For businesses and SMEs, a big fraud threat is invoice redirection fraud. While this is not a new type of scam, it is one that has increased during the pandemic. Niamh Davenport looks at how this scam works and how businesses can protect themselves from falling victim. Organisations of all sizes are open to fraudulent attacks, but SMEs can be a particular target as their security systems may not be as robust as those of larger organisations, and with new systems and processes being implemented quickly during the pandemic, there may be gaps in the chain that fraudsters will use. Keeping security systems and devices protected with official and reliable software and backups can assist greatly in keeping fraudsters out of your business. It is also important to be aware that you may be at risk of fraud indirectly if a fraudster compromises a supplier’s system and sends you emails from their accounts to defraud you. Invoice redirection With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic driving both our working and social lives online, fraudsters are taking advantage of the current climate by adapting their scams; one such example is invoice redirection fraud. This is usually done by using a spoofed email address. The fraudster emails someone in the organisation posing as a supplier. The email address used will mirror an address regularly used by your supplier, including logos and signoffs. The email contains information about a new bank account and instructions that all future payments should go to the new account. When the next legitimate invoice is received from the real supplier, payments are made to the new fraudulent bank account. Generally, it is only when the reminder to pay the invoice comes in that the organisation realise there has been a fraud committed. There is no guarantee a recall on the payment through the bank will prove successful – fraudsters are quick and will move money as soon it’s received. Protecting your small business There are three ways organisations can keep themselves secure against fraudsters: Be informed Ensure employees are fraud-aware and understand the controls and procedures in place that your company currently employs to prevent fraud. Have a verification process in place before changing saved bank account details of your suppliers or service providers. Provide cyber security training for staff to include guidance on links in emails and the importance of password protection. Don’t assume you can trust caller ID. Phone numbers can be spoofed so it looks like a company is calling. Be alert Fraudsters can change an email address to make it seem as though it comes from somebody you email regularly. Look out for different contact numbers and/or a slight change in the email address (e.g., .com instead of .ie) as these may differ from previous correspondence. Fraudsters may already have basic information about you or your business (e.g. name, address, account details); do not assume the caller is genuine because they have these details. Be wary of payment requests that are unexpected, irregular or require changes to bank account details, whatever the amount involved. Be secure Ensure security and software is regularly updated and maintained using official and reliable software and that your system is regularly backed up. Always exercise caution when forming new relationships with potential customers, and undertake appropriate due diligence. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed. Take your time and do the relevant checks. Remember, implementing processes to prevent fraud does not have to be costly. In fact, low-cost measures can prevent most fraud from taking place in the first instance, such as verifying new payment details verbally. If you fall victim to a scam or have noticed unusual activity on your account, contact your bank immediately. The sooner the bank can investigate potential losses, hold funds in accounts and place recalls on transfers made in error, the better. You should also report the incident to your local Garda station. Niamh Davenport is the Head of Digital & Fraud Prevention at BPFI.

Feb 05, 2021

Many professionals are beginning to feel overwhelmed by homeschooling while working full-time. Paul Kelly has five helpful tips that should help relieve the pressure of being both parent and worker. Parents of the class of 2021 are being asked to shoulder an extensive load, as they fulfil their professional responsibilities alongside the mammoth task of homeschooling their children in preparation for the leaving cert in a format of which remains to be seen. With work deadlines looming and studies to be completed, how can parents manage it all? Control the controllable  Map out the week ahead and limit the decisions to be made. Meals can be planned, and dedicated work/study times set out – this is particularly relevant if your internet is problematic, or you are sharing a workspace.  Agree the family’s collective priorities for the coming week, whether it is a work presentation or an assignment deadline. Communication is key – knowing what everyone is focusing on will help you work as a team to get everything over the line, and it will help you to pre-empt or address any concerns your child may have.   Set joint longer-term goals Are you working towards a specific goal at work? Share it with your family and ensure they understand how it will benefit them. Similarly, for your leaving cert child, their chosen college course is not a solo goal, it is now a shared goal for the family. Maintain levels of motivation by starting a bucket list of things you’ll do and places you’ll go when the leaving cert exams are over and restrictions lift.   Practice discipline Try to keep as much normal structure to your days as you can. Set your alarm for a consistent time with everyone up and dressed, ready to start the working day at 9am. Keep tidy, dedicated workspaces and stick to normal break times. Outline your working times, and ensure you actually work while you are at work. This will help you to switch off from work when you are back in parent-mode.  Reset and refresh Make sure everyone switches off and look for ways of breaking up the mundane. It can be hard with teenagers who are missing social outlets, but a family takeaway or movie on a Saturday night gives everyone something to look forward to. Make sure you look after your own headspace by limiting time spent reading the news. Instead, try to get out for a walk in the fresh air once a day and encourage your children to do the same.     Seek out support Whether it’s asking for support in work or getting your child some extra assistance with their studies, if things are becoming too much, look for ways of getting help, within the confines of the restrictions. These are unprecedented times, try to understand your own limits and be kind, both to yourself as well as your children. This, too, shall pass.   Paul Kelly is the Director of Teaching at Homeschool.ie which provides an online grinds service for primary and secondary school students.

Feb 05, 2021

It is claimed that practising a skill for 10,000 hours can make you an expert – but what do the studies say and what does it mean for organisations? Kevin Hannigan analyses the research.  Much has been written in the last number of years of how 10,000 hours of practice can confer expertise. If this is true, then any of us should be able to become an expert at anything with enough practice. But is this really true? Is there a causal relationship between the figure of 10,000 hours of practice and expert performance? How long does it take to form new habits? Research by Phillippa Lally in the UK suggests that new behaviours can become automatic, on average, after practising them for 18 to 254 days. The research studied volunteers who chose to change eating, drinking or exercise behaviours and tracked them for success.  Analysis of all these behaviours indicated that it took 66 days, on average, for this new behaviour to become habit. However, the mean number of days varied by the complexity of the habit, as follows: Drinking: 59 days Eating: 65 days Exercise: 91 days Although there are a lot of limitations in this study, it does suggest that it can take many repetitions for new behaviours to become a habit. Therefore, creating new habits requires tremendous self-control to be maintained for a significant period of time before they become more “automatic” and performed without any real self-control. For most people, it takes about three months of constant practice before a more complicated new behaviour gets set in our neural pathways as something we are comfortable with. The nature of practice If we accept that it can take three months of constant practice to set a new behaviour in our neural pathways, can the type of practice improve the performance of this behaviour? In The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, the authors conclude that great performance comes mostly from two things: regularly obtaining concrete and constructive feedback; and deliberately difficult practice. On top of this, new research from a group of UCLA researchers, using brain imaging called functional MRI, discovered that connectivity of specific regions of the brain were strengthened using interleaved practise (varied and random) versus repetitive conditions. Interleaved practise enhances skill learning and the functional connectivity of frontoparietal networks. These results strongly hint that if you want to develop better skills, memory and psychomotor performance, it is really better to spice up your deliberate practice with variety. Expect your practice sessions to be bad but, over time, your performance will significantly improve. What does this mean for professionals? First, developing complex new habits, physical or behavioural, takes an average of 60 to 90 days. Therefore, our focus cannot be solely on one training event for our teams to learn a new skill or behaviour in this changing work environment and, instead, management must focus on how new habits are supported and reinforced over a period of time. Second, great performance is not just a function of the quality and frequency of practice but also the quality of the feedback. Constructive, supportive feedback will enhance performance over time. Finally, the quality and difficulty of the practice impacts performance and skill retention positively. So, whether we are seeking to develop new skills to further the business, creating a more inclusive office culture or focusing on an employee’s individual performance, incorporating task difficulty and randomness into our development efforts will enhance performance. 10,000 hours of practice on its own will not develop expertise. If we are truly serious about transforming the way we work, we need to create the time to support new habits, provide constructive feedback, and ensure that the quality of practice is sufficiently diverse and challenging. Kevin Hannigan is Head of Talent Consulting at HPC.

