Feature Interview

Leading the transformation of the civil service finance function is a challenge, but one worth taking on, explains Connie Costello On 30 September 2016, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had taken a significant step towards the modernisation of Government financial management administration. The Government had just awarded a contract to Accenture to build and implement a new single ‘best in class’ financial management system, based on Oracle technology. This followed the validation of the business case to establish a Civil Service Finance Shared Service Centre, which was approved by Government in January 2016. Forty-eight public service bodies will be serviced by the Finance Shared Service Centre. These include all government departments together with a number of agencies and offices. The introduction of a single finance technology platform will replace 31 existing finance systems across those government departments, agencies and offices. The Finance Shared Service Centre will operate standardised finance processes and common accounting definitions. When fully operational, it will process approximately 625,000 invoices and account for in excess of €50 billion in gross expenditure. Furthermore, the Finance Shared Service Centre will be staffed and managed by civil servants. It will be based in existing shared services offices in Galway, Tullamore and Killarney and will operate under the governance of the National Shared Services Office. When fully established, the centre is expected to deliver annual savings to the Exchequer of approximately 33%, c. €15.4 million per annum. This will be achieved through a reduction in the cost of support for existing finance technology and a reduction of approximately 25% in the number of staff involved in finance processing and administration. These staff will be redeployed to fill vacancies across the Civil Service. In addition, there will be movement of staff from existing’ finance functions into the Finance Shared Service Centre, in particular in Galway, Tullamore and Killarney. The new centre will deliver significant improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the government’s finance function. These include: Providing greater flexibility and strategic capability to respond to new and emerging requirements in a more consistent, timely and cost-effective manner. This will be based on a common chart of accounts and the capacity to support e-invoicing and e-procurement; Enabling Government to meet its current and future finance commitments, such as those emerging from the IMF Fiscal Transparency Assessment and EU Standards and Codes for Government Accounting; Improving resilience and sustainability by consolidating capability and building capacity to take advantage of the latest methods and models of ICT delivery, such as cloud computing, in order to drive greater innovation; Providing improved financial information and insights to support informed decision-making within government departments and public service bodies, and across central government; Realigning finance functions within government departments and public service bodies to focus on higher value-add activities; and Reducing costs, improving performance and increasing financial control through sharing processing capacity across collocated resources and standardising processes on a common technology platform. This move will enhance decision making by enabling finance teams with improved analysis of expenditure and public finances, allowing them to focus on strategy. Meanwhile, the Finance Shared Service Centre will espouse a strong service management culture, focused around the needs of the clients’ and their Accounting Officer. The provision of shared services, led by the National Shared Services Office within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, is a central principle of the government’s reform programme. There are two existing shared service centres in the Civil Service – within the National Shared Services Office, PeoplePoint provides HR and pensions administration for 34,500 civil servants, while the Payroll Shared Service Centre administers payroll and related payments for over 100,000 payees, including 57,000 pensioners. Transformation and change challenges This is a significant finance transformation programme, moving 48 organisations – all with their own way of working – to a new, standardised world. The challenge for the Finance Shared Service Centre is to build the capacity and capability to process all public service body finance transactions. There has been significant engagement by all public service bodies in the system design and the overall approach has been based on strong collaboration within the finance community. The design of each module in the system (purchasing, accounts payable etc.) has been led by process design working groups, which are composed of experienced civil service finance staff from a range of public service bodies. These process design working groups are facilitated by project team subject-matter experts who consistently apply the key principles of the design process – standardise, simplify and automate. A process design advisory group comprised of finance officers from a number of public service bodies will review the final design recommended by the process working groups. This extensive collaboration is producing a system designed to meet the needs of all clients, while not losing sight of the key benefits to be achieved from standardisation. The 48 public service bodies will migrate in roughly five waves over a three-year period, commencing in 2018. The Department of Finance, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General will be among the first organisations to be served by the new Finance Shared Service Centre. Significant change management support is required to ensure that a public sector body is adequately prepared for the transition to the Finance Shared Service Centre. To that end, each public service body will appoint a project/change manager who will work with the project change management team to support the public service body as it transitions to the new financial operating model. The role of the project change management support team is to ensure that each public service body knows what it has to do to prepare to go live and also to provide support on that journey. There is significant engagement on-going with senior stakeholders in each of the 48 public service bodies. This is to ensure that they have a full understanding of the journey their finance teams and organisation is about to undertake. Finance operating model The establishment of the Civil Service Finance Shared Service Centre will bring about changes to the Civil Service finance operating model. The finance function in each of the 48 public service bodies will undergo a redesign to ensure it is prepared for its new role and is structured to fulfil its responsibilities. The project team will work with a representative group of finance officers from the public service bodies to agree the key design principles and the methodology to be applied in advance of the build of the ‘new’ finance function in each organisation. The ’new’ finance function must be fit for purpose and meet the statutory requirements of the Secretary General or CEO (Accounting Officer) of the public service body. Inevitability, a redesign process such as this will identify gaps in existing staff skill sets which need to be addressed through training and development programmes. However, it should open up opportunities for staff movement across public service bodies. The future scenario is one where the Civil Service finance community will operate one finance model on one technology platform, which will be based on a common Chart of Accounts. This will be supported by one business intelligence system. Staffing As previously stated, the Finance Shared Service Centre will be located in Galway, Tullamore and Killarney. Recruitment is expected to commence across all three locations in late Q3 2017 and to continue annually until the Finance Shared Service Centre is fully established and all client operations have been migrated. The recruitment process will run in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service and will seek accountants at all levels, including qualified accountants with experience in shared services, recently qualified accountants, graduates who would like to engage in further development and non-graduates who are interested in pursuing an apprenticeship programme. Interested persons should register on the Public Appointments Service website in order to receive a notification when roles are advertised. There will be a wide range of roles and career development opportunities within the Finance Shared Service Centre and the wider National Shared Service Organisation, which will be open to both existing civil servants and new recruits. Increasing the number of professionals within the wider Civil Service is a key deliverable from this finance transformation programme. Governance The scope and ambition of this finance transformation programme is significant and therefore requires a controlled delivery approach, the application of best practice programme and risk management methodologies, strong sponsorship, and ongoing commitment from government and departments. The programme is sponsored by the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Lessons learned from earlier shared service implementations in the public sector and best practice approaches are being adapted to minimise the inherent risks associated with implementing a Finance Shared Service Centre. There is stringent management of scope, and a rigorous focus on adhering to the key design principles of standardisation and minimal customisation. CONNIE’S JOURNEY Connie trained in Deloitte before embarking on a career in financial services, which spanned just over a decade. Her career saw her hold senior management and executive financial and product development positions in a number of large financial organisations including Bank of Ireland, First Active plc and Ulster Bank. A constant theme in Connie’s career has been the delivery of change programmes, which range from cost efficiency programmes to revenue-enhancing opportunities. Connie moved to An Post in 2007, prior to the global financial downturn. Her initial task was to transform the finance function, changing divisional finance teams from traditional finance administration and reporting functions to valued business partners who could identify the management information necessary to inform key business decisions. This role was quickly overtaken by the requirement to lead a significant transformation programme with a target reduction of 2,600 full-time employees, or 25% of the organisation’s headcount. This involved challenging union negotiations, with Connie responsible for delivering rationalisation opportunities in the finance, human resources and payroll divisions, the objective being to consolidate administration activities into centres of excellence. While it was a very challenging environment, Connie is now leveraging her skills to lead this large-scale civil service finance transformation programme. Connie Costello is Director of the Civil Service Transformation programme.

Jul 31, 2017
Personal Development

Sometimes you are presented challenges where you find you cannot cope. While we might not be able to change the amount of work that has to be done in a day, we can change how we react to it. I describe stress as being the scenario where the challenge you are facing seems to exceed your capacity to cope. We can feel threatened, overwhelmed and like we’ve lost control of the situation. While it seems odd to be sitting here writing about stress when it’s a warm, sunny summer’s day outside, stress doesn’t take the summer off. Learning how to deal with stress is a year-round task. The day from hell To illustrate an overwhelming challenge and our difficulty in coping, I thought we’d start with a really difficult day in work – the day from hell. While a small amount of stress can be a good thing – it provides a sense of urgency and it gets us moving – this is bigger than that. It took off like an out-of-control rocket, we are being pulled beyond ‘useful stress’ into a more manic orbit, and we end up in the ‘too much to cope with’ zone for too long.  When this happens, we lose three things: energy, short-term memory and the ability to problem solve or think creatively. We become quite primitive and it feels like we are in survival mode. We just want to survive the meeting, the phone call, or the afternoon. In summary, ‘stress eats energy’. 60-second recovery In reality, there’s very little we can do about the pace of a really hectic work day but we can do something about our response to it. For this, discipline is our most useful strategy. For those days from hell, we need to build ‘recovery breaks’ into the day. It only needs to be about 60 seconds, but – and here’s comes the discipline – the break should be once per hour throughout the day. Discipline eats stress Here’s your challenge: take a deliberate recovery break for one minute out of every 60. This will require a certain amount of discipline and mental toughness. In fact, you should be doing this even on good days. Remember, you’re doing this to ensure that you stay mentally fresh for as long as possible throughout the day. You are also doing this to ensure that you leave work with energy for what’s after work – life! When you create this discipline, and you stick with it for a week, it means you have energy to burn at the weekend. Otherwise, you spend that downtime in survival mode, dreading the return to work the following week. Recovery actions What do you actually do for the 60-second recovery? That depends on what you need. Sometimes it will be something simple that gives you a sense of control back, other times it will be something that slows down your mental traffic, and other times it will be something that energises you. Here are some examples: tidying, filing, reading, chatting, stretching, walking, improving your posture, and, the best one of all… breathing. Increase capacity If you’ve been following my well-being series, you will have come across  references to mental fitness. I am in the fitness business and fitness is about increasing capacity. Stress management is not about reducing stress in work and life, it is about increasing our capacity to cope with whatever is coming next. And when it comes to increasing capacity, discipline is your best friend.   Physical is the new psychological As you can see from the above, almost all of the strategies for stress management and mental health are physical and not always mental. It’s always beneficial to go out do something. Your body has the answer: calm the body and the mind will follow. Stopping is not recovering Leaving work and going home does not count as recovering. If you just crash into bed, you will still feel exhausted in the morning. Doing something that absorbs you – that energises you – is recovering. Finding the discipline to go for a short walk rather than watch television is recovering. Going to your yoga class is mental toughness and recovering. Remember: discipline eats stress. The key to resilience is working really hard, stopping, recovering properly and then working really hard again. Work success So far in this series I have been focusing on an operational level – how to have high self-worth, how to operate on the edge of comfort, how to have great habits and how to manage stress better. In the remaining two articles, I will be taking a more strategic approach.  See you then.

