together on the development of Optimize 2.0. It is expected that I will be here for about six months.

What have been the enablers that have helped you get to where you are today?

My grandma was a very intelligent woman and was always frustrated that she grew up in a time that didn’t afford women the rights that we have now. She repeatedly told my sister and I that as women we ‘can do whatever you want to do’ and emphasised how lucky we were to have been born in a time when women have more opportunities.

My sister and I often reflect on the influence that her frequent sermons had on us – we are both head strong and career driven and we believe we have her to thank.

Where does your motivation come from?

My father worked for many years in the corporate world and in the last 15 years he and my two brothers have worked in the family business.

This has meant that business has always been at the forefront of family discussions – especially around the dinner table. And so I have grown up listening to the challenges, issues, operations etc. of businesses in the EB sector first hand.

The reason I love working in the EB sector and more specifically on Optimize is that we are making a tangible difference to privately owned businesses and the families who work in them.

Over the course of your career, who have been the people that have mentored you?

I will always be thankful to Jon Seaman and Neale Bussey in the London Audit department. Both had seen the advertisement for the PMO role back in February 2015 and encouraged me to apply. Both thought that it would play to my strengths and interests, which at the time were client relations, project management and BD – either that or they were trying to get rid of me in the Audit department!

Dave Smithson selected me for the PMO role and subsequently felt that I would benefit from doing a stint abroad – it was thanks to his encouragement that I ended up working with Joe Carr in Dublin.

Joe is a fantastic person to work with and he has an amazing mind – it has been an absolute privilege to have access to his thinking for the last two years.

And finally Gareth Jones who has been my UK ‘boss’ for the last 1.5 years. I think we make a good team and he has been really supportive along the way – especially with my move back to Dublin. I would argue whether he is my boss though!

What has been the most defining point in your career to date?

Moving to Dublin to work with the global team. What I have learned in the space of two years eclipses everything I have ever learned before.

I will always be thankful for the opportunity to work on such an exciting and innovative project and to work with such a great team of people from across so many of the Mazars countries. And Dublin is such an amazing city.

How would others describe you at work?

According to some of the people I asked, they said they’d describe me as:

  • Logical
  • Driven
  • Ambitious
  • Open
  • Fair
  • Straightforward
  • Friendly

What advice would you give to other women for growing and progressing at Mazars?

I firmly believe that we are all in control of our own careers and if you want something then you have to make it happen.  I have never been held back by my gender and I have been incredibly lucky at Mazars that I have got most things that I have pushed for (within reason!)

The only area where I think we need to improve is I frequently sit in meetings where people refer to partners as ‘he’ and clients as ‘he’. I am on the warpath when it comes to this and immediately shout out ‘or she’ to correct people. I can see its starting to work which is good.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self? 

I’d spend less time being upset when I didn’t get my A Level grades.

Finally, as its International Women’s Day and 100 years of women’s suffrage, what are your thoughts as to how everyone (society more broadly) can do to #PressforProgress to achieve gender parity?

We have to be vocal, empowering and supportive – women of all ages need to be reminded that they can do whatever they want to do.

I have started this with my two baby nieces so fingers crossed it works.

 

Helping professional women return to work

Mazars is participating in Women Returners Scotland’s return to work programme, offering two returnships for senior professional women who are interested in coming back to work in financial services after an extended career break. Angela Cooke, Diversity & Inclusion Senior Manager, explains:

 

One of our top priorities for achieving our 2020 vision is to provide a diverse and inclusive working environment where staff from all backgrounds are valued for who they are, and are given opportunities to fully realise their potential. At Mazars we pride ourselves on developing and nurturing talent, and the initiatives we have in place for current employees are designed to let them flourish, irrespective of their backgrounds.

That is why we’re excited about being part of a new initiative, a returnship programme coordinated by Women Returners Scotland. This is a programme which aims to support senior professional women with experience in financial services to return to work after an extended career break. Through this initiative, which is funded by the Scottish Government, we will be offering paid returnship opportunities in our Glasgow and Edinburgh offices, with positions in Tax and Accounting Services.