Feb 05, 2021

It's hard not to feel gloomy about 2021's economic outlook, what with tight restrictions in place and a slow vaccine roll-out. Andrew Park encourages us not to lose hope, however, as estimates indicate that GDP will grow despite the setbacks. 2021 was the year we had all hoped would allow us to return to some ‘normality’ following the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the development and roll-out of multiple vaccines. However, with infection rates rising at a rapid rate prior to Christmas, the Irish Government introduced tougher Level 5 restrictions. Under these restrictions, the Irish Government enacted a de facto national lockdown, reinforcing the work from home message, restricting non-essential travel, as well as the closure of schools and a move to remote learning in addition to the closure of ‘non-essential’ retail. Each round of ‘stop-go’ that easing and raising restrictions delivers is worsening the economic damage. These current Level 5 restrictions, which may ease in early March, will have a profound impact on the economy. Where optimism was emerging, as evidenced via sentiment surveys, restrictions caused that to ebb away. Q1 2021’s outlook is seeming more downbeat than previously expected. The immediate impact will be felt through the labour market and, more specifically, the live register. Using data from December 2020, when the introduction of the Level 5 restrictions began, we can see the initial introduction caused the COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate – which includes both the live register and Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) recipients – to reach 20.4%, up from 15.9% in September 2020 prior to the Level 5 introduction. A similar trend can be seen through the number of PUP recipients. 219,913 people were in receipt of PUP for the week ending 6 September. Following the introduction of increased restrictions, the number of PUP recipients increased to 335,599 PUP for the week ending the 3 January, representing 13.6% of the total labour force. These adverse labour market impacts, in conjunction with business restrictions, will result in a lower level of economic growth in Q1 2021. Although, estimates for Q1 2021 economic growth have yet to be published, we can say with some certainty that it will be significantly down on the bounce back growth Ireland was seeing at the back-end of last year when Q3 2020 recorded growth of 11.1%. While the immediate economic outlook looks ‘gloomy’, the outlook for 2021 as a whole looks more promising, with the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine and agreement on a free-trade deal between the UK and EU impacting on prospects. Initial estimates, produced by the ESRI’s Quarterly Economic Commentary, suggest GDP will grow by 4.9% in 2021, underpinned by a free-trade deal between the EU and UK as well as Level 5 lockdown lasting only six weeks. Although restrictions and slower than hoped vaccine roll-out is hampering the economy now, the overriding sense is one of hope. If we can navigate the next few months successfully, there is significant pent-up demand ready to be unleashed into the economy. Andrew Park is a Manager in the Economic Advisory team at Grant Thornton.

Jan 29, 2021

2020 presented leaders and their teams many challenges, making boosting morale more important than ever. Learning how to praise your staff is an essential skillset. Fiona Flynn tells us how. Giving praise might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering business leader duties, but praise has been shown to have a direct impact on business results. A Gallup poll found that people who received “recognition or praise for doing good work” are also responsible for a 10% to 20% difference in revenue and productivity. Employees who reported that they are not adequately recognised at work were three times more likely to quit in the next year. As we move through Q1 and into Q2 of 2021, many managers and organisations are completing the annual review process. This can be a painful or powerful task. Unfortunately, managers can unknowingly undermine employee performance during this process. According to research from the Corporate Executive Board, line managers directly influence many key drivers of employee’s performance, improving or destroying performance by up to 40%. Giving praise authentically has many benefits for the indivdual, team and organisation. It creates a positive workplace climate with higher levels of trust, improved problem-solving and innovation and a postive impact on the customer experience and net promoter score. How to give praise There are a few things to keep in mind when acknowledging employee accomplishments and giving praise. Be genuine Ensure the message is delivered with genuine conviction and authenticity. Be specific Clearly articulate what behaviour is being recognised – solving a problem, using their initative, collaborating with another department. Recognise how the behaviours reflect company values, purpose, and business. Be consistent Use praise as part of regular one-on-ones between you and employees, and not just once a year at the review. Be spontaneous When you receive feedback from others about your employee, or see a positive behaviour – pass on the praise. You don’t need to wait for a one-on-one or review session. Send the email or talk to them immediately. Recognise behaviours Don’t just focus on the end results of great performance – praise the behaviours that contributed to that result, as well. Smart actions on the part of the employee won’t always end up as a business win, but you want to reinforce that what they did was the best option. Ask open-ended questions and listen Encourage and praise employees for sharing their insights – this encouragement can cultivate discretionary behaviour and problem-solving culture within the whole team. Offer praise, even amidst failure Praise your team members even when, despite their best efforts, things don’t go as planned.  It is at this time that praise can have the most impact. It can boost morale and get the employee’s mindset back on track. Use it as a coaching and learning opportunity. Review the process and identify what they did well, what they learned and what they would change the next time. Set clear goals and expectations Be sure that the goals given to the team, as well as your expectation in meeting those goals, are clear. This ensures that praise is transparent, and people don’t feel excluded. Praise is a powerful tool that can be used to support and stretch team members. It will improve their self-confidence and morale. It is a particularly useful technique when implementing change – new processes, systems, etc. Identify and praise the individuals who are leaning in and adopting the change. That can have a ripple effect to encourage others to also do well. Fiona Flynn is a Director of Montauk Consulting.