Jul 03, 2017
Spotlight

The Institute’s regulatory and disciplinary function is central to maintaining trust and integrity in who we are and what we do. The regulatory landscape faced by the profession has changed beyond recognition over the last two decades. For Chartered Accountants Ireland, this landscape is made even more complex by the fact that we have regulatory obligations in two jurisdictions, and it is likely that one of those will soon be outside the European Union (EU).  While much of the discourse around regulation of the profession in recent years has focused on implementation in Ireland and the UK of the EU audit reform package, remember also that the Institute’s regulatory functions extend beyond statutory audit to insolvency, investment business, anti-money laundering supervision and ATOL licensing (UK travel agents) – all of which is supervised by a variety of State agencies. And this is all underpinned by various regulations of our own, compliance with which goes hand-in-hand with being a Chartered Accountant. Our regulatory stakeholders in Ireland include the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA), the Department of Justice, Equality and Reform, and the Central Bank. In the UK, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), Financial Conduct Authority, the Insolvency Services (one in Great Britain and one in Northern Ireland) and HM Treasury – all providing State oversight or supervision of the Institute’s exercise of its regulatory obligations. More recently, the role accountants in practice can play in the prevention of money laundering has come under particular scrutiny with EU legislation imposing specific requirements for external accountants/auditors to have in place appropriate measures (client due diligence and so on) to mitigate money-laundering risks. In Ireland and the UK, legislation requires the professional bodies to supervise compliance with this regime. Indeed, in the UK there is likely to be established shortly a State agency – the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) – whose role will be to oversee how the accountancy and other professional bodies supervise their members’ AML compliance. The regulatory field is truly a crowded place. All such regulators have similar but different supervisory requirements and needs; all requiring to some extent regulatory plans, periodic reporting, appropriate processes and procedures. It is not surprising, therefore, that over the last quarter of a century, Institute members and practitioners have witnessed the evolution of a suite of bye-laws and regulations necessary to allow the Institute to carry out these regulatory functions. To say that Chartered Accountants work with a complex regulatory framework is an understatement. Why do this at all? A look back at Institute’s Royal Charter provides an insight into the thinking behind what it means to be a Chartered Accountant. This states that the Institute exists to ensure that there are professional accountants with the integrity, skills, expertise and judgement necessary to support the economy and society. It describes the tasks of the then “public accountant” as “difficult” and “important”, requiring observance of “strict rules” of conduct as a condition of membership. The various rules and regulations now applicable to Institute members are of course unrecognisable when compared to what existed some 128 years ago. Nevertheless, the essence of the message these rules conveyed is equally relevant to today’s Chartered Accountant. Our new president, Shauna Greely, recently captured this succinctly: “Integrity and ethics are right at the core of what it means to be Chartered Accountants”. Maintaining trust and confidence in our profession and having regard to the public interest remain key components of the Institute’s mission. Strategy 2020 reaffirmed our commitment in this regard, stating that a key element of the Institute’s aim is to maintain our role as regulator of all Chartered Accountants, so public confidence in the profession is maintained and enhanced. Our commitment to maintain the regulation of our members as Chartered Accountants holds true in the context of the transfer of the regulation of PIE (Public Interest Entities) auditors to IAASA. It is a principle that in the first instance, regulation should be supportive of members in their day-to-day professional lives, backed with stringent but appropriate discipline. In practical terms, the Institute’s regulation and disciplinary functions are central to providing assurance to members and other stakeholders equally that the Institute takes this seriously. The frameworks governing how these functions are delivered, however, have changed significantly over the years. We are no longer a self-regulating body which supervises the performance of many of the core activities traditionally performed by Chartered Accountants such as statutory audit work, investment business services or UK insolvency work. The Institute’s own regulatory obligations in these areas is overseen by the above-referenced State agencies with significant powers to review, instruct, investigate and sanction professional accountancy bodies. In practical terms, this means that the Institute is regularly reviewed/inspected by such agencies; reports of findings are issued; and recommendations made are followed up to ensure implementation – in many respects, such a process will be familiar to many practitioners. A key difference is that the Institute could possibly be subjected to a number of different reviews/inspections, findings and closing meetings annually. Such change in the regulatory landscape governing our profession is an essential element in maintaining confidence in what we do; the Institute has long acknowledged this. For example, the recent transfer of responsibility to IAASA for the supervision and inspection of audits of so-called public interest entities (PIEs) has been long supported by the Institute as a critical element in reaffirming confidence in statutory audit. To answer the “Why do it?” question above, I do believe that the Institute continues to be well-placed to play an important role in the delivery of regulation and discipline. Current arrangements allow members in practice, in particular, to carry on a range of activities (those regulated by statute) that would otherwise require them to be regulated/supervised separately by a number of different State regulators whereas, at present, in this regard the Institute provides a single point of reference and regulation. Change and challenge Undoubtedly, the most significant change to the Institute’s regulatory framework has resulted from the transposition in Ireland and the UK of the EU’s statutory audit reform package, which took effect from the middle of last year, with Ireland due to complete certain aspects of the transposition later this year via a Companies (Statutory Audits) Act. In transposing this legislation, the UK and Ireland could have put the professional bodies out of the audit regulation business, full stop! Instead, both jurisdictions have opted to avail of a “delegation approach” which permits State competent authorities (IAASA and the FRC) to delegate certain audit regulatory activities back to the professional accountancy bodies, but subject to specific terms and conditions. This regime is now live in the UK between the FRC and the recognised bodies and is currently being discussed in Ireland between IAASA and the recognised accountancy bodies (RABs). In Ireland, while the general consensus may have been that these new regimes will actually mean a certain degree of ‘de-risking’ by the accountancy bodies, given that IAASA has now assumed responsibility for supervision of PIE audits, there are aspects of the current legislative proposals, particularly relating to the supervision and investigation of auditors from other EEA states, which will require further scrutiny. It is also proposed that the RABs will retain responsibility for investigating complaints concerning PIE audits which have not arisen as a result of an IAASA inspection (nobody said this was simple!) Ultimately, as with any scenario where the Institute is being asked to assume regulatory responsibilities, whether by statute or otherwise, Council of the Institute decides on whether these delegation terms and conditions are acceptable, taking account of costs, resource needs, risks to the Institute and advantages/disadvantages to members and firms. The Institute has already signed up to a similar delegation structure in the UK. And assuming it does likewise in Ireland (with IAASA), we embark on a new relationship with our two key regulators in terms of the supervision of statutory audit. And while the scope of responsibilities of IAASA and the FRC differ somewhat, the new regimes provide a platform that will also require positive relationships to deliver on a shared agenda of promoting confidence in the profession, albeit acknowledging the need for a certain degree of healthy tension that, by necessity, must exist between all concerned. The Institute, of course, has an ongoing imperative to deliver its regulatory functions in a manner that is efficient and fair. I would add to that ‘proportionate’ and ‘balanced’. An ongoing challenge for regulators, I believe, is to achieve an approach to regulation which, as well as assuring compliance with relevant regulatory and professional requirements, also adds value and encourages and recognises high standards and quality. Practitioners, in particular, already face significant challenges in serving the needs of clients. So where we can provide assistance in addressing the requirements of what often seem difficult and complex professional requirements, we should. Members in business too are obviously subject to the Institute’s range of bye-law and regulatory requirements, particularly with regard to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Note that while the quantum of CPD is important (whether input or output-based), a popular misconception that exists is that this must be primarily in core areas such as financial reporting. What is important is that CPD undertaken is relevant to the day job, be that marketing, compliance, HR, IT and so on. CPD in so-called softer skills also constitutes relevant CPD. Of course, where there is alleged misconduct, the Institute is obliged to ensure that this is dealt with in accordance with appropriate processes and procedures. Undoubtedly, the adversarial nature of a regulatory or disciplinary process can be difficult for all parties involved – and it is! The only certainty with regard to the regulatory environment in which the profession operates is that it will continue to change. Revised audit exemption thresholds introduced finally by the Companies (Accounting) Act, 2017 in Ireland may well result in more firms deciding that they no longer require an audit licence. Indeed, where firms are not providing services requiring any form of statutory oversight by the Institute, the need for continued membership may be questioned given there continues to be an inequitable regime in Ireland and the UK on the recognition of the term “accountant” or the provision of accountancy services (although there would continue to exist a requirement for supervision under AML legislation). Recognition of the term “accountant” was one issue raised recently at a meeting between the Institute president and Minister Mitchell-O’Connor. In Ireland and the UK, we may see amendments to the investment business licencing regimes as a result of transposition of the EU Insurance Distribution Directive, due for transposition next year. We can also expect further enhancements to AML requirements. So it’s not just about statutory audit. The Institute’s  regulatory/disciplinary function is one component of the Institute’s key strategic priority of promoting and maintaining trust and integrity in who we are and what we do. As identified in Strategy 2020, our underlying challenge is to perform our regulatory responsibilities in a manner that has the confidence of external stakeholders and our members. Anything else? Did someone mention Brexit? Aidan Lambe FCA is Director of Professional Standards at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Jun 01, 2017
Personal Development

Anxiety can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. With exams just around the corner, here are some tips to help you keep anxiety at bay and – should you need to – deal with an anxiety attack when it arises. Words by Dawn Leane “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy; there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti; he’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs; but he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down...” Ok, so you’re facing your professional exams, not a rap battle… but under certain circumstances, anyone can be visited by anxiety and panic. A healthy lifestyle and good study practice are essential in the lead-up to the exam. On the day of the exam, however, apart from a few practicalities, your psyche is really the only thing within your control. Anxiety causes cognitive processes to believe negative self-talk such as “I haven’t done enough”. In such a scenario, a cycle of physical reactions and heightened anxiety quickly becomes established. This cycle can be broken with practised interventions and it’s important to prepare these in advance. These strategies can be carried into your future career and will benefit you in interviews, presentations and public speaking. Before the exam On the day of the exam, avoid studying any new topics as this may impair your ability to remember what you’ve learned. Don’t study for the last hour before the exam and most importantly, keep away from other anxious people. Take a bottle of water, some nuts or fruit, and a slow release carbohydrate into the exam. Avoid sugary snacks that will lead to a quick high followed by a slump. In the exam hall It’s natural to feel nerves prior to starting the exam, but excessive nervousness is counterproductive. Give yourself time to settle and use a breathing exercise to calm yourself before you turn over the exam paper. Take time to read through all the questions and instructions carefully. Make sure you get a firm grasp of the questions and what’s required of you. Then, prioritise what needs to be done, divide your time according to the importance of the questions, and answer the easiest questions first. This will guarantee marks in the least amount of time and help build your confidence. Don’t rush through the exam and regularly check the time. When anxiety strikes… If panic sets in or your mind goes blank, close your eyes and take several long, slow and deep breaths. This will help calm your entire nervous system. Then: Identify the feeling and own it; remind yourself that your panic will end; Set aside three minutes to divert your attention away from the panic; think about something unrelated to the exam; Use the mini-relaxation exercises you have been practising; Think positive and repeat coping thoughts such as, “I know I can deal with this”;  Remind yourself of a similar situation which you survived; Remind yourself of your past successes, especially exam achievements; and Visualise yourself feeling more relaxed and able to get through the questions. If you still can’t remember the information, then move on to another question and return to this question later if time allows. If you feel unwell, on the other hand, call the invigilator. They are there to help you and are experienced in dealing with such situations. And remember, it’s only an exam! Of course you want to do well, but it’s not a life or death matter. In fact, resilience is a key component of leadership. Behavioural psychologist, Albert Bandura, suggests that “if people experience only easy successes, they can come to expect quick results and are easily discouraged by failure… the route to high attainments is strewn with failure and setbacks. Success is achieved by learning from mistakes.” If you suffer from anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can really help. Further information and support is available from Reachout, Spunout and Chartered Accountants Support. Dawn Leane is Director of People and Resources at Chartered Accountants Ireland and Coordinator at Chartered Accountants Support.

May 02, 2017
Personal Development

Accountancy Ireland Extra has partnered with the team at SpunOut.ie to bring you some top nutrition tips for the exam season. Eating well is good for both your mental and physical health. When it comes to exams and studying, you want to be at your best – that means eating the right foods to ensure your concentration levels are where they need to be. We have put together some tips to ensure that you can eat your way to exam success. Avoid skipping meals No matter how rushed you are, try to avoid skipping meals – especially breakfast. Starting your day with breakfast gets your body going and maintains your concentration for the day. Have a look at our article on breakfast for busy people. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables It might sound like hard work, but try to add fruit or vegetables to every meal if possible. Simple ways to increase your fruit and veg intake include smoothies, adding banana to toast, and adding fruit to porridge or breakfast cereals. Drink plenty of water Try to drink eight glasses of water per day to keep your body hydrated. By drinking enough water, you’re also less likely to be hungry. If you’re not a fan of water on its own, add a sugar-free diluted squash. Opt for healthy snacks It can be tempting when studying to reach for unhealthy snacks. Snack foods such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets can be high in sugars and saturated fat, and low in certain vitamins and minerals. Instead, keep fruit such as apples, blueberries or bananas on hand for those moments you need a snack. Check out our article on swapping your favourite snacks for healthier alternatives. Wholegrains The brain cannot function without the right energy, and it needs a constant supply throughout the day to ensure it functions correctly. Achieve this by eating wholegrains with a low glycaemic index (GI) such as brown pasta, brown rice or brown bread. Things to avoid… Avoid sugary snacks as they will result in a short-term high that will eventually come crashing down, leaving you feeling tired. Don’t overdo the caffeine. Coffee and soft drinks such as Diet Coke may give you a short-term energy boost but in the long run, it will result in an energy crash that just isn’t worth it. Avoid energy drinks like Red Bull, as they will result in a caffeine and sugar rush that won’t do your body any favours. And lastly, when you’re studying, alcohol is not your friend. It will dehydrate you, disturb your sleep and wreck your concentration the next day. Not worth it! This article was produced by Spunout.ie, Ireland’s youth information website. Five great brainfood-based snack ideas The last thing you need right now is to spend time researching what to eat in the run-up to your exam, so we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are our favourite brain food snacks, all of which are quick and easy to prepare... Hummus and carrot/celery sticks. You could make both from scratch or – to save time – pick up the end-product in your local supermarket. Apple slices with almond butter. The latter can be pricy but you’ll pick up a bag of apples for less than a euro, so it all balances out. Natural yogurt with chia seeds, banana, blueberries and nuts. This can also be a full breakfast, but it’s a superfood bonanza for the brain. Smashed avocado on wholegrain toast. A big snack that’ll keep you going for a couple of hours. Dark chocolate. A daily portion of dark chocolate has been found to improve blood flow to the brain, so treat yourself!