Recruiting from the widest possible talent pool will help Mazars meet its critical business need of increasing the proportion of women in its senior roles.  Return to work programmes provide a practical solution aimed at attracting this group of highly-qualified and experienced professionals who offer maturity and stability.  Being part of the Women Returners return to work programme in Scotland will enable Mazars to fuel its female talent pipeline at senior levels and reinforce its commitment to diversity and non-linear career paths.

Women who have had time out of the workplace often find that they are overlooked by recruiters and organisations due to the gap on their CVs.  Returnship programmes are designed to address the experience gap and provide another route to get talented senior women back into the workplace. Many women step out of the workforce at middle or senior management level, primarily, but not always, for caring reasons. The majority intend to return to work when these demands reduce, yet these individuals often find the route back into a senior roles difficult because of the gap of experience on their CV and a lack of opportunity to work flexibly. The returnship programme aims to give women returners an opportunity to be part of a business for three months, while receiving coaching and upskilling to rebuild technical skills and confidence while making a significant contribution to the business.

The programme is open to anyone with a relevant tax and/or financial accounting services background, who has been out of the workplace for more than 18 months. More information can be found on the websites linked to below, and any interested applicants should apply directly to the Edinburgh and Glasgow offices:

Apply to Edinburgh

Apply to Glasgow

 

The deadline to apply is Friday 2 February

 

Please click here for further information on the programme.

If you have questions on the programme itself please contact hazel@womenreturners.com

Carillion shows challengers in accountancy are needed

Sir,

You indicate that the Carillion liquidation arrangements highlight “longstanding issues around the oligopoly of the Big 4 and thepotential conflicts of interest that this generates” (“PwC under scrutiny over Carillion roles”, January 17).

The key question is for how much longer the situation, which is clearly not in the public interest, is going to be allowed to continue before government and regulators take effective action.

Meaningful moves are overdue to create a more open market in which other firms are allowed to compete on a level playing field with quality and not just size determining who wins work in regulated areas such as audit.

Did the government, through the Official Receiver think, for example, of appointing a non-Big 4 firm alongside PwC, which would have helped address any perceived conflicts?

More generally, while the last coalition government set up a competition inquiry into the large listed audit market and it found it was not fully competitive, little concrete action followed.

Similarly, the less than vigorous implementation and follow-up of the European Audit Reform has meant the Big 4’s share of the FTSE 350 audit market has further increased.

New competitors need to be encouraged if we are to build capacity in the accountancy sector across a wider group of firms, reduce potential conflicts, increase innovation and ensure no firm is too big to fail.

Positive signals will encourage challenger firms to invest appropriately and reach the necessary scale. This week has again shown the costs of government and regulators not giving the matter sufficient attention.

David Herbinet

Global Head of Audit

Mazars, London E1, UK

This letter originally appeared in the Financial Times, 21 January 2018

A radical approach to training business leaders

The below letter appeared in Letters to the Editor, Financial Times, 10 January 2018. Find the original piece here.

Dear Sir,

Your leader entitled “A better deal between business and society” (January 2) is very timely. You primarily focus on the role businesses — and in practice their boards — need to play in strengthening the social contract. Their role is crucial.

If, however, there is to be a permanent shift towards the mainstream approach becoming focused on creating sustainable success for the benefit of all the main stakeholders in a business, and for wider society, all the players in theecosystem (including investors, corporate advisers, workers’ representatives, professions, business schools, regulators and politicians) need to step up to the plate and make their contribution.

It is hard for individual businesses to go against the grain and adopt a long-term approach if the prevailing culture is short-term, as challenges in the early part of the journey run the risk of halting them in their tracks.

If one accepts there is at least some truth in the maxim “what gets measured gets managed” then those of us involved in the accountancy profession have much to do as regards how performance is measured, the areas on which assurance is provided and more generally on the contribution those with a financial background make to boards given we are strongly represented on them in many countries.

We need, for example, to make much more progress as a matter of priority on how we capture the value of people to a business as well as other intangibles and, in particular, the extra value in businesses with highly talented and motivated workforces recruited from diverse backgrounds.

This is a challenge for standard-setters but also for the profession: we need a radical look at how we are training the business leaders of the next generation.

Anthony Carey

Head of Board Practice, Mazars LLP, London E1, UK