Jan 29, 2021

Career conversations can be nerve-wracking at the best of times; adding the pandemic and homeworking into the mix makes it even more challenging. The way to crack this, says Louise Molloy, is to think through the problem rather than just about the problem. It’s that time of the year when career discussions abound. While this is always an anxious time, with COVID-19 and working from home added to the mix, I’m hearing about fear of being seen as negative, complaining or not supportive when there are legitimate concerns about promotions and upward mobility. This results in frustration and disappointment as teams fail to have the conversations needed. Having sat in both the reviewer and reviewee’s seat, and now coaching clients in this area, I’m reminded of Simon, an ambitious and capable guy who was keen to progress. His boss was relatively new to the organisation and, while he met targets, he struggled to get buy-in from the team and their stakeholders. Simon was full of ideas on how to restructure the team to allow more room for collaboration and creativity, and he was willing to take on more responsibility to deliver this. Previous discussions were taken as personal criticism by his boss, so Simon felt unable to raise the issue again without being seen as unsupportive. Sometimes when situations get emotional and we feel scared or rejected, we fail to see it objectively. He told me that the company needed results, innovation, and good engagement. So, putting on that company ‘hat’, Simon had to consider a few things: How can I contribute more? What is the work that needs to be done – for the company; for the team; for me? The key here is to be honest with yourself and ignore experience or everything you think you know about the company/culture. Imagine I’m the team leader – what do I need to achieve? What am I afraid of? What is my biggest challenge? What allies do I have and need? Really think about your team leader as a person within a system and how it feels to be in that situation. How do I need to present my view of how I could contribute and the work that needs to be done to meet my boss’ priorities and challenges? Reframing what you want to say in this way helps build trust and buy-in, showing you recognise and respect your boss’s position. What do I want to achieve in the session? This conversation is only the beginning, not the end. Share observations on where projects didn't go well (with supporting evidence). Make constructive suggestions, such as starting a working group with different people from various departments, so you can ensure alignment and best ways of working. After considering the above four points, Simon decided to put together a working group comprising members of his own team as well as people from other departments. By doing this, he revised the reporting process, improving quality, freeing up resource time for more innovative insight sharing. He got great feedback, leading to more delegation from his boss. It took a while to get promoted, but in the meantime, his working life had changed. He was happier, more influential and had a clearer view of how he could move his career forward. The questions above are designed to challenge you to think the problem through rather than just think ‘about’ it. This, in turn, will change how you will feel about the conversation ahead. Rather than a battle, it will feel more like you and management are in it together. Remember, if you always do what you always did, nothing changes. So, give it a go. Challenge yourself to answer those questions and see where it leads you. Louise Molloy is a director at Luminosity Consulting.

Jan 29, 2021

"Ah, sure, it'll be grand" is an expression widely use in Ireland. Sometimes, however, your staff really do need help. Damian McCourt emphasises the importance of listening to your employees and offering support when they need it. “This is ridiculous,” I said, staring at the influx of work in dismay. “I’m never going to get through all this.” It was 2013, and I was a project manager with far more work than was good for me. I was feeling panicked. My manager looked across at me, shrugged his shoulders in a what-can-you-do sort of way, and announced, “it is what it is”. I put my head down, kept my mouth shut, and proceeded to work myself into a burnout. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had just been ‘minimised’. Talking about our mental health is never easy. Even if your workplace encourages open discussion on mental health, the desire to appear capable, competent and – above all – strong can be a severe deterrent to asking for help. As a result, it often falls to the manager to ask if someone is okay. This is difficult even at the best of times. It requires planning, privacy and a careful, non-judgmental approach. Try doing this over Zoom with your locked-down kids, and you have a genuine challenge. The good news is that if you’re a careful listener, you won’t even need to initiate this conversation. People ask for help all the time – they just don’t make it obvious. Seemingly off-the-cuff comments on energy levels, mood and workload sometimes hide a call for help, and you can respond in one of three ways: Shift the conversation to you “Oh, I’m up to my eyes too! Wait ‘till I tell you what I had to deal with last week…” Shifting the conversation back to you isn’t helpful but it’s an easy mistake to make as a manager, especially if you’re feeling slightly stressed yourself. Do it often enough, and people will stop talking to you. Minimise the situation “Ah, it’ll be grand. We’re all in the same boat. That’s just the job. Man up and get into it.” Minimise is a put down, pure and simple. Everyone else is OK so you should be too. Pipe down and get on with it. For someone who is already worrying about their ability to cope, you’re doubling their anxiety by dismissing their concerns. Not only are you being supremely unhelpful, you’re giving yourself a harder conversation later on. Offer support “Are things really bad? Anything I can do to help?” We would all like to think that we’d be the one to offer support, and yet we all live with our own concerns and priorities. It’s easy to miss an opportunity to help. Remote working tools can actually make monitoring the health and wellbeing of your staff easier. Keep an eye on your Teams chat and watch for clues in email conversations. It’s easier to ask if someone needs help than if they are okay, and your offer of support might make all the difference. Damian McCourt is a freelance trainer and consultant specialising in workplace resilience, productivity and sensible leadership.

Jan 22, 2021

Good companies have always invested in upskilling their employees, but this has been propelled exponentially over the last year due to the pandemic. Dearbhla Gallagher tells us why. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major economic impact on every business sector in Ireland. Some sectors, such as retail, tourism and hospitality, have been particularly hard-hit, with the ongoing closures of restaurants and other hospitality outlets leaving many unemployed and others at risk of losing their jobs. In these circumstances, the need for organisations, and employees, to become more adaptable and innovative has become evident. Developments in technology have brought about great benefits, but have also added extra urgency to the need to acknowledge the changes that are coming in the world of work. This was the case even before the pandemic. In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work stated that “today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete”. The Commission strongly recommended that governments, employers, and workers invest in education and training. Fast forward a year and the COVID-19 pandemic has arrived on our shores. Few could have predicted how quickly the need for upskilling and reskilling would come to pass. In response, many organisations worldwide have reacted quickly by taking steps to address critical skill gaps in order to maintain business operations. A 2020 LinkedIn report found that employees spent 130% more time learning in March and April of that year, compared to January and February. However, more action may be needed to prepare for changes in the future. Now for tomorrow The big challenge for today’s leaders is to recognise where jobs have been, or could be, lost because of the pandemic and other global developments, and to waste no time in upskilling and reskilling employees to deal with future disruptions. Currently, training courses are online to keep employees safe and the last ten months of online learning has demonstrated that it is both feasible and effective. Investing in training sends a strong signal that the company cares about supporting its employees. It also fosters employee confidence and loyalty. Studies have demonstrated that investments in upskilling and reskilling employees can boost productivity, improve employee engagement and retention and help to attract new talent. In a survey by the online learning platform Talent LMS, 66% of respondents expressed appreciation at the opportunities provided by their employers to acquire new knowledge and develop new skills. More importantly, it can help organisations to deal with the ongoing impact of the current COVID-19 crisis. For many businesses, managing costs has never been more crucial and, therefore, upskilling and reskilling the existing workforce may make more sense than recruiting new staff. Finally, companies that are actively engaged in upskilling and reskilling their workforce will also help to develop resilience skills among their employees. Many employees have been afflicted with anxiety, stress, loneliness and burnout as a result of the pandemic. An employee with updated skills will be more resilient, more confident and better equipped to perform in the job. Dearbhla Gallagher is the Learning and Development Manager at Baker Tilly.