May 02, 2017
Spotlight

Diversity and inclusion initiatives have gained a lot of traction throughout Ireland’s corporate landscape. But do they add tangible value for organisations? EY's Olivia McEvoy reports. Although accountants might not be able to bring themselves to agree, it can seem as though there are countless quotations pertaining to, and definitions of, ‘diversity’. Malcolm Forbes describes it as “the art of thinking independently together”, while others draw on an old Muslim saying that “a lot of different flowers make a bouquet”. Despite the overwhelming number of definitions, common ground is reached in the certainty that strength lies in differences. What is diversity and inclusion? The EY definition of diversity and inclusion is: “Diversity is about differences, seen and unseen. Inclusion is about creating an environment in which people are valued, feel valued and are able to achieve and contribute their full potential.” Creating an inclusive environment improves the way we interact with our people, our clients and our communities. Inclusion is also about leveraging our differences to deliver better business results. In both this definition and much of the recent commentary on diversity and inclusion, the focus is very much on inclusion. Indeed, some suggest we have achieved diversity and now need to concentrate our efforts on inclusion. There is no doubt that diversity is now an aspiration for most businesses in Ireland as well as globally, but many of those same businesses still struggle to attract a diverse workforce in terms of gender, sexuality, ability, age and education as well as personality type and thinking style. We tend to view diversity and inclusion as a journey, and it is important to acknowledge that some businesses are in the starting blocks and some are further down the road. Very few have reached ‘Destination D&I’. It is, however, true to suggest that diversity can be the easier element to achieve; the real test begins in earnest when you are trying to build an inclusive environment and leverage diversity to improve business performance. It is equally true to say that, if you are successful in building an inclusive environment, you are much more likely to attract and retain a diverse workforce. The business benefits Although it is almost universally accepted now that diversity and inclusion is a business imperative and a ‘must have’ rather than a rights-based agenda or a ‘nice to have’, there are some who still question whether diversity and inclusion can actually deliver better business results and contribute to competitive advantage. Again, there is a wealth of research and countless statistics that support diversity and inclusion as a key driver in achieving success in new markets, improving market share and ultimately driving revenue generation and profitability. While many of these statistics are global and depend on variables such as company size, there remains much indisputable evidence. A highly regarded McKinsey study in 2015 entitled ‘Diversity Matters’ examined data for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom and the United States. It found that:   Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians; and Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. More recently, in 2016, the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY released a study revealing a significant correlation between women in leadership and company profitability. The report found that companies with at least 30% female leaders had net profit margins up to 6% higher than companies with no women in senior ranks. This report is but one of many to find that gender diversity has a positive impact on profitability. As such, there are few businesses that can choose to ignore what automatically increases revenue and profitability, but the benefits of diversity and inclusion do not stop there. It also delivers:   Continuous innovation achieved by harnessing the power of different experiences, knowledge and skills; Enhanced team performance and stronger collaboration; Increased awareness of biased behaviours and their impact, resulting in better decision-making; Enabled leadership to drive cultural change and build high-performing, diverse teams; Increased motivation for employees resulting in better job satisfaction, reduced stress and reductions in absenteeism; and Enhanced reputation in consumer markets. Despite the compelling nature of all of the above benefits, it is the fact that diversity and inclusion is accepted as a key contributor to talent acquisition and retention that sways many businesses to pursue the agenda. No matter the size of your company, the war for talent is a hard one to wage and win. This is particularly the case in relation to attracting and retaining millennials who are the first generation to grow up in the digital age. There are currently more than 500,000 millennials in Ireland and, in just 10 years, they will comprise nearly 75% of the workforce. This elevates the importance of the diversity and inclusion agenda even more, as millennials absolutely expect diversity as a matter of course. Indeed, millennials fully expect to be celebrated for their differences. And how right they are. Cognitive diversity, which is different thinking styles and personality types, is particularly valued by this cohort as it stimulates dynamic ideas and solutions that can drive innovations in a much more effective way. Indeed, research from the Billie Jean King leadership initiative reports that millennials see the concept of diversity and inclusion through a completely different lens and that there is now a trench between the generational mindsets on the issue. Fundamentally, millennials see diversity and inclusion as a necessary element for innovation. The same report emphasises that companies with high levels of innovation achieve the fastest growth of profits, while radical innovation trumps incremental change by generating 10 times more shareholder value. The impact of a lack of cognitive diversity and inclusion hits hard on engagement and empowerment, as well as the ability of employees to remain true to themselves. If any of us are to be fully engaged, we require supportive leadership and a supportive culture. As reported in the Billy Jean King report: “If you want to build a truly inclusive culture – one that leverages every individual’s passion, commitment and innovation, and elevates employee engagement, empowerment and authenticity – you should be willing to break down the narrow walls that surround diversity and inclusion, and limit their reach. If you don’t know where to start, ask your millennials. Every one of them wants to be heard.” What makes for a good diversity programme? There has been an understandable tendency to adopt a strand-based approach to diversity and inclusion, with the need to address gender equality particularly obvious. The referendum on marriage equality brought increased awareness of, and focus on, the LGBT strand in Ireland. Therefore, at this juncture and where strides have already been made, we need to step back and take a more holistic and strategic view of diversity and inclusion and integrate it into our corporate strategy and core business activity. The following is central to any successful diversity and inclusion programme. Diagnostics and diversity and inclusion data: accountants should not need convincing of the importance of knowing the numbers! And they are spot on; it is absolutely imperative to know your organisation. Diversity and inclusion data gives critical insight into organisations. Indeed, even the data we are not able to gather tells its own story. Through diagnostic assessment, data can drive a deeper understanding of the employee experience and where the critical decision points are in order to achieve diversity goals. This might be across any one business component such as talent attraction and retention, performance management and progression or leadership competence and accountability. Detailed data on the likes of recruitment ratios, promotion rates of female employees compared to male employees, or salary-related data allow us to develop tailored action plans to address any specific issue that emerges. As with any other business element, it is vital to ascertain your current state before you can meaningfully set realistic targets and goals and make progress. Once you diagnose the situation, you can establish diversity and inclusion key performance indicator (KPI) frameworks and know how you are going to measure success. One of the challenges for those keen to pursue the diversity and inclusion agenda is that it is sometimes seen as a ‘nice to have’ add-on. Having evidence-based data helps counteract that and allows us to measure progress and resulting growth. Sustainable strategy and good governance: a diversity and inclusion strategy that is incorporated into business strategy and core business activity is central to success. Very simply, diversity and inclusion needs to become an essential component of how we conduct business. Having a strategy really helps align diversity and inclusion with corporate strategy and enables it to become embedded in the overall culture and governance of the organisation. The strategy needs to be goal-orientated, metric-focused and underpin all diversity and inclusion activity. The strategy should also be accessible and include key principles and messages that can be understood by all. Informed, enabled and accountable leadership: any diversity and inclusion strategy or programme needs visible C-suite and executive sponsorship to succeed. Leadership needs to be aware and really understand diversity and inclusion, talking about it with people at all levels, inside and outside the business. As leaders, we also need to live and practise diversity and inclusion in our thinking, recruitment and work practices. In addition to leadership commitment and support, we must also emphasise impact, measurement and accountability. Introducing accountability as part of performance measurement certainly helps to elevate diversity and inclusion from a ‘nice to have’ to a core element of business activity. However, rather than expecting leadership to be automatically familiar with and knowledgeable about diversity and inclusion, we need to enable leaders to drive the agenda. To this end, it is essential to resource inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training that enables leaders to build high-performing teams and facilitate innovation. There are, of course, multiple other tenets of a successful diversity and inclusion programme, including flexible working arrangements that allow for, and support, diversity in the workforce. The visibility of diverse role models should not be underestimated based on the simple premise that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. People will naturally seek employment where they see themselves represented in the organisation, particularly at leadership level. Dovetailing recruitment practices with the diversity and inclusion data diagnosis and ensuing metric targets is also a key factor. Diversity and inclusion into the future Diversity and inclusion is a key driver of the future we aspire to, where we equate business in Ireland with risk excellence, sustainable growth and performance as well as cutting-edge innovation. It is also a key tenet of success right now. The first step is to truly value, champion and celebrate diversity, creating spaces where different perspectives are encouraged, from a workforce diverse in ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation, as well as in thinking style and personality type. With the right strategic approach, leadership support and data analytics, we have the tools to leverage those celebrated differences to build a better working world that is truly diverse and inclusive. It is the right option. It is the business-smart option. It is the only option. Olivia McEvoy is Director of Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Services at EY Ireland.