Jan 22, 2021

Putting the brakes on travel has been hard for passengers and the industry. But is there a light at the end of the tunnel for aviation companies? Dick Forsberg explains. The disruption caused by COVID-19 will have unprecedented consequences for the airline industry, including significant and permanent structural changes. At the same time, record numbers of investors are lining up in anticipation of finding real value in distressed aviation-related transactions, arguably for the first time in over a decade, and according to PwC’s Aviation Industry Outlook 2021, capital should be available in scale as the recovery trajectory becomes better defined. IATA predicts that the airline industry will have lost US $118.5 billion in 2020 and a further US $38.7 billion in 2021. The extensive government support provided, estimated to be at least US $180 billion to date, has played a major role in saving a number of weak carriers from collapse, but in doing so has created a long-term unlevelling of the playing field. Airline casualties According to the report, the extraordinary levels of additional indebtedness taken on by the airlines will permanently realign the finances of the industry. Airlines will need ongoing access to emergency liquidity – including government support – for the foreseeable future. There will be more airline casualties ahead and, for those that survive, the ability to thrive will be more challenging. In order to survive and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world, airlines will have to fundamentally rethink their fleets, their business models and their finances. This will not always lead to change, but for most, a return to business as usual is not going to be a viable option for several reasons, such as: there are too many aircraft in the system, and the market of 4.5 billion passengers will not return quickly; the market has become uneconomic, and airlines cannot easily return to the service they provided before March 2020; a heightened duty of care towards customers and front-line staff will reshape customer service; and the crippling debt burden that is building across much of the airline industry will require root and branch restructuring in order to bring long-term solvency and profitability. In many cases, drastic surgery will be needed to right-size fleets, restructure business models and recapitalise airlines. Fleet rationalisation acceleration It is expected that in 2021, the fleet rationalisation process that is already under way will continue and accelerate. Few airlines are looking to add capacity. 2020 ended with 30% of the global passenger airliner fleet inactive – more than 8,500 idle aircraft – and 5,000 aircraft may be surplus to requirements. Demand remains muted, making lease extensions and placements more difficult and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) production rates may not return to 2018–2019 levels before 2025. 2020 is expected to have been the low point in the current cycle for aircraft deliveries, requiring an estimated US $50 billion of finance, half of the 2019 volume. Lessor restructuring and M&A activity Managing liquidity will continue to be challenging for the airlines. Pressure on lenders, lessors, OEMs and other stakeholders will also extend well into 2021. As the crisis continues, an increase in lessor restructuring and M&A activity is expected. Incremental liquidity from a growing number of investors considering a role in the sector will be key to the continued ability of airlines to finance their aircraft and related assets. Aircraft with the most efficient technologies will be the preferred fleet choices for airlines as they seek to minimise operating risk and cash outflows, and their residual values are unlikely to experience permanent reductions. Conversely, the largest and least efficient aircraft types will remain underutilised for longer with a higher risk of permanent value impairments. Environmental issues and sustainability may have taken a back seat as airlines deal with the pandemic, but they have not gone away. The industry has set some extremely challenging green agenda targets and the actions required to make real progress on this front need to be woven into the plans rising from the wreckage of COVID-19. Resilience Once the virus is sufficiently tamed, passenger demand will slowly return. There is already evidence that the desire to travel is firmly embedded in our DNA and, given the opportunity and the confidence to fly again, the majority will do so. The industry has demonstrated its resilience many times in the past and will survive and thrive again, albeit with some sorely needed changes to its structure. Dick Forsberg is Senior Aviation Finance Consultant at PwC.

Jan 22, 2021

Sustainability and ESG initiatives are a hot topic for 2021. But how can companies successfully implement them? Judith Kelly outlines four new roles on the market that bring sustainability to the forefront. Climate action is now a priority item on every board agenda. In 2020, we witnessed a dramatic escalation in activity and real urgency from every sector to plan and implement the relevant sustainable finance and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. Further, the Irish government continues to position Ireland as a hub for green finance as part of the ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy. Investors are increasingly using non-financial factors such as ESG standards as an important part of their investment screening process. The challenge for us is to understand what new positions are being created, and how we source relevant candidates when established and experienced talent pools do not already exist. By working closely with key stakeholders within client companies – including boards, executive management and investors – to understand recruitment needs, we have been able to identify four main roles and several related positions that you can expect to see this year. Chief Sustainability Officer The Chief Sustainability Officer will become a key leadership role within every organisation of sufficient scale. The office will sit alongside Risk, Finance, Treasury, Corporate Finance, and Internal Audit as a key corporate function. The office will be responsible for building sustainability frameworks and programmes across all parts of the business and embedding people to manage and setting a proactive and positive sustainability culture across the organisation. ESG Strategy Director Large corporates from all sectors are aiming to build sustainable practices into every part of their business from procurement, to supply chain and operations, to manufacturing, to packaging. You will also see a call for ESG Integration Director/Managers. ESG Investment Director/Manager/Analyst With financial services firms looking to ramp up sustainable investment research and product offerings, many need investment managers with sustainability knowledge and expertise. Similar roles such as Head of Sustainable Investment and ESG Finance Lead will also feature in 2021. Chief Impact Officer/Director This role is to oversee the measurement, verification, management, reporting and improvement of the company’s social and environmental impact and the value that these will deliver to stakeholders. You could also see listings for ESG Reporting Manager as well. Judith Kelly is a Director at FK International.

Jan 15, 2021

Attracting and retaining talented people is always a challenge, but there are specific features of family businesses that deserve special consideration. Liam Lynch reflects on how family businesses can attract and retain the brightest and the best. Talented people are the backbone of any great business. Having the right people in place is the difference between mere survival and success. A significant challenge that faces many family businesses as they plan for sustainable growth is the ability to attract and retain executive and managerial talent.  Competing in the ‘war for talent’ As a family business grows, the appetite to tap into skill sets that are outside the family is also likely to expand. In a high employment economy, the competitive experience of engaging in the ‘war for talent’ is intense. Many family businesses find that the ability to attract and retain the skills needed throughout their business is now one of their main concerns. The competition to hire and retain good people can be fierce. While family businesses must navigate the same ‘war for talent’ environment faced by all employers, finding people with both the right skills and the right cultural fit can feel like an overwhelming barrier. The vast majority of families are committed to maintaining family ownership of the business. The structure of remuneration packages on offer to attract talent can be more limited than businesses with other ownership forms. Share-based remuneration incentives can tend to be off the table, and even if they are not, the exit mechanisms can be both complex and uncertain. Therefore, it is essential that the business effectively builds and communicates its value proposition to prospective employees; what it means to be a family business and why it’s a good thing to work for one. This might include, for instance, the commitment of a community embedded family business to both its staff and, by extension, the local community. This commitment might be demonstrated by higher levels of investment in training and corporate responsibility, as well as the prospect of relatively fewer redundancies during tougher times. Common recruitment issues Proper planning can help family business owners put a framework in place that not only addresses common business issues but may also prevent potential disputes within the family. With the right policies, practices, and strategy, the sky’s the limit for attracting the best talent and retaining great people, while at the same time preparing the next generation of leaders within the family. Consider some of the following common issues in developing a broad-ranging strategy to attract and retain the best talent: Compensation – Are you offering competitive compensation? Ensure that your reward packages, including remuneration plans, are based on market-driven data. Do family members enjoy opportunities or bonuses not available to other employees? Training – Do you have adequate training in place to prepare the next generation to take over leadership roles and responsibilities? Does every employee have access to the same level of training and development for their role, regardless of family status? Decision-making – Who is involved in designing compensation packages or making hiring decisions? Do those in decision-making roles have the qualifications required and the independence needed? Governance – Is your board of directors made up of family and non-family members? Do you have an adequate succession plan in place? Have you identified all the areas of risk for your business – from economic to competition, loss of talent and cyber security? HR policies – Are there clear performance review frameworks for both family and non-family employees providing opportunities for development and progression for both? Are the policies, standards, and expectations the same for all employees? Is the workplace an equitable environment overall? Communication – Is information communicated clearly and to all levels within the business? Are there cases of perceived unfair treatment, where only certain people are ‘in the know’ in relation to decisions or plans moving forward? Blending in non-family members – How are you competing with businesses that offer share based or equity rewards as part of their compensation plans for new talent? What can your family business offer in place of equity, including the certainty of cash which can be more attractive to many employees? Are there opportunities for advancement for employees who are non-family members? Implementing an effective people policy may require tough discussions and negotiations that go beyond established family expectations and reform longstanding practices. Overall, family businesses face particular challenges that require balancing the needs of the business with the expectations of the family. By making sure that your business has a strategy to develop and retain people with the right skills and fit for your business, you can create an equitable environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and build a sustainable foundation for both your business and your family. Liam Lynch is Partner and Head of Private Clients in KPMG.

Jan 15, 2021

The past year has seen the fast digital growth of businesses. With it, however, comes the added risk of cyber-attacks. The best way to defend against these attacks, says Sarah Hipkin, is to invest in and plan your cybersecurity strategy. After a year of accelerated digital transformation and increased cyber-attacks, it’s time for organisations to plan their Cybersecurity Strategy and Roadmap for 2021 with critical security lessons in mind. With this rapid, unplanned shift to digital channels and changes in consumer and business behaviour, a cyber criminal’s playground has just expanded. Current cybersecurity challenges Digital transformation changes an organisation’s cybersecurity threat and risk landscape. Current cybersecurity challenges faced by organisations include: critical information assets (e.g. bulk sensitive personal data or public-facing website) could be targets of attack; motivations of cybercriminals and type of cyber threats are not fully understood; and incident response teams taking too long to reconstruct cyber-attacks and take action to stop them. Regardless of the type of nefarious activity an organisation may face, if a cyber threat materialises, a security incident can have a significant impact on an organisation in terms of cost, productivity and reputation. Being adequately prepared to detect and quickly respond to the changing nature of incidents will help to stop an attacker from inflicting further damage. Cybersecurity strategy planning 2021 is the time to plan your cybersecurity strategy with these critical security challenges in mind. The strategy should ensure alignment between threat intelligence activities and business risks. Key activities will need to cover the following: Identify critical information assets which are essential to business operations, including underlying infrastructure. Collect information on adversaries’ motivations and intentions. What type of attacker may target your most valuable information assets? While most of the bad guys want to make money, whether stealing personal data, bringing down a website or shutting down critical services, their intentions will vary. Develop knowledge of cybercriminals’ tactics which includes malware and tools for sale, sale of personal data and exchanges of new exploits. Evaluate current effectiveness of systems security, including policies, processes, security training and staff capabilities to monitor, detect, analyse, and respond to cyber-attacks. The largest gaps in defences to protect critical information assets should be prioritised in the roadmap for improvement. Prepare a strategic cybersecurity roadmap which outlines each recommendation, detailing: the effects of losing or impairing the asset in costs, revenue losses, fines, reputational damage; likely adversaries who have attacked similar organisations; current deficiencies in defence layers; and associated technical and business risks amount to be invested and its associated benefits. Test response plan Cyber-attacks can impact an organisation of any size and will often occur at a time that catches everyone off guard. Under pressure, an individual’s decision making can become clouded. Scheduling a tabletop exercise with senior management and key operational staff to understand the realities of how a cyber incident would impact an organisation is critical. It will ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role in responding to a cyber-attack and the organisational response, especially Board members who would likely be representing the organisation in the media. Sarah Hipkin is Director of Consulting IT and Cyber at Mazars.

Jan 15, 2021

This time of year is about setting objectives and goals. However, these usually fail within the first month. How can you empower yourself to stick with them for the whole year? Dawn Leane outlines five ways that can help. It’s the time of year when we set ourselves new goals, whether personal or professional. But often, by the time spring arrives, our good intentions are just a distant memory. Setting objectives is always a good idea, but we can set ourselves up to fall short unless we have the right mindset. Here are five ways to empower yourself in 2021 and beyond. 1. Start with the end in mind A goal without a plan is just a wish, as the saying goes. Stephen Covey advises us to “begin with the end in mind”. Having a clear understanding of what ‘future-perfect’ looks like makes it easier to know where we’re going, assess where we are now, and work out all the steps in between. By breaking our journey into a series of smaller goals, we are more likely to stay on track. 2. Give yourself a break Strike a balance between having ambition and setting unrealistic expectations. For example, if you tend to leave things to the last minute, you may decide to focus on improving your time management. We usually approach this by trying to change ourselves, expending much energy in the process. Or you could accept that you work best with an impending deadline and change how you structure your time instead. Self-acceptance is the most empowering act of all. 3. Build your network There is little we can achieve alone. A strong, strategically developed network is essential to success in any endeavour. Your network should consist of people who can provide you with information and further connections, give honest feedback, provide personal support, and help you maintain a positive work-life balance. Ensure that the people in your network know what you want to accomplish. It will be easier for them to help if they can recognise the opportunity, information or introduction that will benefit you. 4. Review regularly We live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Review your goals regularly to ensure that they are still relevant, that you are on track, and have the right resources. If your original objective is unrealistic or your circumstances change, don’t judge yourself. Instead of doubling down or quitting, reassess what you want to achieve. Revisit your concept of ‘future-perfect’ and ask if it is still valid. If not, what can you change to make it so? 5. Just do it Motivation is a myth. John Maxwell writes: “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.” The key to empowerment is taking control. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes or have bad days. But if you learn from those experiences and refine your approach, your capacity will continually develop. Dawn Leane is CEO of Leane Leaders, supporting leadership development through training, executive coaching, mentoring and consultancy.

Jan 08, 2021

Coming back to work after the holidays is always challenging, this year especially. How can we inspire our staff to be more productive amidst the January blues? Anne Phillipson explains. Crack! That’s the sound of the spines of new 2021 diaries being opened across the island as employees face the new year with the same determined optimism that students embrace (at least for a few weeks) at the start of every term. In business, we may set new strategic objectives aligned to corporate strategy at this time of year, asking our team members to set personal objectives for 2021. But the start of this new year is unlike any other. As leaders look at the challenging landscape, they will understandably want to ensure – now more than ever – that everyone in the organisation is as productive as possible. Productivity describes various measures of the efficiency of production. Back in the industrial revolution, this was much easier to measure. It was easy to count the widgets coming off the line, or the number of units produced per person per year. But productivity is a noisy measure when it comes to knowledge workers. If productivity used to mean getting more things done each day, it now means getting more important things done consistently. As the great business guru Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” How can leaders unlock their employees’ productivity and create the best possible environment for them to thrive? Here are three suggestions that should help. 1. Prioritise Make sure that your team knows what is most important. This might seem straightforward, yet I am willing to bet that if I interviewed ten of your employees, I would get a range of answers to the question: “What are the three most important priorities right now?” For everyone to be crystal clear on the priorities, leaders must communicate consistently. It is always tempting to do the ‘urgent’ at the expense of the ‘important’, so make sure that important activities get priority. Regular check-ins with your people will help, as will progress updates on priority objectives. 2. Remove friction Ensure that people have the resources they need to get the job done. Find out what your employees need to make it easier for them to do their job, and then act on the responses. Maybe a process slows people down, or a clunky system could be simplified. Or perhaps they need a computer upgrade or training. Whatever the friction, it’s imperative that you take action to make your employee’s life easier, thereby removing a barrier to productivity and building trust with the team, so they know that you take their feedback seriously. 3. Agreed measurement Too often, bosses equate hours in the office with productivity. Those same bosses are now anxious that nobody is in the office – if they can’t see people, they feel that it is impossible to know how productive they are. However, if people are clear on the priorities, with clearly defined and agreed outputs, and have the tools and resources to do their jobs, bosses will have to trust their people to get on with their work. Isn’t that why you hired them in the first place? Anne Phillipson is a Director of People & Change Consulting at Grant Thornton NI.