Apr 01, 2017
Spotlight

Michele Connolly looks at the data behind the headlines about the gender pay gap and explains why reporting on such issues will force companies to act. The title of this article is an interesting one; it highlights from the outset that the issues underlying diversity and inclusion in the workplace are multifaceted. Likewise, the solutions are not necessarily always obvious. Take the issue of the gender pay gap. A report published last month indicated that, in 2015, Ireland had a 14.8% difference in median pay between men and women. That figure has declined steadily from 19.7% in 2000. However, statistics show it hit a low of 8.3% in 2012 before rising to 15.2% in 2014. Does this mean that a significant number of companies pay male counterparts more for doing the same job as women? Not necessarily. The statistics reflect an average salary across each gender in an organisation. To get a true picture, you must go behind the headlines and compare the results at different grades of staff, with different working arrangements and across different levels of experience. Take a typical director grade in practice. The reality is that there are still probably more men in that grade who have been in that position longer, who have more experience and therefore – on average – get paid more. There also tends to be a greater proportion of women in support grades in our organisations, which tend to command lower salaries. On an average basis, a higher number of women in lower paying support grades plays against a higher number of men in more senior, higher paid roles. The resulting statistic will show this simply as a pay gap. So yes, there is a pay gap. That is not discrimination; rather it is reflective of the fact that we have not yet succeeded in achieving better gender balance at more senior levels in our organisations. The real focus should be on how to address that issue. Gender pay gap reporting is coming Gender pay will feature in the UK media more and more as it introduces mandatory reporting on the gender pay gap for all companies with over 250 staff from 1 April 2017. The UK is following a growing trend across Europe, with many other countries boasting similar provisions. The resultant statistics are likely to show that, in headline terms, there is a pay gap. But when you adjust for some of the factors referred to above, such as experience, grades and working hours, the gap narrows considerably. One organisation that voluntarily reported its gender pay gap in the UK reduced the pay gap from mid-teens to less than 3% when adjusted for differing levels of experience. Consider the adage: “what gets measured gets managed”. This principle can apply equally to business situations. It can mean that simply examining an activity in turn changes the activity by forcing you to pay attention to it. It can also mean that producing measurements about the activity gives you a handle on it, a way to improve it. Knowing that they might ultimately have to report statistics should therefore cause organisations to examine their data sooner rather than later, analyse the differences and consider what they can do to improve the gender balance in senior leadership levels in the first place. What about the promotion question? Confidence is key to leadership and driving forward for advancement. Yet it is something that, on average, women struggle with throughout their careers more than men do. KPMG undertook a study to explore the qualities and experiences that contribute to women’s leadership and advancement in the workplace. The findings revealed that there is no shortage of ambition among the women surveyed. Six out of 10 aspired to be a senior leader of a company or an organisation, yet more than half agreed that they are more cautious in taking steps towards leadership roles. The results reveal a critical disconnect: women want to lead, but something is holding them back. Were the women encouraged to lead as children? Did they have a role model? Were they offered appropriate support and development opportunities in the workplace? Such factors play a possible role in whether a woman moves up the career ladder into a senior leadership role. There is plenty of research on the approach taken by males and females in pushing for promotion or a pay rise. Of the women surveyed by KPMG, over 75% did not feel confident in asking for access to senior leadership, a promotion or pursuing a job opportunity beyond their experience. Their male counterparts are unlikely to be as hesitant. There is an oft-cited example of two people looking at promotion criteria for a new role. The male candidate will look at the 10 items, believe he meets the criteria in three or four and go for the job. The female candidate will do likewise, believe she meets eight to nine criteria and not apply as she doesn’t meet all 10. It is not a case of one approach being better than the other. The average female brain simply works differently and approaches such matters in a different manner. However, the reality is that most performance appraisal or promotion systems are traditionally designed to target more male-dominated traits. It is therefore (unconsciously, in many instances) not a level playing field. Iris Bohnet, a behavioural economist at Harvard University, in research for her book entitled What Works – Gender Equality by Design, has found that “companies that use potential, in addition to performance, as a way to evaluate employees are more likely to be gender-biased. We generally find that leadership is associated with men, and potential has something to do with career advancement and climbing up the career ladder. We don’t necessarily associate career and leadership with women”. What can we do to effect change? Many organisations are starting to tackle these differences by introducing unconscious bias training. This was first put forward as a concept by psychologists at Harvard University, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington who created ‘Project Implicit’ to develop hidden bias tests – also called implicit association tests, or IATs, in the academic world – to measure unconscious bias. IAT measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report, which would indicate that most of us are pre-programmed to associate certain roles and traits as either male or female. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science. Unconscious bias training simply seeks to raise participants’ awareness of these inherent biases in our thinking so we can start to challenge ourselves more and apply a gender lens (as opposed to positive discrimination) in how we approach performance appraisal, salary reviews, promotion discussions and job allocations to ensure they are appropriately gender balanced. Another key component in the toolkit for addressing gender diversity is mentoring. Whether you are a man or woman, having someone more senior in the organisation looking out for you, acting as a sounding board and being an advocate for you is invaluable in helping you develop the skills necessary to push for advancement to more senior leadership roles. So how do you get a mentor? The same KPMG study quoted above highlighted that nine in 10 women said they do not feel confident in asking for a sponsor and eight out of 10 lack confidence in seeking mentors. Implementing formal mentoring programmes and leadership development programmes aimed specifically at high-potential women in an organisation is an invaluable step on the road to changing the gender balance of an organisation. Is the gender balance improving? The number of females in management roles and at senior leadership levels in organisations is slowly but steadily increasing. The 30% Club’s recent Women in Management study with Dublin City University found that women now hold 40% of positions at the lowest level of management surveyed (three steps down from CEO) and 17% of CEO positions. The statistics do vary by sector and organisation size, with women more likely to feature in leadership roles in areas such as HR and marketing, and less so in finance, sales, operations or IT. Other recent statistics show that in 2015, Ireland had on average 18% female board representation. That is up from 10% 10 years ago and 16% in 2014. These findings are in line with a 2016 McKinsey study on women in the workplace. In 2011, the EU proposed that it would introduce legislation requiring all publicly quoted companies to have 40% representation of women on their boards by 2020. While the council of ministers has failed to get all member states to agree to enact the legislation, it has had an impact. In 2010, when the European Commission first put the issue of women in leadership positions high on the political agenda, only 11.9% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU were women. This rose significantly to over 21% in 2015. In the UK, the 2011 Davies review recommended that the FTSE 100 leading companies should have at least 25% female representation on their boards. Some investment managers are now mandating this among their investee companies and publicly saying they will vote against board appointments that do not contribute to meeting this objective. 26% of board positions in FTSE100 firms and 20.4% in FTSE250 firms are held by women. There are now no all-male boards in the FTSE100 firms and just 15 all-male boards in the FTSE250 firms. Like the gender pay reporting, a policy initiative is causing organisations to take notice and act. However, there is still a very long way to go if we are to achieve gender balance. As a profession, what else can we do? We know that work/life balance is an increasingly key factor in career choices – at all levels and for both sexes. Initiatives such as intelligent working arrangements, ramp up and ramp down in career planning, and greater maternity supports all play a key role here. Space is too short to delve properly into this area on this occasion other than to say that most of us now work in a very mobile fashion. Does it matter whether we are sitting at a desk, on a train or in our own homes? Should the measure instead not be the quality of the output rather than the location from which it is delivered? However, it does challenge the status quo of the presenteeism concept that still pervades in many areas. As a country, we have made a lot of progress in the past few years. Yes, there is more to do. But by reporting and commenting on the issues, organisations are starting to put in place positive strategies to effect change. We are realising that not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense too. Michele Connolly FCA is Head of Corporate Finance at KPMG Ireland and a member of the Institute’s new Diversity Committee.

Apr 01, 2017
Spotlight

A lack of exposure is inhibiting the rise of talented women throughout the corporate world. Could sponsorship be the answer? Mark Fenton reports. We’ve heard the soundbites – gender pay equality is 170 years away; only 4.4% of S&P 500 CEOs are women; only 14% of Irish companies have either a female CEO or Head of Operations (and this ratio is diminishing). Meanwhile, an international report by Citi showed that closing the gender gap in labour market participation could add 12% to OECD gross domestic product (GDP). And yet there are many men (and some women) who believe gender equality in the workplace is a zero-sum game. For example, if women are to win, men must lose. Men often feel disengaged from the inequality problem too because issues relating to gender do not concern them. Further, when men do generally get involved, it is to ‘fix’ the problem by encouraging women to behave in the same way that men do in the workplace.With such a high socio-cultural mountain to climb, it is no wonder that progress has been painfully slow towards gender equality at work. Furthermore, the traditional talent programmes (most commonly packaged as ‘mentoring’) have not delivered the necessary results in terms of the recognition, professional development and career progression of women. Why is this, and what can be done to correct it? A mentor can empower a person to see a possible future and believe it can be obtained, but many mentoring programmes fail because the discussion surrounding such empowerment doesn’t generally apply in real life. As E.M. Forster put it, “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing except the shape of the spoon.” Mentoring is restrictive as it involves talking to just one individual and, more often than not, expectations are not met regarding mentee belief and mentee exposure. Exposure is the recipe; sponsorship provides the ingredients  Studies have shown that there are three principle levers to career success and their weighting is not as you might expect. One’s professional performance (i.e. how you do your job) is important. However, in modern businesses with sophisticated talent attraction techniques, it accounts for just 10%. After all, your company expects you to be excellent – that is why you were hired in the first place. More important is your professional image (i.e. how you present yourself in the workplace). Being assured, trustworthy and open to change is central to your success and this impacts on just under one-third of your success. Perhaps surprisingly, it is your exposure that holds the lion’s share of future opportunity and advancement. It is not what you know or indeed who you know. It is more about who knows you and what you can do. Historically, men have been expert at cultivating their exposure levels through informal and male-stereotypical networking environments. Conventionally, women have less flexibility (and perhaps desire) to embrace these traditions. They also remain more risk-aware of their abilities, whereas men are generally openly confident about their suitability for a new opportunity. In terms of exposure, sponsorship is more involved than mentoring regarding both the sponsor and sponsoree – both are accountable for the process and its outcomes. The best programmes last for at least 12 months, include job-shadowing, resilience-coaching and are supported by clear metrics. Sponsorship takes mentoring beyond the tandem partnership and into the boardroom and/or management meetings. Sponsors talk to and about their sponsorees and therefore increase their corporate exposure and can provide feedback on unseen opportunities for growth. Sponsors also benefit from the learning opportunity that comes with an intense, frank and extensive personal and professional interaction. Sponsorship’s immediate and impressive impact The impact of sponsorship can be immediate and impressive. A recent series of sponsorship programmes within a Euro Stoxx 50 firm doubled the ratio of women at the top layer of management in just two years and demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of senior female promotions were directly linked to participation in such programmes. Sponsorship is not about talking to me; it is talking about me. It is the key to unlocking the main obstacle to women’s career success – a lack of exposure. Mark Fenton FCA is founder of MASF Consulting, a specialist advisory firm focusing on diversity and inclusion.

Apr 01, 2017
Ethics and Governance

The country owes a great debt to whistle-blowers but for a company, a revelation can be a corporate earthquake writes Ita Gibney. Psychologists have a saying that “you are only as sick as your secrets” and psychotherapy has taken off as people deal with their issues through counselling, confessional memoirs, forgiveness and going public. Even the most admired and healthy-looking individuals (Bruce Springsteen, for example) are surprising us by telling us about their vulnerabilities. But that’s therapeutic, inspiring and part of the recovery process. It usually happens when the person is able and ready to face particular issues or problems. But consider this: if someone else – someone within the family, for example – were to ‘out’ your secret or your wrongdoing without warning, how could you then deal with it and the trauma that would inevitably arise? The corporate analogy is whistle-blowing. In any game, it is up to the referee to blow the whistle. Can you imagine if a player on the Mayo team had one of their own team blowing the whistle when he saw a foul by his teammate? It would upend the game. In corporate entities, the act of whistle-blowing runs completely counter to how organisations work – be it a bank, church, police force, or political party. They are all systems where, when something goes wrong, the default dynamic is to close ranks and defend the side. Whistle-blowing turns such systems on their heads. It blows the lid off the game, the organisation, its leader and its entire structure and culture. Exposed and alone Maybe we have reached this stage in corporate Ireland because the various referees have been seen to be silent and blind. The public attitude is therefore akin to “fair dues to the whistle-blower”, recognising the courage it takes to act outside the system but also ignoring the isolation, scapegoating, character assassination, criminal investigation and future unemployability he or she may have to endure. Even the real referee will likely not befriend the guy who blew the whistle. Cheering on the whistle-blower is fine, and the media and politicians do so given the feast of information he or she can provide. Giving legal protection in the form of protected disclosures is progress, but being exposed and alone as the corporate ‘snitch’ when the earthquake happens can be a lonely and dangerous place to be – as history shows. Ireland is too small a country to have a witness protection programme, but maybe we could look at the citizen enforcement action provisions in the US. Whistle-blowers risk retaliation if they challenge abuse of power or any other misconduct that betrays the public trust, and numerous studies have confirmed this. To ensure the effectiveness of a disclosure, the US False Claims Act enfranchises whistle-blowers to file suits in court against illegality exposed by their disclosures. These types of suits are known as “qui tam” actions in a reference to the Latin phrase “he who sues on behalf of himself as well as the king”. These statutes can provide both litigation costs and a portion of money recovered for the government to the citizen whistle-blower. It is the nation’s most effective whistle-blower law in history for the difference it has made, increasing civil fraud recoveries in government contracts from $27 million annually in 1985 to over $1 billion annually since 2000. Cases in point Aside from the WikiLeaks initiatives and alleged hacking that impacted on the most recent US election, consider the most controversial corporate whistle-blower stories. One of the most famous was the Hoffman La Roche case. The company is the world’s largest producer of bulk vitamins for the pharmaceutical, human nutrition and animal nutrition sectors. In 1973, senior executive Stanley Adams discovered documents which suggested that the company was engaging in price-fixing activities to artificially inflate the price of vitamins. He passed the documents to the competition commission of the European Economic Community (EEC) in the knowledge that Switzerland – while not part of the EEC – had a free-trade agreement with it. The EEC failed to keep his name confidential during its investigation, passing documents containing Adams’ name to Hoffman La Roche. Adams was arrested and charged with industrial espionage and theft, and his wife committed suicide when she was told that he faced a 20-year jail term. In the end, Adams served six months in a Swiss prison. Adams later attempted to recover compensation from both the Swiss government and the European Union. In 1985, the European Union agreed to pay Adams £200,000 – about 40% of his total costs. The story of General Motors (GM) in 2003, meanwhile, has echoes of today’s Volkswagen crisis. Courtland Kelley, head of GM’s inspection and quality division, reported faults to management in the Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt. The cars had faulty ignition switches, which cut power in moving cars and were eventually linked to a number of fatal crashes. As his reports were ignored, Kelley brought an action against the company. US law allows a private individual or “whistle-blower” with knowledge of past or present fraud committed against the federal government to bring suit on its behalf. This suit was unsuccessful and Kelley was forced out of the company. In May 2014, the company was fined $35 million for failing to recall cars with faulty ignition switches for a decade, despite knowing there was a problem with the switches. Thirteen deaths were attributed to the faulty switches during the time the company failed to recall the cars. A corporate earthquake Undercover news gathering, even by one’s own customers or employees, has become easy with the rise of the smartphone. Of course, most well-run entities with strong corporate governance codes and a culture of doing things right have little to fear. They know and manage the risks to their reputations; they have crisis management plans; their ethos protects them; in their corporate DNA, people know instinctively what will pass and what will not. But if you don’t fall into this category and the whistle is blown, you face a sudden and immediate crisis. It is a corporate earthquake, a test of leadership like no other. It can start with a leak and finish in the High Court or, tragically, with loss of life. All the experts in the world will advise that it is easier to prevent a crisis than to handle one. Do no harm and you won’t have to worry about whistle-blowing. In other words, run a good ship. The corporate governance industry has taken off with this laudable ambition and people are making a good living lecturing on corporate ethics. But as financier Paul Coulson said at a recent Institute of Directors’ event, corporate governance is also good common sense. Whistle-blowing is not the only threat; at least those allegations have to be true. We live in an age of soundbite reporting and blogging, with unverified stories posturing as news on social media. In addition to the normal corporate vulnerabilities for which enterprises have planned responses and action plans (or should have), we now have unprecedented risks from inside information, secrets and wrongdoing – be that through whistle-blowers, data breaches, leaks, hacking or carelessness. Enterprises need to be very assured in their handling of the fallout; their mistakes, thanks to Google, will stay with them forever. In terms of crisis prevention, some wise chief executives now have corporate counsellors, a trusted senior independent person to whom they turn and who acts as their independent conscience before they make a decision to go down a particular path. Their lawyer is not always the one they ask – a decision can be legal but might not be moral or ethical or might not withstand the test of public interest or scrutiny. The road to rehabilitation Some people survived the recent earthquake in Italy by crawling under the bed. That is not a corporate strategic option when a crisis happens. Nor, of course, is recklessly going out in the storm to shout at the gods. Enterprises who deal well with these kinds of issues often come out stronger in the end. Corporate therapy requires honesty and communication as a prelude to full recovery; a lot of work goes into containing the damage, stabilising the situation, restoring normality (maybe even a new normality) as soon as possible and then dealing with the process of repair and rehabilitation which is so often necessary. And in the end, if the enterprise has survived, it can learn the lessons. Sometimes, tragically, the whistle-blower by that stage can often be left alone, whistling in the wind. Ita Gibney is Executive Chairman at Gibney Communications.

Apr 01, 2017
Personal Development

If you’re living with stress or depression, or work with someone who is, the Institute’s new guide will help you become better able to promote mental health and wellbeing in your practice, your workplace and yourself. Accountants are in the top four professions to experience depression, according to research conducted by the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. What’s more, researchers in the UK found that eight out of 10 accountants suffer from stress-related problems with 77% of respondents citing long working hours as a cause of concern and 71% describing their work-life balance as poor. This isn’t surprising if you look at your workload and then factor in all the things you’d like to do ‘when you get time’ – not to mention the expectations your colleagues, clients, family and friends have of you. To help you understand the nature of stress and depression, Chartered Accountants Ireland has published A Professional’s Guide to Understanding Stress and Depression, a downloadable PDF that draws on Dr Claire Hayes’ 30 years’ experience as a clinical psychologist and her experience as Clinical Director of Aware. Prevent stress from spiralling into depression The World Health Organisation defines work-related stress as “the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities, and which challenge their ability to cope”. It also defines depression as a common mental disorder, characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration. While a small amount of stress can be a positive, if left unchecked it can spiral into depression. There are three important steps you can take to prevent this: 1. Know when you need support: it’s essential that you know what causes you stress, how you cope with it and what your warning signs are when stress becomes too much to cope with on your own. 2. Ask for support: what is it that makes asking others for support so difficult? It might be that we think that others will judge us harshly. More often, it is because we judge ourselves harshly. We condemn ourselves as inadequate, pathetic and useless if we see ourselves as not coping. We anticipate that other people will judge us too. We compare ourselves to others and decide that other people’s need for support is greater and minimise just how much we’re experiencing. We might convince ourselves that there’s no point in asking for help as no-one else could possibly understand and that, even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway. Despite all this, it’s vital to ask for support. 3. Take support: it can be very tempting to resist other people’s efforts to help us. For a whole range of reasons, we may prefer to disregard appropriate supports, even when we’ve asked for them. Indeed, taking support can be humbling. It may involve an honest conversation with your GP, your life partner, a trusted family member, a professional partner, your boss, your colleagues and perhaps your clients. True support generally focuses on the truth of what’s going on for you. While that can be difficult, it can also be very freeing – particularly when you discover that real support is always there. Seeking support A deep sense of hopelessness can accompany depression. It can be too easy to find evidence that there’s no point, that no-one will understand and even that death might be a preferable option. If anyone believes that things are so bad that they cannot get better, it can be difficult – and at times, impossible – to convince them otherwise. If you really believe that no-one can help you, give someone you trust the benefit of the doubt and tell them what is going on for you. Give them the opportunity to support you and give yourself the gift of taking help. The best person to confide in is usually your GP but if you don’t want to do that, for whatever reason, choose someone who will support you. A Professional’s Guide to Understanding Stress and Depression by Dr Claire Hayes is available for download free of charge. Printed copies are also available at a cost of €5 each, with all profits going to Chartered Accountants Support. 5 ways to cope with stress Gently and deliberately accept your feelings of distress as signs that you are experiencing stress and as invitations to respond in a way that’s helpful. Become aware of your thoughts and classify them as helpful or unhelpful. Explore what underlying core beliefs might be there. Key ones tend to include: ‘I am not good enough’; ‘I must be perfect and never make a mistake’; ‘Other people are better than me’; ‘I can’t trust or rely on other people’. Focus on the actions you take in response to challenging situations and begin to recognise each of these as helpful or unhelpful. Be able to stand back from your particular stressor or stressors to get a sense of perspective and to see how challenging situations can be turned into opportunities to develop resilience.  

Jan 01, 2017
Personal Development

Don’t be known as the office gossip. Instead, cultivate a reputation as a ‘straight arrow’ with these seven simple tips. People love to talk; it’s one of those universal truths that you just have to accept. Professionals will always have clear boundaries, however, and in many cases express their frustrations and views outside the office with family and personal friends only. But even with the best of intentions, you can sometimes find yourself in the midst of a questionable conversation without even knowing how you got there! Whether you find yourself in such a conversation, or know that the office gossip wants to engage you in some office chit-chat, these tips will help you extricate yourself from the conversation or – if you’d rather deal with the situation head on – shut the office gossip down. 1. Get moving When the topic of conversation shifts from a project’s deadline to the annoying habits of the project manager, it’s no longer in the professional realm. In this scenario, the easiest solution is to make your excuses and leave. Something simple like: “Sorry, but I need to get back to my desk. I’ve a call in five minutes” removes you immediately and, if done on a recurring basis, gives the gossiper a clear but covert message that this isn’t a conversation you’re willing to have. 2. Pivot! Ross from Friends was a massive fan of the pivot, and it can be a great asset in the office too. When you’re drawn into an uncomfortable conversation, take the lead and steer it in a more professional direction. For example, if a colleague is moaning about his manager’s perceived obsession with one-to-one meetings, bring it back to a work-related task by saying something like: “Actually, that reminds me. I’ve been meaning to talk to Alfie about the production schedule. Have you seen him today?” This gives you the opportunity to change the topic of conversation in a gentle, subtle way. 3. Stay positive If walking away or changing the subject seems too genteel, challenge the gossiper’s accusations. Saying something along the lines of: “Oh I’m sure that was just a one-off. I’ve worked with Jane on several projects and never had a bad encounter with her” allows you to challenge the gossiper’s generalised assumption and also, raises the possibility that you are close to Jane in a professional capacity. In both cases, you’re refusing to be drawn into a negative conversation about a colleague, which is the desired outcome. 4. Look for the facts A more challenging approach involves dissecting the gossiper’s logic and rationale. Simple, probing questions such as “What led you to that conclusion?” can force the gossiper into the uncomfortable act of introspection – dissecting their own thoughts and actions rather than those of their colleagues. It also diminishes the power of broad-stroke statements, which gossipers usually expect to be taken as truth by their comrades in conversation. Once a gossiper has to justify their thoughts and statements, much of the fun evaporates and – with any luck – you will no longer be seen as an open ear or easy target. 5. Avoid trigger words Sometimes, we unthinkingly cultivate gossip by saying certain words or raising certain subjects that spark ire in the person you’re talking to. You will need to be aware of the broader office politics to avoid this unfortunate calamity, so be aware of what’s going on around you without getting involved. Know the people and issues causing ripples in your working environment and, to the greatest extent possible, avoid mentioning them. If you must discuss an emotive issue, use the tactics discussed above to steer the conversation and prevent it descending into farce. 6. Shine the spotlight It’s often said that people love talking about themselves. It’s their specialism, in a sense. So if you’re struggling to walk away, change the topic or challenge the gossiper, simply get them talking about themselves. This usually results in a more positive tone! It’s a variation of the pivot point above so listen carefully, plan your interjection and at the right time, bring the story back to your colleague. 7. Choose carefully Lastly, choose your work friends with care. While you might not partake in gossip, it can be easy for others to tar you with the same brush if you hang out with those who are widely known as the office gossips. It’s best to have a wide circle of professional acquaintances and maintain a professional distance, unless you know that you can trust the person 100%. You should also find positive role models, observe their behaviours and mimic them where appropriate. Associating with those who have positive reputations can protect you from becoming guilty by association. Conclusion As a Chartered Accountant, you are expected to hold yourself to the highest standards of ethics and integrity in all aspects of your working life. Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid those who revel in drama but even so, you have a duty – to yourself and the organisation you work for – to take pride in your professionalism and set a good example for those that follow. And don’t think it will go unnoticed. Those who can navigate office gossip without getting drawn in demonstrate a degree of nous and tact that employers look for in future leaders.

Nov 01, 2016
Personal Development

Bullying behaviour is unacceptable, yet many people suffer in silence. In this article, we give you the skills you need to stay calm and come out on top using examples from the US presidential election campaign. While the recent presidential debates in the United States (US) have become a source of great amusement for many, they also serve to remind us that bullying doesn’t stop at the school gate. The Democratic campaign has capitalised on Donald Trump’s alleged bullying antics and whatever your political leanings, it’s hard to attribute Trump’s behaviour − denigrating and criticising others, name calling, interrupting, attributing blame and getting personal − to anything other than textbook bullying. As Trump’s campaign rolled on, his behaviour took a more sinister turn. In particular, the second presidential debate highlighted a different type of bullying by Trump − a more insidious kind − which created a very real sense of discomfort among viewers. The Saturday Night Live sketch, while poking fun at both candidates, illustrates these behaviours. Behaviours include the non-verbal running commentary on what Clinton says (pursed lips, rolling eyes etc.), hovering, lurking, and following her around the stage in an attempt to create a power imbalance. Non-verbal behaviours are among the most difficult behaviours to address as they can be almost imperceptible and impossible to describe. Imagine trying to explain these behaviours in a work scenario: “He repeatedly sniffed while I was talking, he rocked back and forward on the balls of his feet and stood close to me.” Because of its subtlety, it’s a very powerful way to maintain a constant level of intimidation or threat. While employers should have processes in place to deal with bullying, this type of behaviour isn’t limited to the workplace. It can be encountered in many other situations where there’s no recourse to such action, such as volunteer committees or social groups. So how should you respond to bullying behaviours? 1. Don’t take it personally The bullying is not about you. Every bully I’ve encountered has had significant insecurity issues, but you shouldn’t ignore the behaviour. While it’s tempting to do so, it implies that you tolerate being treated in a particular way. Over time, we teach people how to treat us. It’s why bullies prey on those who are unlikely to stand up for themselves. In the end, we get what we tolerate. Clinton recited Trump’s unacceptable behaviours and beliefs, and even released a video on the topic. However, don’t respond emotionally, as this will only inflame the situation. Most bullies just want to rise you so they feel they have control − deny them the satisfaction. If you don’t feel equipped to speak out, however, focus on not giving the bully the reaction they want. 2. Play them at their own game By the second debate, Clinton had learned to respond with her own non-verbal gestures. She occasionally grimaced before answering, smiled tightly and tilted her head back. 3. Maintain self-control Most importantly of all, Clinton held her head high no matter what the provocation. At times, she must have been disturbed by Trump’s aggression, though she appeared remarkably unflappable. The message was clear; she was the more statesman-like of the two candidates. 4. Display confidence Clinton’s demeanour was measured and unrushed. She radiated cool confidence. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, believes that it’s possible to “fake it till you make it” arguing that “it’s not about what your body language says to others, it’s about what your body language is communicating to you: your body language is changing your mind, which changes your behaviour, which changes your outcomes”. Of course, sometimes situations are more complex and at times there can be a very real danger to your physical and mental wellbeing. In such circumstances, it’s important to access the appropriate supports. If you would like to read more about the supports available, click on the following links or contact Chartered Accountants Support:   www.antibullyingireland.com www.reachout.com www.belongto.org