Jan 08, 2021

It’s almost impossible to predict the economic forecast for 2021. However, there are steps we can all take to get Ireland back to living its best life. Neil Gibson explains. When making resolutions, we inevitably start with great enthusiasm and, all too often, by February, our lives look just as they did before. With 2020 over, perhaps it is a good time to think about our collective resolutions, which will need to last well beyond January if we are to get Ireland back to living its best life. Eat and drink more Many hospitality businesses had their worst-ever year in 2020. As vaccines are introduced, thereby making it safer to be outside later in the year, it will be important to spend money in the hospitality sector. Treating yourself to a dessert in 2021 – you are doing it for the economy! Get fit Physical fitness improved for many people with time at home, while others went in the other direction. For almost everyone, mental health has been impacted due to feelings of isolation, loneliness, vulnerability and fragility. Tiredness and fatigue have become significant issues too. We need our healthcare system fit-for-purpose and our businesses sufficiently robust to survive. We all need to be adequately fit – physically, mentally and financially – to face whatever might come our way. No backsliding 2020 revealed ways to work and live better. There is unlikely to be a desire to return to pre-COVID-19 congestion levels, and many digital ways of working are simply more efficient. Embracing these improvements to free-up time for the things we enjoy should be a goal. Bring forward our goals We now know how quickly policy can be implemented and what an emergency response looks like. However, we still have other emergencies at the door, so let’s be more ambitious on timelines. Achieving carbon neutrality is an obvious one, but there are others such as the housing crisis, rural broadband roll-out, and the delivery of Metro North. Watch the spending Our Government spent record amounts on our behalf in 2020. All very necessary and, so far, there is no great urgency to balance the books. There may well be a global debate about turning a portion of the costs into perpetual debt or a form of ‘great reset’ with debt we effectively owe to ourselves being forgiven. However, that cannot breed complacency over managing spend. Maybe, to coincide with the season’s theme, we need to resolve to make a list of what we need rather than want. Plan for the future Resolutions are often limited to things we can get stuck into in January. Real change takes longer and requires a new culture and attitude. There has been criticism from the Fiscal Council and others that recent spending decisions have built up expensive future problems. We need to keep an eye on the long-term vision. Does Ireland 2040 need to be revisited? Should corporates look again at their vision? The answer should be a resounding “yes” in both cases. Be grateful for what we have There are challenges ahead, but 2020 has allowed many to appreciate what truly matters in life. This may improve our appreciation of a broader range of jobs in our society; it will undoubtedly enhance our view of the importance of government. Firms that worked hard on purpose and culture saw those principles tested and, hopefully, strengthened. Community and a value on friends and colleagues are part of the culture shift that could potentially be the biggest lesson learnt. At the heart of the word “resolution” is the concept of “resolve”. How apt that we need to be steadfast in our commitment to a better tomorrow. If we didn’t already know that real success is a mixture of economic, social and environmental progress, we do now. Ireland appears set to continue its strong economic performance. However, it will need similar strides in the other two dimensions to say with honesty that we kept our New Year resolutions. Neil Gibson is Chief Economist at EY.

Jan 08, 2021

Simon Shirley examines the recent report from the Interdepartmental Pensions Reform and Taxations Group and what it means for pension reform down the line. In 2018, the Irish government published A Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018–2023, in respect of a proposed five-year plan for comprehensive reform of the state and private (or ‘supplementary’) pension systems. A key aim of the Roadmap is to promote long-term pension saving to address income adequacy in retirement. The Interdepartmental Pensions Reform and Taxations Group (IDPRTG) – chaired by the Department of Finance and includes representatives from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Social Protection, Revenue, and the Pensions Authority – was established to carry out several tasks set out in the Roadmap, namely: proposals aimed at simplifying and harmonising the supplementary pension landscape; an assessment of the cost of State support for pension savings; and a review of the Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) structure. The group engaged in a public consultation process and received submissions from various stakeholders, including pension/life insurance companies, trustees, lawyers, advisors/brokers, investment managers, and private individuals. In recent weeks, it published a report on some of its work-to-date. This report has been broadly welcomed by the private pensions industry and contains positive and practical steps. The report contains several proposals to reform and simplify the existing supplementary pension system, i.e. the system that is relevant to most of us working in the private sector who have pension plans. This system consists of two pillars, broadly summarised as follows: Employer-arranged pension plans, known as occupational pension schemes. These are provided by employers for employees and are arranged on a “group” basis (i.e. for more than one employee and are the most common arrangements for employees in the private sector), or on an “individual” basis (i.e. for one employee only and are typically used by company owners and key executives). Individual plans, which are typically used by self-employed sole traders/partners, employees in non-pensionable employment, and employees who are changing/leaving employment. While many of the proposals make sense at a technical level, at the end of the day, many of us will always require advice on saving for our retirement, irrespective of the number of products, rules, options, etc., that are available.  As professional pension advisors/brokers, we are at the coalface of the system. For decades we have been advising employers, and individuals from all walks of life, from late teens to 90s, whether starting out or in retirement, whether running their own business to working for a multinational, on planning for retirement and planning in retirement. No matter how many technical groups are assembled, reports published, public consultations undertaken, etc., the fact remains that adequately planning for retirement will remain challenging for many of us, as we are programmed to engage more with short- to medium-term matters, rather than long-term issues and requirements. While the current system does have anomalies and inconsistencies, some of these wrinkles can often lead to improved outcomes for individuals, and can actually improve the attractiveness of saving for retirement, in conjunction with appropriate advice. I welcome that the report acknowledges the need for advice and states: “The need for independent financial advice in the lead up to, at the point of, and during retirement is widely accepted. Improving the availability of appropriate advice for pension savers received significant support in the consultation responses.” However, the danger in this process could be that the need for advice ends up being a footnote rather than being front and centre, given the various perspectives, experiences, and interests of the large stakeholders (i.e. the government, relevant state bodes, pension/life insurance companies, etc.).  Pension and retirement planning is a very personal experience, and a simplified one-size-fits-all solution may not always be in the best of interests of citizens, who tend to have very varied personal and financial backgrounds, objectives and expectations. To assist the large stakeholders in this process, the voice of the experienced professional advisor (through representative groups such as Chartered Accountants Ireland and Brokers Ireland) should be a key influencer in any changes to be made.  So far, I have been impressed overall by the preparatory work done by the government and the state bodies in recent years – however, effective ongoing communication and practical implementation of the reforms/changes to be made will be the ultimate litmus test. Simon Shirley is the Founder of Simon Shirley Advisors. He is the author of the new book, A Practical Guide to Pensions and Life Insurance, from Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Dec 11, 2020