Nov 01, 2016
Feature Interview

Sinead Mahon FCA, COO at Barclays, talks to Accountancy Ireland about her career to date, the accountant of tomorrow, and the satisfaction of balancing work and family commitments. Growing up in Tullamore, Sinead Mahon – now COO at Barclays – considered several career options before choosing accountancy as a basis for “a strong professional grounding”. From her early days in PwC, she has become a well-known figure in the world of financial services, holding a variety of roles including group accountant at KBC, a senior finance role at Ulster Bank, and CFO and programme director of a major transformation project at Danske Bank (formerly National Irish Bank). While Sinead has worked primarily in industry, she credits her Chartered Accountancy training with much of her success, describing it as an “exceptional training ground”. “The accountancy qualification itself is only a portion of what training delivers – I learned professional skills such as balancing the requirements of multiple stakeholders, building respectful relationships, teamwork, negotiation, managing fees and budgets, work ethic and consistency. I was also motivated by the fact that, in my experience, it was a very level playing field where the focus was on quality performance.” The move to industry Having been promoted to the position of manager at PwC, Sinead opted for a career move that would allow for a deeper insight into a single organisation. Her journey into the world of financial services began in the shadow of a well-known crisis, however. “At that time, the ‘dot-com’ bubble was very fresh in everyone’s mind, so I focused on opportunities in the financial services space and joined KBC as a group accountant.” This set Sinead on a path that would bring her face-to-face with another more dramatic crisis that would test both her resilience and skillset. She recalls, in the third week of August 2007, a notable shift in the financial services landscape. “It was a very difficult and challenging time, without clear and tested processes to follow. And, of course, it evolved into experiences which were dreadful for many people on many levels,” she said. “My lasting memory is of thinking on our feet, developing a clear sense of focus and of a lot learned in a short time.” As a young professional, those years underlined some important messages for Sinead: the value of a balanced temperament when events are stressful, a positive approach to challenges and opportunities, and to be vocal, as the best outcome will likely come from multiple inputs. In 2012, having moved to Danske Bank, Sinead was appointed to the position of CFO and later, programme director for the bank’s withdrawal from the personal banking and business banking markets in the Republic of Ireland. By this time, she was an established member of the bank’s C-Suite – but this achievement wasn’t a career goal in the strict sense. “Starting out, I’m not sure I had a plan to navigate myself to the C-suite or anywhere else, I just took the job in front of me each time and did the very best I could with it,” she said. “I also expressed an interest where I had one and sought to adopt a partnership approach to tasks. This helped identify me as a likely successor for subsequent roles.” Work-life balance This level of progression naturally brings with it a degree of challenge, according to Sinead. “There have certainly been tough days and situations where I didn’t know what to do next, but experience had taught me to just get on with it, take the first step and the rest will come,” she said. “Personal equilibrium can be a challenge with a young family, and I try to share my experience of balancing work and home life with female team members – it’s okay to have personal ambitions along with your professional ones. I’ve gone on maternity leave twice and don’t feel I was disadvantaged as a result. In fact, I returned to more senior roles both times.” As you might expect, family is a priority for Sinead and she regards her two small boys as her greatest success. “They are the most precious part of our lives and a refreshing break from office life. They are fortunately very forgiving when I have a Lego man in one hand and a bundle of papers for the following morning in the other,” she said. Professionally, Sinead has had “many good days” but she cannot pinpoint one single great success. “In my view, a career is built on consistently getting small things right, or better than the last time. That’s what I try to focus on,” she added. Agility and the 80/20 rule This philosophy permeates Sinead’s working life and she now operates firmly by the 80/20 rule rather than seeking perfection. “Agility in this fast-paced environment means finding ‘good enough’ and then going for it with conviction. That works for me,” said Sinead. “Investing in relationships is also critical; building a team spirit and respecting colleagues, so coaching, providing and receiving honest feedback, supporting colleagues who need it and maintaining standards. To me, it’s important to be kind to the people around you, particularly as the responsibility of the role grows. “As I have a broad COO role at the moment, I speak a lot about driving performance through discipline – sourcing relevant information for decision-making, selecting an approach and then sticking with it, delivering with consistency and managing the message. This inspires confidence in our stakeholders and provides a frame of reference for the next set of activities.” The accountant of the future Operating in this fast-paced environment also requires a degree of personal adroitness if accountants are to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow, according to Sinead. While ongoing professional development is something she both undertakes and recommends, she has identified three key skills for the accountant of the future – a people-centric partnership approach, acute strategic awareness and an ability to be flexible. “The traditional approach I trained in 20 years ago is almost gone. Preparedness and the capacity to meet challenges head-on is key,” she said. “With the current pace of change, the ability to interpret what is happening promptly and have a network as a resource to utilise are differentiators. Taking the time to successfully develop and nurture relationships within your own team, the wider organisation, group stakeholders, other local stakeholders such as regulators, service providers and so on are prerequisites now.” According to Sinead, it is a given that a trained Chartered Accountant has the skills to do the job – it’s how the job is done that defines success. “Putting relationships high on the agenda, staying close to valued peers and lifting the head to consider the broad picture unfolding around you are aspects that have set me apart through the years.” New threats in financial services While the effects of the financial crisis are now ebbing, new threats face the financial service industry and wider economy. Persistent low interest rates, increasing demands and costs of regulation, cost-cutting, reshaping, the threats and opportunities of technological and cyber advances, and challenges to the old ways of doing things – and that’s before Brexit and its potential impacts are taken into consideration – will all guarantee that Sinead’s skills will remain in demand. “We are operating in a new world and new skills are required to enable positive reaction to change in real time. A challenge within all of this is to attract bright graduates to the sector rather than Silicon Valley-type organisations. This is a real test,” she said. “To insulate ourselves, we must focus on the day job – serving clients and providing solutions, doing it consistently well, alongside continuous horizon scanning to identify and manage risk,” she continued. “Plans and preparation inspire confidence in times of uncertainty. To do this, we need to attract and retain top class people, embrace proactive communication with stakeholders and act with integrity.”

Aug 01, 2016
Feature Interview

Éilish Finan has enjoyed much success in her career – both in practice and business. She is now putting her knowledge and experience to good use as a non-executive director on the boards of some of the best-known organisations in the country. Éilish Finan’s career has spanned practice, business and – most recently – the boardroom. While her success can be contributed in part to her willingness to embrace opportunities, as a student of electronic engineering at Trinity College Dublin Éilish took a measured approach to professional life that has stood her in good stead. While Éilish’s undergraduate degree allowed her to pursue her love of mathematics, she considered it to be a strong and analytical base that – when combined with her subsequent ACA qualification – would act as a unique selling point in whatever career path she followed. Indeed, Éilish regards her ACA qualification as an “internationally transportable” asset that, in terms of her overall skillset, remains “a great differentiator”. As it happened, Éilish’s training in KPMG led her to a career in AIG Global Investments that spanned almost two decades – one that saw her hold a number of senior positions including Global Vice President of Finance, CFO and Executive Director. She was also a member of the global senior executive team before stepping down in 2007, just months before the vulnerabilities in the global financial services industry became apparent. Although the financial crisis of 2008 had a defining impact in a very negative sense on many people’s careers, it offered an opportunity for Éilish to leverage the skills she acquired during her executive career, contribute to the recovery of the financial services sector and ensure that individual organisations performed better from a corporate governance perspective. From crisis to career opportunity “AIG, in the years leading up to 2008, was an exciting and busy place to work,” said Éilish. “The ever-expanding nature of AIG required a determination to grow market position as the business expanded. And, as the organisation grew internationally, Dublin became a global centre of excellence.” This consistent growth saw AIG in Dublin grow its assets under management from US$300 million to US$150 billion with a swathe of financial services products in the international client market. Éilish’s role also grew and she assumed global responsibility as CFO across a number of business functions. The global financial crisis raised several personal questions, which led Éilish to believe that sound corporate governance and strong boards were critical to the future of the financial services industry. “In a way,” she added, “the global financial crisis defined the next phase of my career.” Putting executive knowledge to work Having spent more than 20 years as an executive, 17 of which were spent at AIG, Éilish sought a career that would afford her the leverage to influence the culture of an industry as it emerged from the financial crisis and faced a seemingly endless amount of challenges. “I saw the role of the nonexecutive director as a step in the right direction for me,” she said, “as it would allow me to work in different cultures and apply my executive knowledge in a variety of organisations and business environments.” Éilish took on her first position as a nonexecutive director just months after leaving AIG and has since held positions on the boards of JP Morgan Bank Ireland, New Ireland Assurance, MetLife Europe and the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). While her current career might seem like a natural progression, Éilish warns that there is much more to the role of nonexecutive director than is often anticipated. To “professionalise” herself as a nonexecutive director, Éilish completed the Diploma in Corporate Governance at UCD Smurfit Business School and later, completed the Institute of Directors’ Chartered Director Programme and the Institute of Banking’s Certified Bank Director Programme. While formal training has given Éilish “certainty and knowledge” in challenging situations, she also chooses carefully the organisations with which she works. “Each board position is both an opportunity and a risk. I must be confident that I am appropriately skilled for the role and capable of adding value to the board,” she said. “Corporate value and culture is also critically important to me and as a nonexecutive director, I must trust the company and believe in its strategy. The board is a collective body and while I, as a nonexecutive director, challenge and query with independent judgement, ultimately decisions are made collectively and the entire board takes responsibility.” A new world in corporate governance Éilish has acted as a non-executive director since 2008 but the post-crisis board regime bears little resemblance to the typical pre-2008 boardroom. “Boards have changed significantly since 2008 and the approach to corporate governance isn’t recognisable when compared to pre-2008 standards,” she said. “Board composition, skill diversity and accountability have expanded while strategy and risk management operate within more prescriptive frameworks designed to ensure effective execution and robust oversight.” A big lesson from 2008, added Éilish, was that risk management was not sufficiently “front and centre” on the governance agenda. This has been largely corrected through specific board activities and best practice corporate governance structures. “Risk appetite now sits firmly within the board and the evolution of the chief risk officer and associated risk functions ensure that risk awareness is part of business as usual,” she added. “Business growth and profitability must be achieved and shareholder value must be delivered, but in a sustainable and risk-balanced way.” Éilish also believes that increased regulation and responsibility for the non-executive director heightens the personal challenge and risks associated with the role. “Any risk that regulators or other stakeholders will place a higher expectation on non-executive directors when compared to executive directors will threaten the concept of collective responsibility of the board,” she said. “Ultimately, this is not good for sound corporate governance or for the prospect of recruiting the best-calibre nonexecutive directors.” A sense of balance While Éilish now enjoys a strong reputation in the corporate governance space, her career has involved a constant commitment to excellence, which has resulted in certain sacrifices. “Balancing day-to-day and ensuring a good work-life balance can be a challenge,” she said. “I have three wonderful children, who are now adults. Being present for them has always been a privilege and a priority for me. I share the load with an equally busy but supportive husband – it works well and it’s been a fun journey so far." As a successful woman in business and a respected director, Éilish is also acutely aware of gender imbalance in the corporate world. She has one simple piece of advice for younger females: “Never consider yourself as a female. Instead, consider yourself as a professional and if there is a glass ceiling, then you can see through it – and if you can see through it, perhaps it isn’t there. “As a non-executive director, females in the boardroom are still unusual but since 2008, boardroom diversity – in the widest sense of the term – has become a priority and that’s a good thing,” she added. “I don’t consider my gender as a specific differentiator. I believe that my contribution throughout my career has been to do an excellent job and I have been lucky to be recognised for my performance – regardless of my gender.”

Apr 07, 2016
Feature Interview

Melanie Sheppard, Financial Director at Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, speaks to Accountancy Ireland about career progression, gender inequality and the broader benefits of the Chartered Accountant training. Since joining Ernst & Young as a trainee auditor in 1991, Melanie Sheppard has climbed the corporate ladder with a steady determination. The Chartered Accountant is now Finance Director at Pfizer Healthcare Ireland and was recently voted one of Ireland’s 25 most powerful women in business by the Women’s Executive Network, but her career path wasn’t always linear. From sideways moves with associated salary cuts to job interviews in airport terminals, there are aspects of Melanie’s career that could only be described as unconventional. However, the Dundrum native has made her mark on several businesses in several industries over her 24-year career. Career path Melanie, who is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland, completed a BSc in Management at Trinity College Dublin before entering the working world with Ernst & Young. While the majority of her career has been spent in the realm of industry, she credits her audit training with much of her success. “Audit gives you a feel for different cultures in different companies,” she said. “You also had to engage with the different partners, the clients and the various members of their teams to get what you needed to complete the job while being respectful so it was a great way to learn how to interact with people.” After almost five years working with a range of clients including the K Club, Coca Cola and UNIFI, Melanie left the world of practice for an internal audit role with Sony in London. For her, it was a logical next step that allowed her to broaden her horizons beyond audit. 18 months later, she had moved to Aspect Telecommunications where she was responsible for statutory reporting and compliance for eight European entities within the group. While Melanie’s career was blossoming in London, the lure of a move home began to grow. “I remember coming home for weekends and seeing all the job ads in The Irish Times,” she said. “I felt that, if I didn’t come home at that stage, I could miss the opportunity. So it was timing more than anything else – plus, the lease was up on the house where I was staying.” Melanie duly sent her CV to a number of firms in Dublin but one company in particular caught her attention. “I met Nicky Sheridan, who was setting up Oracle’s shared services centre in East Point, in Terminal 1 at Heathrow and I really loved his personality,” she said. “And he liked the fact that I was managing the reporting for eight countries out of a base in Stockley Park so it was a natural fit.” Melanie later joined Oracle as employee number 19 and a member of the management team. She played a key role in growing the business, which is still in operation, into one that managed back office finance functions for 43 subsidiaries and handled $3.8 billion in revenue. “It was hard work but it was a young workforce, so everybody was at that energised stage and it was an infectious place to be.” While Melanie was very passionate about Oracle, she reached a point where she knew every aspect of the business. “The challenge then for me was to find somewhere that was going to give me that energy, so I moved sideways from Oracle as a senior manager to Pfizer as a senior manager – and I took a salary cut to do it,” she said. “I was getting in at ground level and I really loved that the last time. When I joined, there were around 20 of us and we were setting up Pfizer’s shared services centre using the Oracle platform so it was like destiny.” Words of advice After growing the shared services team to 103 employees managing reporting for 214 legal entities, Melanie joined the business proper as Finance Director where she is now a member of Pfizer’s country management team and board of directors. While much of her career success has been down to her own hard work and instinct, she has worked with a total of 21 bosses from 17 countries – just two of which were female. This breadth of experience has taught key many key business lessons throughout her career. When it comes to driving performance, Melanie believes that trust is the key ingredient for success. “I don’t like being micro-managed and I don’t like to micromanage,” she said. “Managers should be like the stabilisiers on a bicycle – you will support your team and won’t let them fall, but the onus is on them to come to you if there’s a problem.” She also believes strongly in the art of listening when managing up. Her advice is to let people finish the asking of their question before providing an answer and where you don’t have the answer, say so but be sure to get back to the manager in question. “Don’t just kick to touch and run out the door thinking you got away with it,” she said. On the issue of gender equality, however, Melanie is “torn” as to the best way forward. “I hear so much about quotas and I get torn because I would be concerned if I thought I was only somewhere because I was filling a quota,” she said. “I want to feel that I’m where I am because of what I do and how I do it.” While Melanie is keen to see the gender imbalance improved through diversity initiatives within Irish businesses, she credits the growth of women’s networking events as a positive step on the road to equality. “They have grown without negativity, which is fantastic,” she said. “And sometimes men would like to be in those networking events, but we have to make sure that we don’t exclude people because we won’t solve the diversity issue without men being involved.” A marathon effort Throughout her career, Melanie has demonstrated a determined streak that has helped her achieve her goals. While she describes herself as “a hard worker”, her determination is also apparent outside the office. “A friend once read an article that said everyone has a marathon in them before saying ‘everyone except you’, so I did one,” she said. While golf is Melanie’s hobby of choice, she trained diligently for the 2008 Edinburgh Marathon spurred on by the suggestion that it was out of her range. “There was a challenge, and I loved the sense of discipline in the training and actually running the marathon,” she said. Despite finding herself in tears at the start line, Melanie completed the marathon and has since taken part in triathalons, adventure races, long-distance cycles and other marathons. The discipline involved in training for such events, according to Melanie, is similar to the discipline instilled in Chartered Accountants through their training – something that has stood her in good stead in various aspects of life. “Chartered accountancy is a phenomenal brand but sometimes we undersell ourselves,” she said. “It’s important for people to see it as a really great starting point that can take you anywhere. And if I look within my own teams, I’ve hired lots of Chartered Accountants because they have a disciplined way of approaching problems and eating the animal bite by bite. They never give up.”

Dec 08, 2015
Feature Interview

From a $3.3.billion sale to voluntary bankruptcy, Declan Daly has had a challenging but thoroughly satisfying career. Now, his sights are set on global growth as CFO of Sláinte Healthcare. When Declan Daly talks about his career in accountancy, he talks about “luck”. For someone with such an impressive CV and track record, it is quite ironic that his route into accountancy was almost accidental. Having completed the full term at Monkstown’s Christian Brothers College, Declan undertook a Management Science and Industrial Systems degree in Trinity College Dublin in an effort to “figure out where I wanted to go”. Although he enjoyed his time there, the clouds hadn’t parted at the time of his graduation. “I didn’t do the milk round but after Christmas, I heard that PricewaterhouseCoopers had a second round in May and I applied there,” he said. On being offered the position, Declan went on to receive a “typical broad training” at the firm and also spent two years at the firm’s London office working primarily in the area of financial services auditing. At the age of 27,however,BDO’s Anthuan Xavier was on the lookout for an audit manager at the time – a coincidence that led to a happy pairing that lasted for seven years. “BDO made me more commercial. I was in charge of technical queries and I was working for Anthuan almost exclusively on really interesting things like a Christmas tree fund,” he said. “I also audited a lot of the firm’s public companies so I had a very unusual mix, but I loved it.” The highs After 14 years in the auditing business, one of Declan’s clients at BDO asked him to join the company. Inamed Corporation, a global healthcare company based in Santa Barbara, was in a poor state – it had been delisted from the NASDAQ stock exchange, its CEO had just been exited, and the company faced multiple business and accounting issues. The challenges were strangely alluring for Declan, but his decision was somewhat complicated by the fact that Anthuan was just about to nominate him for partnership at the firm. “There wasn’t a choice in my mind. It was a black and white answer for me, and I really wanted the challenge,” he said. “I wanted to move on and do something different, but it was the challenge that piqued me.” Declan joined Inamed and set about restructuring the company with Ken Pearce, Inamed’s Vice President of International Operations. They quickly took control of the entire international division and based it in Ireland while also retrenching in other areas. “The hardest thing I had to do was visit Mexico quickly after I joined and close the operation down. It was heavily loss-making but the team had no idea how badly they were doing. The managing director was literally misleading them,” he said. One of the benefits of working with an American firm, according to Declan, is their willingness to let you make decisions. Within his first 12 months at Inamed, Declan had made a number of key decisions that helped the company move from a loss-making position to one where the firm generated annual profits of $10 million. Declan’s performance brought him to the attention of Inamed’s new CFO, who was appointed in 2002, and he was subsequently transferred to the company’s global headquarters in Santa Barbara as Corporate Controller. While it seemed like a positive move, Declan was once again in at the deep end following the resignation of his immediate superior. “I found myself reporting to a CFO who resigned two months after I joined for personal reasons,” he said. “And I found myself in the middle of a storm as we had a number of historical Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accounting issues to deal with.” Following a forensic review of the accounts, Declan opted to announce the accounting issues in one go. This ultimately resulted in a SEC audit and a steep plunge in the company’s share price. The firm eventually recovered, however, and went on to make “a lot of good strategic partnerships” that developed Inamed into a global aesthetics and healthcare business. Declan also moved up the ranks and eventually rose to the position of CFO while still in his 30s. The best was yet to come, however. While Inamed was contemplating a merger with another firm of similar size, Allergen entered the fray with a bid that valued Inamed at $3.3 billion – raising Inamed’s value by more than $500 million. Declan, along with Inamed’s CEO and General Counsel, successfully negotiated the sale in April 2006, but not before Inamed’s second-largest shareholder – a large fund – threatened to scupper the deal. “They rang me threatening to pull the plug on the whole deal if we didn’t renegotiate the price up by a dollar or two. Their average buying price was $33 per share and they eventually sold at $82 per share,” he said. “We said: ‘Go ahead, if you think you’re going to get a better deal’. But they didn’t in the end because it was a tremendous deal. The fact that they wanted an extra dollar was a real eye-opener for me though.” And the lows Two months after the completion of the sale of Inamed Corp to Allergen, Declan and his family returned home to Dublin. His stay was short lived, however, as the former CEO of Inamed, Nicholas Teti, called on Declan to join him at Isolagen Inc. – a Pennsylvania-based firm. The company, which was developing LAVIV – a personalised cell-based therapy to combat ageing and skin defects – had an 80-strong division in the UK and Declan agreed to join the firm as CFO and head of the international division, provided he could operate from Ireland. Nicholas agreed but in a familiar twist of fate, Declan was quickly burdened with a host of issues. “I was over and back to the UK and just three months after I joined, it was obvious that the UK division was in terrible condition,” he said. “The division was making significant losses and hemorrhaging cash. I didn’t know a whole lot about manufacturing and sales, but it didn’t take a genius to see that it wasn’t being done well.” Declan quickly took the decision to close the UK business and seek a major cash injection to allow Isolagen to focus on gaining approvals in the United States. “Fundamentally, it was the right decision because it was going to bring the whole group down. It simply had to be closed down.” The next step was to gain approval to bring LAVIV to market. The procedure had failed phase three trials three years previously, just months after the previous CEO resigned. Unfortunately for Declan, history was to repeat itself in a cruel case of déjà vu. “In January 2008, we were going through the trials and Nicholas suddenly resigned as CEO, but he was going to remain as Chairman,” he said. “Our share price plummeted. I had to meet our large shareholders and try to explain the situation – but to no avail. Part of the problem was, when LAVIV failed phase three trials previously, the CEO had resigned four months beforehand and the inference was that Nicholas knew something bad lay ahead.” According to Declan, the board had “no choice” but to appoint him as CEO of Isolagen, and he had no choice but to “either leave or man up”. As it happened, the trials were a massive success and Declan, as CEO, quickly set about raising cash for a firm with no revenue – but he hit two critical snags. “August of 2008 was the worst possible time to raise money and coupled with that, we had convertible debt on our balance sheet that required 100 per cent concurrence of debt-holders before any deal could be done – and we literally couldn’t find 10 per cent of them.” The firm was going through a “slow death” before Declan ultimately opted for voluntary bankruptcy in June 2009. Under this arrangement, just 66 per cent concurrence was required for any debt deal and the firm was in and out of bankruptcy in 10 weeks. The company was renamed Fibrocell Science Inc., a new board was appointed and David Pernock, who ran a $4 billion sales line at GlaxoSmithKline, joined as Chairman. It took some negotiation but by January 2010, David agreed to become CEO. Both he and Declan then worked to get LAVIV approved by the FDA (and become the first aesthetic cell therapy to gain approval), get listed on the NYSE stock market, raise $150 million and get biotech billionaire RJ Kirk’s Intrexon Corporation on board before Declan once again stepped down from his role and packed his bags for Ireland. Looking ahead After a year out, Declan was once again eager for a challenge and this time it came in the form of a comparatively small healthcare technology company based in Sandyford – Sláinte Healthcare. The firm aims to help hospitals become more efficient by digitising their entire paper trail and its cornerstone product, Vitro – an electronic medical records system – is in use in hospitals and healthcare institutions throughout the world. The firm has enjoyed considerable success since its foundation in 2006 and now employs over 130 people in Ireland, the Middle East, Australia and South America. It was also ranked fifth in Deloitte’s list of the 50 fastest growing companies in 2014. Following a number of meetings with CEO, Andrew Murphy, Declan quickly saw an opportunity to build on this success and turn the small Irish company into a global player. “If we want to take this to the next stage, we’re going to have to raise money and that’s something we’re actively looking at,” he said. “We won’t do a deal unless we achieve terms we think are reasonable and, equally important, we are comfortable with the potential investor.” With one eye on a possible IPO, Declan still has day-to-day responsibilities within the firm as CFO but this burden is eased thanks to the three Chartered Accountants on his team. This allows him to remain at the “bigger picture” level, devising strategy and driving the company’s performance. And while there are undoubtedly long days ahead, he’s ready for the challenge as always – thanks in no small part to his training. “If you are going to develop in business, having a grounding in finance is really important. You get that with Chartered Accountants but you also get more – you get the ability to think into other areas and disciplines,” he added. “The accountant of tomorrow is evolving gradually. It’s multidisciplinary and while you need your core skill set in financial-related topics, you need to have a good grasp of business and strategy. Even in practice, you must be able to talk rationally and with some nuance in terms of what’s involved in the running of a business – and that’s what you get from audit.”