While there’s an end in sight to the pandemic, COVID-19 has hit most businesses hard. How do we bounce back and recover over the next 12 months? The key, says Patrick Gallen, is to learn how to lead with resilience. I participated in an excellent webinar on organisational resilience and readiness last week. We were joined by guest speakers from around the world. What impacted me most about the discussion was the strong focus on how organisations, regardless of COVID-19 restrictions and a potentially hard Brexit, need to bounce back quickly as they recover from the pandemic and strive for survival and growth in 2021. Resilience is the capability of organisations to prevent (where possible) and respond effectively to crises and the ability to anticipate, adapt and take advantage of long-term trends and opportunities. A key component of resilience is leading and responding through challenge. In today’s world, where change and disruption are constant, simply bouncing back is no longer a sustainable strategy. It’s about moving from a survive to a strive mode. There is still a significant road ahead before organisations emerge from the current challenge and there will, no doubt, be new challenges that crop up. As a leader, you will need to direct with energy and purpose – and you will need to be resilient. Resilience is not only essential at an organisational level, but also at a team and an individual level. However, the way we speak about resilience at an organisational and a leadership level will influence an individual’s perception of resilience. An organisation’s resilience isn’t simply the sum of its employees’ resilience. It includes culture, leadership, beliefs and practices. Leadership needs to be shared and distributed across the organisation at all levels, with excellent communication and collaboration, avoiding silos and empowering employees to make quick and informed decisions. Here are my top tips for leaders in 2021 to be resilient and lead with purpose and energy. Balance Try to maintain a good work-life balance, which can be difficult when working from home on a continual basis. As a leader, make sure that a good work-life balance is encouraged and respected by you and the entire organisation. Connections and collaboration Encourage strong collaboration and support mechanisms within your teams and at all levels. As a leader, actively address the problem of silo-working. Belief You need to be confident in your ability to lead in challenging times, and this should be encouraged and supported by your organisation. Purpose Be sure to stay connected to your values. When you are connected to your values, you are more resilient. Rest, recovery and review After periods of intense work and focus (such as the last nine months), there is a need for rest and recovery, but just as importantly, a review of what has worked well and what needs to change. Learning from new and difficult experiences builds on your ability to navigate the next difficult experience. Self-knowledge and growth as a leader will build your resilience levels for 2021 – and beyond. Patrick Gallen is the Head of People and Change Consulting for Grant Thornton Ireland.

Dec 11, 2020

2020 was an unusual year, and 2021 will likely be just as strange. Moira Dunne emphasises the importance of setting your goals as usual, however, and gives some tips on how to stay on top of them. As we reach the end of an extraordinary year, our focus is switching to 2021. Most years we make new plans in January for the year ahead. And even though 2021 may still present plenty of uncertainty during this global pandemic, it is still important to do this to get motivated for the future. Here are some practical tips for goal setting to help maximise your chance of delivering your goals next year. Reflect on 2020 Before moving on, it is useful to reflect on what we learned in 2020. Most people were forced to rethink how they work. We adopted new working habits and routines, and found new ways to connect with each other. For many, this new way of working had benefits as well as down-sides. Consider what you learned from the changes you made in 2020. What do you want to bring forward into 2021? Here is a list of some of the key changes we encountered. Which ones are relevant for you? The power of uninterrupted time to get work done. The benefit of clearer communication with colleagues. How making quick decisions benefits business. Streamlined business processes that reduce time waste. The importance of planning ahead. The value of team interaction for problem-solving and creativity. Setting goals for 2021 Before you set your goals for 2021, review the status of the goals set for 2020. Some may never have been completed or even started given the circumstances of 2020. Some may not be relevant due to a change in business focus. Re-evaluate your priorities for the year ahead. Be realistic Take a realistic view of your workload and schedule. Where can you find extra time to work on your goals? Plan to achieve one goal at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself. Once you make progress on one goal, you will be more motivated to tackle the next one. Making progress It is hard to find time in our busy day-to-day schedules to work on extra projects or goals. The key to making progress is to work out the specific tasks or actions required to achieve the goal. With a list of tasks, it is easier to make some progress each week. Find a time block within your week that you can set aside to make progress on you goal task list. These time blocks can add up and, if well planned, will result in regular progress on your larger goal. Making a plan To help stay on track, I recommend that you create a simple goal plan with targets. This helps you stay motivated. It also provides a sense of achievement as you complete the work. Be productive Now is the time to focus on 2021 so you can finish this year feeling motivated and organised. And while 2021 may be another unusual year, having a purpose and a plan will help you get up and running in January. Happy New Year to you all. Moira Dunne is the Founder of beproductive.ie

Dec 11, 2020

Louise O’Mara considers how environmental, social and governance issues will impact on corporate decision-making in a post-COVID-19 era. As focus on climate change continues to grow, there is a greater interest in what part corporates are playing in the fight against climate change. Mindful of this, companies are transitioning their business models towards lower or net zero emission models as an expression of their desire to combat climate change. Stakeholders accelerating the sustainability agenda Mindful of the attention given to sustainability, companies are transitioning their business models towards lower or net-zero emission models as an expression of a desire to combat climate change. Asset managers and financial institutions are increasingly supportive of the sustainability transition. Funds invested in environmental, social and governance (ESG) assets are ballooning – sustainable assets under management have surpassed $30 trillion and could grow to $50 trillion by 2025. Companies are developing robust sustainability strategies so they can access this growing source of capital. In September 2020, AIB tapped this market with a €1 billion green bond. The transaction attracted significant investor interest, with the green format maximising depth of demand. Net-zero and the supply chain An increasing number of corporates are setting targets to be net-zero by a specific date. However, not all net-zero targets are created equal. The most challenging and most comprehensive target – Scope 3 – requires a company to achieve net-zero across all elements of its supply chain. In practice, this means that a company will require its suppliers to be net-zero, or it may have to purchase offsets to bridge that gap – at a cost. Consequently, the supply chain contract might be renegotiated to reflect that cost or the company may move to a different net-zero supplier, avoiding the incremental cost. This is a tangible example of sustainability impacting on cost and pricing strategies. Accordingly, what we are beginning to see (in its early stages, but with rapidly building momentum) is the creation of a ‘net-zero club’ populated by companies that are part of the solution. Green and sustainability-linked financing Companies are increasingly linking sustainability key performance indicators (KPIs) to financing, and there is an array of finance options available. The simplest form is a green bond, where the proceeds are directed solely towards eligible green projects. For example, Citi led Ireland’s inaugural green bond in October 2018. The proceeds were allocated to projects that address climate change, clean water, and wastewater treatment. Sustainability-linked bonds (SLBs) are linked to the sustainability objectives of the issuer. The cost of SLBs can vary depending on whether the company achieves its defined ESG objectives. As such, companies are committing explicitly to future sustainability outcomes and creating a financial incentive to achieve them. Finally, the ‘greenium’ or green premium refers to the pricing advantage offered to companies using green bonds/SLBs due to a higher degree of demand from investors. Co-dependency of finance and sustainability Although we have historically seen sustainability and finance as separate entities, they have often existed in parallel. What is exciting about the ‘net-zero club’ and the ‘greenium’ is that they represent tangible examples of sustainability directly improving margins – sustainability meeting finance in its most fundamental sense. As consumer sentiment continues to shift, we should expect finance and sustainability to walk hand-in-hand in the same direction. Louise O’Mara is Head of Corporate Bank Ireland at Citi.