Dec 01, 2015
Feature Interview

With Budget 2016 and a general election looming, Tánaiste Joan Burton remains focused on safeguarding Ireland’s nascent recovery. When Accountancy Ireland spoke to Joan Burton in August 2011, she was Minister for Social Protection and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Labour had just entered government under the watchful eyes of the troika and an existential crisis in Greece threatened the viability of the euro zone. Four years later, she is now Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party, and continues in her role as Minister for Social Protection. With the general election scheduled for spring 2016, the Tánaiste lists a range of achievements during her term in office. She draws attention to the transformation of her Department from a payments agency into a public employment service; the establishment of JobBridge and Tús; and the incorporation of 1,800 staff from both the HSE and FÁS into her Department. She also mentions the visits of Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama, and the marriage equality referendum as “psychological” wins for a country that was finding its feet. With Budget 2016 just weeks away, however, attention quickly turns to the future and imminent budget decisions that are currently under discussion. “As we look forward to the budget, I think we’re going to be careful,” she said. “It’s people’s money… but we do need to spread the recovery to the whole country and we need to make sure that, in particular, people who are less well-off are very firmly in the Government’s policy perspective.” Budget measures After a series of bruising budgets, the Tánaiste is keen to reward taxpayers for years of fiscal retrenchment and believes that the coalition’s decisions are bearing fruit. “We now have 1.96 million people at work and the figures to the end of June show that, year-on-year, the rate of growth was seven per cent,” she said. In the forthcoming budget, Labour is expected to push for an increase of at least €1,000 in the threshold at which workers enter the higher rate of tax and a phasing-out of the universal social charge. “The priority in terms of tax reform should be to look at the totality of the charges that people face in employment or self-employment,” she said. “That means not looking exclusively at income tax… but to look at the totality.” The Tánaiste acknowledged that workers enter the top rate of tax too early and this is also on her agenda for change. “In Ireland, the debate around taxation should be around the effective, real, experienced rate of taxation,” she added. “We will seek to positively reform the point at which people go into the top rate. This is not a conversation the Government has concluded in relation to the budget… but it remains something we must absolutely continue as a society.” Capital investment While Budget 2016 will make provisions for investment in key services through a capital investment programme focused on transport, healthcare and education, the Tánaiste believes that revenue generation must be maintained if Ireland is to enjoy high-quality services – even if some of the measures aren’t well-received. “The water charges, for example, are all about investment into a creaking, disintegrating water system broken into 32 separate parts and bringing it into a unified utility, which admittedly has been difficult to do,” she said. “But we would be crazy as a country… to simply throw a unified plan away and pretend that we can magic up the money out of nowhere.” The Government’s Spring Statement highlighted “fiscal space” of €1.2 billion to €1.5 billion but there are two major problem areas in need of attention – health and housing. While health has been “the most difficult in terms of reform”, the Tánaiste is determined to achieve universal access to primary healthcare services through the extension of GP visit cards to more age groups. She is also pushing for increased investment in social housing and the taming of spiralling rents. “I’m very anxious to see the provision of rent certainty,” she said. “We could provide rent certainty around longer lease situations – lots of European countries do this and it works very well.” The general election A clear theme in the Tánaiste’s narrative is improving the lot of the average worker through tax reform and improved services. Economic giveaways have become synonymous with pre-election budgets, but the Tánaiste believes that a longer-term view focused on safeguarding the nascent recovery is required. Indeed, it was this longer-term view that led Labour into government in 2011. “We could have stood on the sideline and say everything about the country is bad, everything about the country is a failure,” she said. “Personally, I took a long view that we could recover the country.” The OECD’s recently-published assessment of the Irish economy, which it describes as being on a sounder footing than before the crisis, is testament to the Government’s efforts in this regard. “Ireland is the ‘comeback kid’ of Europe’s crisis-hit economies, and much of the credit for this strong recovery goes to the government’s steadfast commitment to reform,” said OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría. “To avoid repeating past mistakes, now is the time to build resilience against future nasty surprises while ensuring the recovery is sustained, and its benefits broadly shared.” The Tánaiste believes that the Irish electorate will give the coalition the mandate to pursue such a policy. “When people come to making voting decisions, they will be looking to hold on to the hard-earned recovery they have invested so much in and worked so hard to achieve,” she said. “I think people will be cautious about throwing that recovery away in response to populist demands that you can have world-class services without any contribution to them. “We have to be conscious that we have opportunities in Ireland and we need to grab them with both hands to grow the economy and provide serious reform. We also have to be conscious that we cannot do this overnight,” the Tánaiste added. “That’s why I would like to see a further five-year programme for government that would see the recovery bedded down.” As for her role in that possible programme for government, there is little room for doubt. “With any politician, it’s all about energy, plans and optimism,” she said. “I have a lot of those.”

Oct 01, 2015
Feature Interview

Feargal O’Rourke’s election as Managing Partner at PwC has brought about a changing of the guard. Now the new management team is in place, the Athlone man is keen to strengthen PwC’s position in the market. Accepting the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles on 15th July 1960, John F. Kennedy said: “We stand today on the edge of a new frontier”. The same could be said of PwC following its first contested election in almost three decades, which culminated in the election of Feargal O’Rourke as Managing Partner and the unveiling of a comparatively young leadership team – most of whom are in their 40s. O’Rourke, who is a fan of US politics – and politics in general, as you might expect, through his familial ties – formally succeeded Rónán Murphy last month. At 50 years of age, he is now the oldest member of the leadership team in Ireland – a sharp contrast to just 12 years ago when he was one of the youngest partners at the firm’s top table. He now describes himself as the oldest person on the team “by some distance” and believes that this is a by-product of the “generational change” at the firm. “There comes a natural time for a change in the cycle and I’ve gone down a generation for the majority of the roles,” he said. “It has brought a great energy to the partnership and it has brought a lot of people into leadership positions who haven’t sat around the table before.” While some might view this as a high-risk strategy, two or three “hardchaws” will bring an element of corporate memory to the table, he added. From training to tax O’Rourke began his career in Russell Brennan Keane in Athlone, where he received “the best life training I ever got” while sifting through shoeboxes of invoices during his summer holidays from University College Dublin. He had “great intentions” of returning to Athlone once his academic endeavours were complete, but a training opportunity at PwC scuppered those plans. Even an approach from the Fianna Fáil Executive failed to lure him away from the big eight firm, as it was then, following a brief discussion with his then-mentor. “I had a very good mentor in here and he said to me, ‘Look, there’s a fair chance you can run the country or there’s a fair chance you can run here, but you can’t do both’,” he said. Turning his back on politics as a profession, while taking his mentor’s optimism with a pinch of salt, O’Rourke embarked on a path that would ultimately prove his mentor right. He is now at the helm of a firm that will be forced to grapple with “a number of fluxes” in the years ahead, but he is clear on what needs to be done. “Our challenge in the short- to medium-term is managing mandatory firm rotation, managing the fact that we will be restricted from providing certain other services for public interest entities that we would have done heretofore,” he said. In the medium- to long-term, on the other hand, O’Rourke will investigate areas where a firm like PwC can give assurance as – in his view – the world is changing and PwC needs to change with it. “If you fast-forward 20 years, what the auditor does today will be different,” he said. “I think we will still have the statutory audit for years to come, but it may be more real-time as we go into the future rather than historic.” The goal, according to O’Rourke, is to develop a broad assurance offering that will allow PwC to capitalise on its position as a non-statutory auditor. Areas under consideration include non-financial assurance and areas such as analytics and cybersecurity, but the list is – and will remain – open-ended. “There are businesses and business models that didn’t exist when I was coming through the system, or even if you go back to 2000,” he said. “So we’ve got to make sure we’re continuously looking at how business is evolving and how we can provide services to match those businesses.” While the firm has scope to expand its offering into new areas, O’Rourke has spent much of his career helping foreign businesses establish a base in Ireland or increase their activity in the jurisdiction. He agrees that he will have to sharpen his knowledge of certain aspects of PwC’s business as a result, but isn’t fazed by the prospect. “While I would have been heavily involved in tax, that was as a subject matter expert in the wider sphere of business generally,” he said. “I would always see myself as a business advisor whose speciality happened to be tax and now I’m a business advisor who is chief executive of an organisation that provides tax, assurance and advisory services, so I’m just broadening my areas of expertise.” High expectations One area O’Rourke has researched in recent weeks is the proposed EU changes on auditing. As a person who is known for selling Ireland to US companies looking for a gateway into Europe, however, he is troubled by recent soundings from government departments on the issue. “At the moment, many of our European competitors are going to 10 plus 10. In other words, you can appoint an auditor for 10 years and then you must have a tender, but you can reappoint for another 10,” he said. “We’re hearing some indications that Ireland is only going for one 10 year… but nobody has been able to give me a convincing reason why we would only go for 10.” Deviation from international competitors on this score could put Ireland at a distinct disadvantage, he added. O’Rourke has been on the front foot historically when it comes to other issues. Once described as the “grand architect” of the double Irish, he said in early 2013 – long before it was on the horizon – that the system had less than two years to go given global changes and, more recently, called for a “sustainable” tax offering that was acceptable to other countries. He has also sought to close “the expectation gap” when it comes to the role and function of an audit. “I’m hoping one thing that comes out of the banking inquiry is a greater understanding of what an audit is about and a greater clarity about what our legislators and regulators might want an audit to be about,” he said. “And I would like to hear from them as to their expectations of an audit. If you watched the banking inquiry over the past couple of weeks, that expectation gap is there at the moment.” Despite this, O’Rourke doesn’t believe that auditors’ relationships with the authorities are in any way fractious or acrimonious. “I hope discussions will lead to a greater understanding on both sides of what is needed,” he added. “We need to understand what regulators and legislators are looking for, and we then need to respond to that.” A boon for business According to O’Rourke, PwC has form when it comes to responding to changing environments and new challenges – not least in the evolving area of tax, where his speciality lies. With freedom of information and the evolution of in-house tax departments, some might expect firms like PwC to struggle to generate business. The reality, he said, is quite different. He cites tax systems’ increasing complexity, the cross-border nature of business and the demand for greater transparency with revenue authorities “competing for a bigger share of the same pie” as a boon for business. “The type of work we do and the type of engagement we have is different than it was, but it’s a better and richer engagement,” he said. “You are dealing with more substantive issues at a higher level because the world has got much more complex and cross-border in nature.” Keeping key clients Over the course of the next four years, and possibly eight if he is re-elected at the end of his first term, O’Rourke will be busy working as an ambassador for the firm. While this could easily monopolise his time, he is determined to carve out time to prepare for succession and continue an element of ‘business as usual’ activity with key clients. “I am scaling direct client work back quite a bit, but I have spent 15 years now every quarter going to the west coast of the US,” he said. “I’ll be keeping one or two of those major clients. I will have other partners helping but I will stay involved because, to be honest, if I didn’t have a certain amount of client engagement, I’d go mad.” Feargal O’Rourke is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland and Managing Partner of PwC Ireland.

Aug 01, 2015

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