Dec 03, 2020

Upskilling your people is the only way to cope with the future. By nurturing your workforce’s talents, explain Ciara Fallon and Ger Twomey, you will have a distinct edge over the competition. While the future of work is a topic that dominates the current business agenda, there appears to be a lack of momentum in making the necessary investments to implement effective workforce strategies. CEOs need to act now and plan how their businesses will upskill their people to thrive in a digital world. By now, we all recognise and understand that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how people work, where they work, and what skills they require. The rapid move to a predominantly virtual working world exposed gaps in the capabilities of many organisations and their people. This is an issue that leaders were already struggling with before the pandemic. PwC’s Talent Trends 2020, based on survey data from late 2019, showed that 74% of CEOs were concerned about the availability of critical skills. But, just as the pandemic highlighted the biggest skills mismatches between organisations and their people, it provides an opportunity for CEOs to develop strategies to build the workforce they need for the future. And, given the urgency to find the right talent with the right cultural fit, more and more companies are realising the benefits of upskilling the people they already have. The acceleration of new ways of working makes it clear that upskilling people should not be a sideshow to other efforts CEOs are making to stay solvent and recover from the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. Upskilling should be a priority in a world where the speed of change is unprecedented, and the path ahead is uncertain. Here are four areas for CEOs to focus on to make the case for upskilling. 1. Deliver on business strategy When we asked more than 22,000 employees around the world about their hopes and fears for work, more than three-quarters said they wanted to improve their skills. Now is the perfect opportunity for leaders to take advantage of their people’s aspiration and align it with their upskilling initiatives and business goals. That means assessing your staff’s skills, particularly in relation to technology and other crucial skills such as problem-solving and working effectively in cross-functional teams. The CEO may need some upskilling too. 2. Prioritise employee engagement and experience There’s a measurable connection between successful upskilling and employee engagement. Among the CEOs who took part in the latest PwC Annual Global CEO Survey who had introduced an upskilling programme, 60% said it was highly effective in improving culture and employee engagement. And according to Gallup, highly engaged business units have lower rates of absenteeism (-41%) and higher rates of productivity (+17%). 3. Boost productivity Companies are expected to spend close to US$4 trillion globally this year on technology. If upskilling is done well, the digital, human and commercial capability uplift in your workforce will bring about greater use of new tools and enabling technologies, such as robotic process automation or artificial intelligence. By focusing the efforts of your workforce on value-add and enriching activities, and away from repetitive and routine tasks, you unlock greater value – such as stronger connections with customers, better innovation, or process efficiencies.  4. Embrace a growth mindset Upskilling is a medium- to long-term strategy. We live in a world beset by disruptions that will continue beyond this pandemic. The megatrends PwC has identified as critical challenges for the 21st century – such as the speed of technological change – require an agile workforce and agile management. Being prepared to weather crises with a flexible, knowledgeable workforce and a culture built on resilience will stand you in good stead. CEOs should lead with a growth mindset. They should encourage their workforce to evolve. They can start by upskilling personally and communicating what they are doing to their people. This doesn’t necessarily mean learning to code, but it does mean understanding what new technologies can do and what they can’t. Savvy leaders who value and nurture their workforce’s innate talents, ability to learn, and desire to do good work will have a greater chance of boosting their business and retaining and attracting talent. They will beat the skills gap. Ciara Fallon and Ger Twomey are Directors of PwC People and Organisation.

Dec 03, 2020

There are many reasons why you might want to exit your business – COVID-19, Brexit, retirement – but what is the cleanest way to do it? Niall Flood explains. As the year’s end approaches, and with the potential of good news on the horizon in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine, many business owners are taking the opportunity to consider their exit options. This may have been on their mind for some time, or the disruption caused by the pandemic may have accelerated their thinking, but the underlying reasons are often common across would-be sellers. These include a lack of interest from the next generation in taking over the business, or simply a desire on the part of the existing shareholders to convert the value of their shares in the business into cash to enjoy retirement fully. It many cases, there may be difficulties in finding a suitable buyer for the business, particularly in current market conditions. Good businesses can fail to attract buyers for certain reasons. COVID-19 and Brexit are creating uncertainty – this can reduce buyer appetite and the level of acquisition activity. The number of trade buyers for certain businesses may also be limited. Many buyers are focused on finding high-growth prospects, and not every business seeking a new owner is growing at a rate of 10-15% annually. An attractive option for business owners in these circumstances is to look closer to home and consider a management buyout (MBO). An MBO occurs when shareholders sell the business to the existing management team. This can often present a win-win scenario for both buyers and sellers. One of the main advantages of an MBO is discretion. Owners don’t have to advertise their intention to sell, nor spend time wondering whether buyers are simply curious ‘tyre kickers’. Another point in favour of MBOs is the potential to complete the transaction quickly. The existing management team knows the business better than any outsider and will not have to go through the usual due diligence process to complete a deal. The whole process, from inception to completion, can be carried out at pace – usually completing within six months if run properly. MBOs also have the added attraction of minimising the amount of disruption to the business during the sale process. Importantly, there are attractions for the management team as well. An MBO allows the team to benefit more fully from the dividends and profits generated by the company. It also offers management the opportunity to have more autonomy and input into the strategy of the business. For instance, the management may wish to take the business in a different strategic direction, with a view to growing it more rapidly and selling it at a higher price in future. Price is usually the critical factor when it comes to reaching agreement on an MBO, and there will naturally be a degree of tension between the seller and buyer in that regard. Owners will have their expectations and aspirations. The management team, on the other hand, will wish to minimise the amount they have to pay. A lack of funding usually reinforces that desire to minimise the price. Generally speaking, management teams don’t have a lot of cash to bring to the table and will have to finance the deal through debt, private equity or deferred consideration (or a combination of all three). Naturally, they don’t want to saddle the business with too much debt. The use of deferred consideration is a classic way to bridge the gap between the different value expectations of the seller and buyer. Under this arrangement, the management team pays a portion of the price out of future profits after the transaction closes. This can be a helpful compromise to ensure both sides get the deal done in a timely fashion – and without falling out during negotiations! While an MBO can be simpler and more straightforward to complete than a trade sale, there is typically a requirement to have advisors involved. Advisors assist with the various elements of the deal, including agreeing on valuation, determining the funding structure, raising the money, negotiating key points, and approving the legal details. Advisors also bring a level of experience and impartiality to the transaction, which can help surmount the various obstacles encountered along the way.  Niall Flood is a Director in KPMG Corporate Finance.

Dec 03, 2020
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